B’ney Yosef North American Summit

Have you ever stood before a sunset that was so magnificent, so majestic, so vivid, that when you attempted to describe it there were simply no words powerful enough to reproduce what your eyes had beheld? That is exactly how I feel when considering the events of this past weekend. I don’t believe my vocabulary contains the needed words to articulate what I was so blessed to take part in. The B’ney Yosef North American Summit is a potential game changer; there is simply no better way to state that.

Two hundred people, most of which consider themselves to be Ephraimites (by and large, Christians, who identify as part of Israel in the nations), gathered together from all over North America to define an identity and a common purpose. That goal did not fall short.

It began on Friday night the 4th of March, exactly 40 weeks after the first B’ney Yosef meeting in Ariel, Israel held last May. Daniel Holdings and Cindy Wyant acted as MC’s and they handed it off first to Al McCarn who had been acting as interim executive director since the plenary meeting in Nashville just over 6 weeks ago. His key-note address was crisp, to the point, and it set the tone, reminding us all that this event was not intended to be a finish line, but rather a place to start. The evening gathering brought out three speakers any of which could have captured the evening had it not been for the fact that they all spoke on the same night. The first was Batya Wootten, a forerunner in her own right (along with her husband Angus) in terms of sharing insights as related to the restoration of all of Israel. Batya has not spoken publicly for a couple of years due to some health issues but that absence did not affect her ability to communicate her thoughts. In fact, she almost seemed to be storing up a great speech that she unleashed at this Summit. Funny at times, Batya seemed centered most on the work God is now doing in causing us to be drawn to the idea of bringing peace to our house before reaching out to anyone else. The next speaker was Hanoch Young, the co-founder of United 2 Restore. Hanoch was, well, Hanoch. He was funny, engaging, but also when needed, quite serious. The weight of the evening was not lost on Hanoch, as he recalled his walk with Ephraimites that now spans over 20 years. The final speaker(s) was a dynamic duo of sorts, Ephraim and Rimona Frank. The couple, responsible for planning the May meeting in Israel, shared their views on the direction and potential before us while taking a few fun shots at their friend Hanoch. The evening could not have gone better.

Shabbat brought about a number of activities including a time of praise and worship. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Lenny and Varda as well as Steve Manning and those who joined him on many incredible moments of praise. After the music, Mark Webb stood with the 7 other newly appointed elders and shared the qualifications of the elders, how they were vetted, giving us all a better understanding as to why these men (and their wives) are a fine and stable face of B’ney Yosef as we move forward. Next came a Torah teaching by Mike Clayton. Mike’s style brings joy to those he speaks to as he is able to mix depth of knowledge with the right amount of humor. His topic, “Don’t get stuck between the golden calf of your past and the Shekinah Glory filling the completed Temple,” was appreciated by all who attended. Mike was followed by David Altman who put together a web of verses that dealt with proper structure in relation to godly government and being able to see the face of God through a properly run government structure. Barry Philips closed the day session with an assembly-wide hands on practice dealing with personal and corporate boundaries. This was an important practice as it dealt with authority and our need to respect personal boundaries. In a movement so geared toward making others adhere to our own views and practices, this was a refreshing approach to this problem.

Saturday evening began with yours truly speaking on much of what had already been said, that what we are doing is not the finish line and that like any growing group of people, we need to not overly define ourselves so that God can tweak us as we walk. I then read the Articles of Declaration fielding some questions afterward on various aspects of the document. The document is intended to be a foundation, a place to start, something to rally around so that we might promote peace and stability within our house. We then broke for dinner only to come back and affirm the Articles. Now accepted, they will act as a standard for B’ney Yosef North America, a list of principles that should offer consistency in how we interact with others.

Sunday by far was the most emotional day. The signing of the Articles by the elders, the newly appointed executive members, as well as those who worked on the Articles was more or less an impromptu event. Unsure how to even go about this signing at first, it came off as the most meaningful part of the weekend (to me), that is, until the next event. As soon as the last signer penned his signature, Hanoch Young came forward and sang haTikvah, the national anthem of Israel. Singing acapella, Hanoch’s emotional rendition of the song did not leave a dry eye in the house.

