Most historians believe that a good solid understanding of history is the best guide in terms of understanding the future. History often stands as a beacon of things to come because humanity has not always excelled at not repeating its mistakes. And so it has been between Christian/Jewish relations for the last 2000 years. Where these two peoples should stand more united against their common foes, they remain at odds usually over poor conclusions, bad definitions, and false assumptions. This has been a two –sided coin in terms of fault, but it also might be safe to say that the coin lands on one side more often than the other. Though the Christian means well, his evangelical paradigm brings with it a line in the sand which he uses to determine who he can and can’t call brother. Couple this with the fact that most Christians tend to live out of the “New Testament” (NT) and don’t study the Tanach or “Old Testament” (OT) as much, it then becomes easier to understand why these two people who have far more in common than they realize seem to stand at odds with each other more often than not.
Whether Christians realize it or not, Christianity began as a sect of Judaism. There was a Jewish rabbi, a teacher, whose name was Yehoshua (Yeshua being the short form, commonly known today as Jesus) and he had many followers. He taught from the Torah (the law, God’s instructions), and he was believed to have walked out the contents of the Torah to perfection, as intended by the author. The book of Acts declares that as many as 20,000 or more Jews believed that Yeshua was messiah and, though this may come as a surprise to some, many people now believe that the Jews were not necessarily his main target audience. While his message and work would appear to apply to all, the weight of his message was aimed specifically at the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. What has been widely misunderstood for a very long time is just who the lost sheep of the House of Israel are.
The question, “Who are the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel,” seems to have two widely accepted answers. The first is the dominant opinion of evangelical Christianity and it states that the Lost Sheep are anyone who has not accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. This view sees the world as lost and it sees the Great Commission, more or less, as a call to convert the world to Christianity as its primary objective. This answer, whose adherents tend to believe that there were none righteous before Yeshua, thus falls short in dealing with the bible calling certain people “righteous” even before Yeshua accomplished his mission. The second answer is the minority answer but an answer that is quickly growing in acceptance. It believes that the Lost Sheep are the remnant (those who are left, still alive) of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and those who are otherwise grafted into to Israel. Those who hold this view tend to be somewhat less evangelical and more centered on how to walk out the walk as modeled by Yeshua (which would include doing all the things he did, to include the Sabbath and Feasts). This view sees the Great Commission as a call to live in a manner that reflects Yeshua’s walk while being ready to teach those drawn by God to that individual. The weight, for these people, is on the walk first rather than evangelization first. It should be noted that BOTH opinions are centered on love; it is just that these two groups read the same material and come away with a differing conclusion. That is possible when two people read the same material but who each read from a different paradigm, a different perspective.
The Minority Opinion
After the Kingdom of Israel split into two nations (Judah in the south, Israel in the north) the Northern Kingdom fell deeper into the idolatry that was already a way of life for them. Deaf to the warnings from Prophets sent from God, the Most High allowed the Assyrians to come into Israel and wreak havoc, ultimately taking the Northern Kingdom into captivity. There, Israel did not fall to its knees before the God of Israel, begging for forgiveness, rather, they seemingly assimilated into the Assyrian culture, marrying into their families and taking for their own the many gods of the Assyrians. Eventually, the God of Israel was no longer even a thought in the minds of those Israelites and the God of Israel cut the final tie, He let them go. God gave them up to their idols and along with their having accepted other gods in His place; it would take only one generation for Israel to entirely forget that they were Israelites. With them no longer seeing themselves as Israelites, the stage was set for the final act of punishment. God drove them from Assyria into the nations, scattering them like a farmer sows seed. While some historical sources suggest that 20,000+ returned, the majority of Israel (perhaps well over a million Israelites) went into all nations where they remain to this day. Israel, specifically the Northern Kingdom, is now represented by all colors, all nations, and they speak all languages, but they don’t know they are Israelites, they lack their root identity. They are as lost sheep, but they are a sheep with a promise, a promise to be returned. And that misunderstood point is very much a factor when it comes to a Christian’s awareness of who they are in biblical prophecy while affecting their current view of, and relationship with, the Jewish people.
