It is more than something that will take great love, patience, and maturity because our nature is to seek to make others look, think, and act like ourselves. This is our safety valve, our place of comfort, our security blanket!
When the family of herders stood before the chief Ruler of Egypt, there was likely not a greater contrast to behold. On one side stood a humbled group of brothers who lived a distance from where they now stood. They were successful at what they did, but past sins and a nasty drought had humbled them and brought them before this strange ruler, seeking assistance to continue to merely exist. On the other side stood a clean, well groomed, wanting-for-nothing ruler who literally had the lives of all before him in his hands. I imagine him to resemble what we see in our history books. The dress of royalty, somebody who at least in appearance, was clearly Egyptian of elite class.
What the herders did not see before them was their brother. In fact, before Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, they had spent at least many hours with him, dining, being entertained, and also being berated and yet they saw only an Egyptian. To anyone who might have been standing at a distance, looking upon Joseph and that family of herders, being able to see that they were family would likely have been impossible.
The Prophet Ezekiel gives us a similar end-time picture in that we have two players who might just as well stand in such contrast. In chapter 37, verse 16, where we read the following:
“And you, son of man, take a stick and write on it, For Judah and for his companions, the sons of Israel. And take another stick and write on it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel, his companions.”
What is easy to miss in the above verse is that Ezekiel takes two blank sticks that represent people and he is to identify who the two sticks are. The first he determines as Judah and those who are joined with Judah. The second stick is said to be for Joseph, but a stick that is Ephraim, and it includes the House of Israel and those joined to Israel. So we have a lot going on in this one verse. Most scholars believe that these two sticks represent the Whole House of Jacob, what was once a great nation that divided into two Kingdoms, Judah and Israel. But why the use of those names? Judah and Joseph were the kingly tribes of those two Kingdoms. Yet the fact that the stick for Joseph is actually the stick of Ephraim is a fascinating twist to a story that only God could have weaved.
A promise was given to Abraham that not only would he would become a great nation, but that ALL nations of the earth would be blessed. This extraordinary promise of all nations being blessed would be fulfilled by a seed no man can count, Abraham’s seed. But how would this seed bless all nations? That process began with Isaac, Abraham’s son and that promise would pass from Isaac to Jacob whose own blessing was that “out of your loins would come nations and kings.” (Genesis 35:11) Clearly we are looking at more than just what we have come to know as “Israel” today or at any time in history; nations and kings are plural thus more than just the State of Israel.
Ephraim would receive the next blessing in this great puzzle, he would become a “multitude of nations.” An interesting side note here, from what is commonly called the New Testament, we see “fullness of the gentiles.” (Romans 11:25) If that phrase was rolled back into Hebrew, it would be translated as “melo hagoyim,” or, “fullness of the nations.” But how would Abraham bless all nations, Jacob sire kings and nations, or Ephraim become a multitude of nations? The answer is…through punishment!
After Solomon, Israel divided. The Southern Kingdom of Judah for the most part, continued to walk in the statutes and laws of God while the Northern Kingdom, Israel, did not. The Northern Kingdom became exceedingly idolatrous and eventually all but turned it’s back on God. After some warnings by God in the form of prophets and enemies, God lifted His hedge of protection and allowed the Assyrians to come and take them into captivity. Though debated, the evidence biblically and historically suggests that while some from the Northern Kingdom came home (less than 30,000 of them), the vast majority, well over a million, did not. Moreover, when Israel did not repent and desire God, He not only gave them up, He scattered them into the nations and called them, “Not my people!” (Hosea 1:9-10) This is a harsh reality and a humbling reminder that God, though loving and merciful, will only be pushed away for so long. That said, merciful is an understatement because despite the complete lack of love shown to our heavenly Father by Israel, He still promised to bring them home and again call them “My people.” (see Deut. 30:1-6, Hosea 1:10, Hosea 2:23)
So this brings us back to Ezekiel who has two sticks which are blank that he identifies, and in parenthesis this writers opinion, as being Judah (the Jews) and Ephraim (found mainly within Christianity). Religiously speaking, these two groups stem from the same lump (see Romans 9:21), clearly serve the same God, clearly await the same Messiah, clearly await the same coming Kingdom and time of peace, and clearly have the same foe. Ezekiel holds the key to the reunification of the two sticks, and that key reveals that we cannot force this to happen. Ezekiel identifies the sticks, and then in verse 17 we read this:
“And join them to one another into one stick. And they shall become one in your hand.”
So we see Ezekiel take the two and hold them as if one. This excerpt in no way suggests that Judah should become Ephraim, nor does it reveal that Ephraim should become Judah. Instead, it simply reveals that Ezekiel and perhaps those alive in the day this understanding becomes known (Today?) are to identify the two and treat them as one. Only when that happens does God Himself complete the job:
Ezekiel 37:18 And when the sons of your people shall speak to you, saying, Will you not declare to us what these mean to you? (19) Say to them, So says the LORD: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions, and I will put them with him, with the stick of Judah, and will make them one stick, and they shall be one in My hand. (20) And the sticks on which you write shall be in your hand before their eyes.
So what is our job? Our job is to identify the two while treating them as one. Yet, this task will not be easy. It is more than something that will take great love, patience, and maturity because our nature is to seek to make others look, think, and act like ourselves. This is our safety valve, our place of comfort, our security blanket! It goes against our grain to stand before an Egyptian and accept him as a brother. It is even more against our grain to come to an understanding that we, those who identify as Ephraim, are the Egyptian and not the herders. We are the ones who have looked like the world because who are the ones who were scattered into it. However, we do not need to become Judah nor do we need to make them like us. What we need to do is identify the two sticks and learn to live in mutual respect and understanding as only God can complete the process of making us one. Perhaps Ephraim, just perhaps… now that we are identifying who the two sticks are and we await God to complete the work, we might spend the time learning to get along with each other a little better? After all, if Ephraim can’t get along with Ephraim, he certainly can’t expect to get along with Judah!
If you would like to be placed on our mailing list to receive notifications on new articles, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and place “add me” in the subject field.