It needs to be mentioned that every moment of the Summit, from before the first attendee got there until the time the last one left, was recorded via video and still shots by Ty Towriss, owner of NLX Broadcast Design. He and a team of volunteers conducted interviews, took still shots for a “Faces of Ephraim” promotional campaign, and so much more.  I am not sure they slept, I am also not sure they know how much their efforts are appreciated. But their work will, when it is completed, take these events out to those who couldn’t be there with us.

The weight of what was being done over the weekend fell heavy on all who were present. Every speech, every song, every prayer, seemed to reveal the historic nature of this gathering. The obvious question that follows is, “What’s next?” Well, aside from additional gatherings like the one coming up in Israel in October, the focus is now aimed at promoting peace to our own house first knowing that if we cannot get along with ourselves, we certainly can’t be expected to get along with anyone else. This will all take time, but through prayer and patience, great things are on the horizon. We can be a difference maker, a game changer… but we must first begin to think like a nation and act like an extended community. What happened in Tampa this last weekend was special, but it will become a meaningless memory if we don’t follow it up with action. If we take the spirit of unity and peace with us and out to all we come in contact with, the chaos in our own house will eventually subside, and at some point we will indeed be able to stand next to Judah as a brother. I eagerly wait for that day!

Below is a link to the Article of Declaration.

Articles of Declaration

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Evangelizing Judah

What if long ago certain conclusions were made by leaders who may have been sincere but who failed to look upon the Jews with much favor? Perhaps their bias didn’t allow them to fully see God’s plan as revealed in the Prophets. Their conclusions were passed on to subsequent generations and came to form the tradition of how we today perceive the Jewish people: with a slightly negative undertone that causes many to view them in a manner inconsistent with God’s truth.

The Lens of Tradition
Tradition is defined as an inherited thought or practice; a belief or structure of beliefs passed down through generations. It is the collection of various customs and beliefs that are already in place when we are born; thus tradition is the underlying basis for our family structure and cultural and religious practices. Tradition, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad; it is simply what one generation passes down to the next.

One result of tradition is the concept of assumption: We assume what has been passed down is correct. In fact, not much thought is generally given to tradition—it just exists in the background, part of the culture we are born into. When a particular tradition is found to encompass error, we face an exceedingly difficult task to confront it. This is due in part to an individual’s natural tendency to personalize tradition; again, we are born into it and don’t even realize there is anything to question.

When I was a young basketball player, I competed against a young man born without a left hand. He was not hampered by his handicap; in fact, he didn’t know he was handicapped because he had no frame of reference to understand what it might be like to function with two hands. When from birth we lack something, whether an appendage as in this case or perhaps a depth of information applying to certain religious beliefs, we simply have no way of gauging how new insights into our situations might affect any potential outcome.

Because tradition is something we are born into, it forms the lens through which we interpret all we are faced with in life, whether religious or secular. Thus tradition defines us and is very much part of who and what we are as individuals and as a culture. Because it is so personal to us, and because we tend to be creatures of habit, when another addresses an error that might exist within our tradition, it often leads to a reaction. The result is often dissension and conflict, and nothing edifying ever comes from such matters. It is quite natural to become defensive when your tradition is questioned.

An error within religious tradition is the most difficult to confront. It is almost never realized by those holding to it because we are raised to regard as incorrect any viewpoints that differ from our own. And because religious tradition is held so closely to our hearts, attempts by others to point out fallacies within our traditions are almost always met with negative reactions. This is one of many reasons for the existence of so many denominations and sects—divisions, if you will—within Christianity. We are not raised to see outside the boxes we are raised in; and yet in order to prove all things and hold fast to that which is true, we need to see ourselves and others through eyes beyond our own.


Tradition Forms Our Biases
As more and more Christians begin to identify as part of Israel in the nations, prophetically known as Ephraim or Joseph, we are confronted by another tradition that is deeply embedded in our religious psyche: the evangelization of the Jewish people. Our tradition tells us that we are to offer them salvation through Yeshua. Yet what if that tradition lacked a depth of understanding? What if long ago certain conclusions were made by leaders who may have been sincere but who failed to look upon the Jews with much favor? Perhaps their bias didn’t allow them to fully see God’s plan as revealed in the Prophets. Their conclusions were passed on to subsequent generations and came to form the tradition of how we today perceive the Jewish people: with a slightly negative undertone that causes many to view them in a manner inconsistent with God’s truth.