Most Christians do not have a solid working knowledge of biblical history. That is not meant in any way to be an indictment on anyone nor should that be taken as a demeaning comment, it is a simple fact. Most Christians are raised in the NT, in the Apostolic Writings, and many churches do not teach, and might not even be aware of, the depth of relationship between the NT and OT. It should be noted as well, that most Christians when being discipled are only taught facts as understood by whoever happens to be teaching them. There is no methodology being taught, nor any research techniques that allow the Christian to work out his own answers, he is instead simply taught to repeat what he has learned from others. Thus when he reads the word “Israel” anywhere in Scripture, he assumes it is a reference to the Jews because that is the belief of the Christian culture we are born into. However, while the Jews are most certainly a part of Israel, they are not all of Israel. When the Northern Kingdom went into Assyria, the Southern Kingdom, Judah, did not. In fact, they essentially continued walking in the commandments and statutes of God. They had their moments, and ultimately they too would find themselves captive to another nation (Babylon), but their end is clearly different then the end result of the Northern Kingdom. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, came home from their dispersion, they returned from Babylon. Because of this, we have a clear historical line from before the time of Babylon to today’s modern Jew. It is accurate, both historically and biblically, to say that the House of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) is very clearly the Jewish people and the Jewish religion that we see today. Yet, the Northern Kingdom, Israel, went into captivity 140 +/- years before Judah went into Babylon. And with a prophesy spoken by Hosea proving that Israel hadn’t come back at that time, we know the lost sheep as referenced in the Apostolic Writings to be those Israelites still in the nations promised to one day return home. That is key because, again, Yeshua said, “I have not been sent BUT to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
To put this history into simple terms, what we have is one nation that was split into two nations and one of those two has, for the most part, continued to walk with God. It was the other nation, Israel, which squandered its inheritance and became lost in the nations. What was just in italics should sound somewhat familiar to most Christians. There is a parable known as the “Parable of the Prodigal Son” that appears in Luke 15:11-32. The gist of the story is that there are two sons, one who is the elder of the two and who has remained on his father’s farm and the younger that left the father primarily to feed his flesh and live according to his own desires. Traditionally this parable has been interpreted through the paradigm of the more evangelically inclined. Thus the conclusion has been that these were two Christians with one of them being a devoted Christian who worked daily on the father’s farm while the other was a backsliding Christian who became a lost sheep because he had left the Father. However, I submit that this parable is speaking about the two Kingdoms, Judah and Israel, with the elder brother being Judah who, though not perfect, remained in covenant with God. Israel, or prophetically known in other biblical references as Ephraim or even Joseph, is the younger brother who was cut off and said by God to be “not my people.” What many Christians miss, and why I believe this parable is clearly speaking about Judah and Israel is that the prophesies that pertain to Israel being punished always include the promise to bring them back home, back into the fold or “farm” if you will, just like the Prodigal Son. Consider:
Deuteronomy 30:3 then the LORD your God will turn your captivity. And He will have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. (4) If you are driven out into the outermost parts of the heavens, the LORD your God will gather you from there, and He will bring you from there.
Hosea 1:10 yet the number of the sons of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered. And it shall be, in the place where it was said to them, You are not My people, there it shall be said to them, You are the sons of the living God.
Isaiah 10:22 for though your people Israel are like the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return; the full end which is decreed shall overflow with righteousness. (Compare Romans 9:27)
Again, the Southern Kingdom, Judah, returned from their captivity and remained in covenant with God. It was Israel who broke the covenant, was scattered into the nations, was given up for idols, and yet mercifully promised to be returned. Two people, not one, which is why Ezekiel has two sticks that he is told to make one, and why Jeremiah prophesies about two Houses which are part of the new covenant. Two people, who ultimately become one:
Ezekiel 37:21 And say to them, So says the LORD: Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and will gather them on every side, and will bring them into their own land. (22) And I will make them one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel, and one King shall be king to them all. And they shall not still be two nations, nor shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
Christianity has truly not understood these promises predominantly because it has seen Israel as Jews only. By extension, they then see the Jews as either cut off entirely and replaced by Christians or they see that the Jews are accepted as still being part of God’s people but are seen as lost because they do not accept Yeshua as messiah and thus the Jews remain an evangelical target by most Christians. Whichever of the two conclusions are drawn, the Jews are seen as an evangelical target of the Christians.
