If we will find out tomorrow that the things dividing us today will not be as important we we currently believe them to be, then perhaps it is time to put them aside and stand United 2 Restore.
I always wonder what each scene was like when the God of Israel, the Creator of the Universe, spoke to one of His prophets. Was it a loud thunderous voice or was it a soft-still voice? Was it the prophet’s own voice in his own head, just speaking things that were obviously beyond his ability to speak? Perhaps each time is different? In whatever method God used to speak to the prophet Ezekiel on this particular day, what he heard and recorded in what is now called Ezekiel chapter 37, has ramifications that appear to be relevant to us this very day. What is written in this chapter, and in particular the verses below, have become the foundation for what we call, United 2 Restore.
At some point, two people represented abstractly by two sticks, would become one in the hand of God. This event is one of the most prophesied events in biblical history yet remarkably one of the most misunderstood and over-looked. The two verses below, reveal a work that takes place before God makes the two sticks one in His hand:
37:16 “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ (17) Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand.
We have two sticks, one is for Judah and the other for Joseph. The English translation here has Ezekiel joining them one to another into one stick. However, this doesn’t exactly capture the essence of the underlying Hebrew for this verse. The word translated as “join” is the word קרב ( qârav ) and it means: to bring or draw near, to approach. So instead of the idea that Ezekiel takes the two sticks and joins them so that they are one, it is his job to simply take the two sticks and treat them as if one… holding them close, drawing them near, until God does His work:
37:18 “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’– (19) say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”‘
The picture that should be taken from this is not that Ezekiel will come back from the dead and be the one who brings Judah and Joseph close to one another but rather that those who are part of these two sticks should recognize the need to draw close to one another until God makes the two one in His hand. We don’t make the two one, we don’t usher in the Kingdom… we simply recognize that God is going to do this work and we should accept this whether or not our current theology is in agreement or not. Of course, accepting this, and walking in one accord with those represented by the other stick, is not an easy task when we ponder some of the current theological differences between Judah and Joseph. But before addressing that, we need to make sure we understand the answer to the question, “Who is Judah and Joseph?”
Two Sticks, Two Houses, Two Nations, Two Witnesses, Two People
The glory years of Israel, as a nation, seem to be the years that David was king. When David died and Solomon became king, things were still good but as time went on the light that was the reign of David began to fade and when Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided into two different kingdoms. To the south went the tribe of Judah along with Benjamin and part of Levi. This kingdom was called “Judah” and they continued, more or less, to walk in the statutes and commandments of God. To the north went the remaining tribes and the picture presented by their lives is a stark contrast to Judah. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was seemingly full of corruption and idolatry. As time went on things only got worse and Israel continued to fall away from God. Despite prophetic warning, a rebellious Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was attacked by the Assyrians as punishment for their evil ways. Taken into captivity, and unrepentant, they eventually were scattered from Assyria into the nations as prophesied first in Deuteronomy 30:1-6 but repeated many times throughout the writings of the prophets. Though some returned, the vast majority, perhaps a million or more, did not. History records these Israelites as, “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”
Judah remained in covenant but would itself taste a time of captivity for their own sins. Taken into Babylon, Judah would ultimately return during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and we know them today as the Jewish people. So if one of the sticks is for Judah, and Judah appears to be the Jewish people, then the Jews are one half of the picture presented by Ezekiel. The question then becomes, “Who is Israel?”
The answer is found in the words of Yeshua, commonly known today as Jesus. He stated in Matthew 15:24, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” In a sense he was doubling down, if you will, on a statement made earlier in Matthew 5 when he said to his disciples, “Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” To what degree his message of “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) relates to Judah can be the subject of future discussion. For the purposes of this article it seems clear that Yeshua was placing the weight of his mission on calling those who were still scattered into the nations and already known in that time and culture as “the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” For those who are not Jewish but who have come to see Yeshua as messiah, your identity should be clear. If he came to call the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and we have heard his voice and come in faith and his sheep hear his voice, then are we not the lost sheep of the House of Israel that he said he had come for? Is the other stick in the hand of Ezekiel made up of a group of people almost entirely ignorant of the fact that in the first century their “religion” was seen as a sect of Judaism? Would this also not mean that those who see themselves as “spiritual Israel” have simply lacked a piece or two of the puzzle that would have helped them see that instead of just “spiritual Israel,” they are in fact as much “Israel” as anyone can be? Two sticks, two people… the Jews and the Christians? Two witnesses, a great ones, as they have stood at odds over time yet have each, in their own ways, testified of the same God and the same coming Kingdom.