Because many Christians see the Jews as having been cut off and not as a people still in covenant with the God of Israel, they feel a deep draw to reach out and share their understanding of the gospel with the Jews. This is done from a position of love because the Christian truly sees himself as being saved and the Jew as being lost. Since the belief of the Christian is that those who are not saved will perish in Hell, then the Christian feels a divine duty to reach out to the Jewish people and make sure they hear the gospel so that they have the information and ability to make a decision for Christ, or not. But I ask, is this manifestation of their love warranted or misguided?
Love is more than just an emotion; it is also the physical manifestation of an emotion. One of the problems surrounding love, at least as it relates to one’s religion, is that it is limited to the information one might have at their disposal to work with. In this case, if a Christian is raised believing the Jewish people are no longer a part of the family of God, then their love of God and His truth as they understand it, will cause them to reach out to the Jewish people in order to present to them what they believe will save them. The Jewish person, especially the one who practices the faith in earnest, then asks the question when confronted with the gospel, “saved from what?” He already sees himself in covenant with God and he has a great case to base that conclusion on. Not only does he have many promises in the Tanach (OT) to stand on, but what if Judah is the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son? If that is true and he hasn’t left the farm so to speak, then despite whatever imperfections he may or may not have, he hasn’t left the covenant and he is still doing the work of the Father. Perhaps he isn’t doing our work because we have been given a unique calling, but he is still on the farm. Even if he continues to decay and die and ultimately needs the redemptive work of perfection applied to him, that doesn’t mean he isn’t walking with God. Perhaps there is a greater question, “What does it mean to walk with God?” Is our walk summed up only in a profession of faith, or is our walk summed up in our willingness to walk as God desires us to walk? Does our walk begin and end with confessing with our mouth the Lord Yeshua, or is it manifested in our walking according to God’s commandments? If the Jewish person is already walking in the commandments then he is walking as God desires and this would explain Yeshua’s words in Luke 5:32 which state:
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
According to the modern online Webster’s Dictionary as well as the 1828 edition, “righteousness” is defined as, “to conform to divine law.” 1 John 3:4 then defines sin for us as the breaking of commandments or walking in a lawless manner. Thus Yeshua was not calling those who were already walking the walk; he was calling those who weren’t. Again, that is NOT to say that those walking the walking have worked their way to salvation or do not need perfecting, that is not what is being said here. Rather, a Christian is told to come in faith believing but THEN to begin to manifest his faith and love in the form of obedience. A righteous person is doing just that, thus Yeshua didn’t see that person as sick and in need of his attention. He came, rather, to call the sick, the sinners, the ones walking off the desired path.
Yeshua said he came for the Lost Sheep of Israel, he sent the disciples to the lost sheep of Israel, and he quoted Jacob’s blessing over Paul as a commission. The Great Commission was then to the nations, not to Judea. Our call was to the Israel, to the Lost Sheep, not necessarily to the brother who remained on the farm but to the younger brother lost in the nations who was not on the desired path. The weight of the gospel was to take the message of repenting which in Hebrew is really the idea of returning, to the lost sheep of Israel who were in the nations and promised repeatedly to be returned. Verses like Romans 11:11 are not telling Christians to provoke the Jews to jealousy; it is a call for the lost sheep to provoke the lost sheep to jealousy. Otherwise, Romans 11:11 and Isaiah 11:13 are contradicting one another which we know cannot be the case.
2000 Years of Christian Love
Friends, 2000 years of Christian love has not always been fair to the Jewish people. There have been forced baptisms, some Jews have been forced to eat unclean foods, there has been an overwhelming amount of ridicule, and God forbid… even deaths in the name of Jesus.