I realize that today the term “Christian” has a negative light in many circles. To the Jewish person it might represent turmoil considering the history of forced baptisms and in some cases death in the name of Jesus. Even within Christianity, there are certain sub-sects like the Hebrew Roots Movement or even Messianic Judaism which tend to shy away from the word for various reasons. I am not trying to offend by using it, I am simply trying to communicate, to make sure it is understood what is being stated here. The two sticks are two people, unique, separate, and only when God makes them one in HIS hand, do we cease being separate and unique.
Turning a Concept into a Quest
This is where the concept of United 2 Restore was born. In Ezekiel we have two sticks that represent two people. Once they were one, they divided and became two very different people, and one day they will be reunited and no longer so different. The picture that is provided in Ezekiel is one of mutual respect and understanding. You see, if Ezekiel was commanded to make them one, then either Judah becomes Joseph or Joseph becomes Judah… or war breaks out as either side attempts to make the other like themselves. Instead, Ezekiel was told to “draw them near,” not make them one. So, we draw near to one another but remain unique and separate until God makes us one. This means we need to learn to respect one another, get along with one another, knowing that God is going to do a mighty work, again, whether that work agrees with our current understanding and theology or not! It will happen because that is what God has stated will happen.
Yet, being United 2 Restore goes beyond just Judah and Joseph. We have the Samaritans out there who are part of Joseph and are said to be a people of 1000 today but who are likely in the millions and don’t know it because of their years in exile as well. They, as a people, are largely ignored by Judah and all but unknown to the rest of Joseph. But addition to a group like the Samaritans, we have a great obstacle that still, to this day, stands before us… racism!
As we watch the daily news feeds we see people fighting and separating based on the color of their skin. This problem might actually be exasperated by the people of God because we are well aware of the fact that God created all human-kind regardless of skin color. And yet, especially on the side of Joseph, we have congregations that are all black or all white. I know of places where a black Baptist church and a white Baptist church appear on the same street, within 100′ of one another. Between 10:00 and 10:15am on a Sunday morning, 100 cars come down that road, park, and the congregants go their separate ways. We are still segregated and in our holy meeting rooms of all places. Friends, if WE can’t get the racial problem right, how can we expect the world to have a chance at getting it right?
Being United 2 Restore means understanding that God’s plan of reunification is apparently a little larger than our own theological understanding. Though we should each hold on to the essence of what makes us each who and what we are, we should also be able to recognize that God, ultimately, will make two separate groups of people into one. Recognizing this requires us to at least draw near to one another, to acknowledge that, though the eyes of God, we are indeed family. What does draw near look like? Well, that is probably better left up to each individual and their current level of understanding. Still, we are to draw near, draw close, understand the fact that even if today we are separated by seemingly miles of theological points, through the eyes of God, all of His people are the same one family, the same one body, the same one house, the same one nation. To the eternal (timeless) God, this is already a done deal and it is our understanding of this that needs to catch up to God.
Thus being United 2 Restore means sacrificing for the good of the whole. It means that we are to understand that the nation is more important than the individual. It means that obscure doctrinal points (like pronunciations of names for example) are simply not more important than the well being of the community to which we belong. Being United 2 Restore means respecting one another even if we don’t agree on every point of understanding because one day, in God’s timing, we will stand together before Him as one. And friends, the things that we have allowed to divide us today, those things that we have allowed to stand between us and our drawing near as the picture in Ezekiel reveals… will no longer carry the weight that they seem to carry today. And if we will find out tomorrow that the things dividing us today will not be as important we we currently believe them to be, then perhaps it is time to put them aside and stand United 2 Restore.
We ask you, Israel, whoever and wherever you are, to stand with us, add your voices to ours, become part of a Revolution for Restoration… turn a simple concept presented by a humble prophet into a quest that will one day change the world. Become part of an awakening that was started by God but that currently rests to draw near to all who are His until the glorious day that He makes us one in His hand. Blessed be the day when we are one, and blessed be He that makes us one!
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