It is time ladies and gentlemen, to leave the Jewish people alone! It is time to concentrate first on our own walk, and then to continue with what was started by Yeshua, the reaching out to the lost sheep of the house of Israel provoking THEM to jealousy so that they come back to what they unknowingly lost so long ago. That isn’t to say that if a Jewish person asks about your walk or about Yeshua that you don’t answer, you most certainly give an answer for the hope that is in you, but how is it that we have forgotten a basic principle shared by Yeshua, “He that seeks will find”? Unless somebody is seeking, asking questions, whether Jew or Gentile, they won’t hear any answer you give. We can’t lose sight of that principle, someone must be seeking, asking questions, or anything we say falls on deaf ears. We can’t force anyone to believe anything, it has to be that somebody is seeking or they simply won’t hear you. In fact, force will only cause them to flee, not be drawn to you so that they might hear. The Great Commission reflects this understanding. The word for “Go!” is a participle, it is “going” not “Go!” Thus the commission is a call to walk in a manner that reflects who we serve, “As you are going, teach!” If we have to tell others what we are and they can’t hear it or see it in our words and deeds for themselves, we have already failed at the mission given to us.
I submit to you that it might be time to ask forgiveness from our Jewish brothers and sisters for trying to force them into looking, acting, and thinking like we do. Perhaps it is time to cease trying to make the older brother conform to the appearance and practice of the younger brother? I think of Joseph here who must have looked so Egyptian that none of his brothers recognized him at all. And yet, when they finally realized that Joseph was indeed their brother, they embraced him, as he was, without demanding he change his clothing before they embraced him. We need to be more like that, willing to walk with the Jewish people in mutual respect and understanding knowing that, ultimately, God will correct whoever is in need of correction, in His time!
The Christians and Jews are both waiting on messiah to come and usher in a time of world peace. They are both waiting on the messiah to reign as King over the nations with perfect and fair justice. Both await the time that messiah will bring in all exiles from wherever they are in the world today. Perhaps, just perhaps, we look outside our current religious paradigm to see that since we seem to be waiting on the same events to take place that we also see that we are really waiting on the same messiah! When we do we might just see that it is only the word “again” that truly separates us as we await messiah to come again, and they seek his first coming.
We are witnessing an awakening today, a revival started not by man but by God. Knowing now that God is indeed going to make these two people one, then perhaps we should walk toward the coming Kingdom together, knowing that ultimately God will perform the promises He has made concerning these things.
1 For a more detailed explanation of the Hebraic origins of Christianity, see (http://www.united2restore.com/2014/10/11/why-did-christianity-stop-looking-so-jewish/)
2 Strong’s Greek – G2424; Hebrew H3091
3 Acts 21:20 – note: the word for “many thousands” is μυρίας (murias), the Greek word for 10,000, and it is in plural form in this verse
4 See Matthew 15:24 and Matthew 10:5b-6
5 Matthew 9:13, Matthew 13:17, Luke 1:6
6 Psalm 119:176, Jeremiah 50:6
7 Hosea 1:11 – note, there has not been a head of king over a united Israel since Solomon
8 Genesis 48:19, Ezekiel 37:19, Jeremiah 31:9, Hosea 4:17, Amos 5:15, Zechariah 10:6
9 Hosea 1:9-10, Hosea 2:23, Romans 9:25-26
10 Ezekiel 37:15-28
11 Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 8:8-11
12 Romans 10:9
13 John 14:15, John 15:10
14 Matthew 10:5b-6
15 Paul’s commission is found in Acts 9:15. Notice in the Greek that there are two different words translated as “and” but the second one, “te” means “both” and is never translated as “and” anywhere else. Knowing “ethnos” can translated as “gentiles” or “nations,” then replace the second “and” with “both,” use “nations” rather than “gentiles,” and now compare Acts 9:15 to Genesis 35:11
16 Matthew 28:19
17 Matthew 4:17
18 Brown Driver Briggs, H7725, shuv – 1) to return, turn back
19 1 Peter 3:15
20 Matthew 7:7-8
21 Jeremiah 30:11, Jeremiah, 46:28
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