For a very long time, this view from the Christian lens has assumed that Christians alone are saved and everyone else is destined for hell. But what if such a vantage point reflects a darkened lens, and only now is God lightening the tint so we can see a little more clearly? We might find, if we seek truth and have a teachable spirit, that some of the traditions we were born into have led us to miss certain truths. What if Yeshua’s work, while accomplished for all, might manifest itself in differing ways?

Consider that Israel was divided into two nations—Judah (the Jewish people) to the south and Israel to the north. Israel, the Northern Kingdom, fell into a downward spiral of idolatry and ultimately was taken captive by Assyria. They remained unrepentant and would not return to the Land they were exiled from. The Southern Kingdom also distanced itself from God and His will at times, and ultimately they, too, were taken into exile—in this case, to Babylon. But Judah repented, and God brought them home.

So one Kingdom was scattered into the nations and needed to be called back not only to the Land but also to the God its people had forsaken for idols. The other Kingdom returned to the Land, and despite not being perfect, they remained in covenant with God. From this understanding we can derive that Yeshua is the Door through which all will come, but the two nations will come from different directions. In the end, we believe, they will still go through the same door and reach the same destination in spite of starting off from distinct geographical and theological positions.


Seeking a Better Answer
Our tradition tells us that the Jews rejected Yeshua as Messiah. Unfortunately our tradition has so greatly blinded some of us to seeing that not only was Yeshua Jewish but so were all of His followers. We even find in Acts 21:20 that many thousands of Jews believed He was Messiah, and they continued being zealous for Torah (God’s Law). An interesting side note to this passage is that the Greek word for “many thousands” is murias—the numerical value of ten thousand. It also appears in the plural form, meaning that perhaps as many as twenty thousand or more Jewish people believed that Yeshua was Messiah. This concept is not consistent with our tradition; in fact, it stands in stark contrast to it.

Throughout most of the last two thousand years, many Jews have seen Yeshua as the promised Messiah . . . but it is true that most haven’t. And if most haven’t, and if our God-ordained job were to convert them to our understanding of Scripture, then some important questions would surface. Have we failed? And in light of the fact that the Holy Spirit was given at Shavuot (Pentecost) to those who followed Yeshua, has God failed? Or is it possible we have lacked some additional understanding and that a different paradigm might help us draw a better conclusion? Obviously God has not failed—God is not capable of failure. I submit that we simply have been born into certain traditions and a paradigm that is not consistent with the first-century followers of Yeshua, and as such, we lack context that might allow us to form more accurate conclusions.

As we begin to see outside of our paradigm and beyond those traditions that might not have allowed us to recognize certain biblical truths, we begin to consider new possibilities. What if the main focus of Yeshua’s ministry was not the Jewish people but rather those in the nations whom God promised to call back? Perhaps the paths of Judah and Ephraim were scheduled to intersect at a later date? Maybe we have inadvertently added to Scripture in the form of “time” where none existed or given an antithetical statement to a verse that lacked one.

I probably need to clarify before going on: I am not suggesting that Yeshua’s work does not apply to Judah. I am not saying they have one way into the coming Kingdom and we another. I am suggesting that we look at certain aspects of Scripture to see if we have simply missed where and when God was placing certain priorities. If today we understand ourselves to be Ephraim, then we know that when Yeshua said, “I have not been sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel” He was speaking specifically about us—the House of Ephraim—and not about Judah. Since Yeshua singled out Israel in the nations and not Judah, does this exclude Judah from needing the work of Yeshua? God forbid! But Judah came home after their exile to Babylon; it was Israel who never returned from Assyria.

The single most prophesied event in Scripture is the calling out of Israel from the nations and the reunification of both Houses, never to be divided again. Yeshua’s mission was already outlined in the Prophets, which is why He stated He was coming to call the lost sheep of the Northern Kingdom. He placed so much weight on that call that when He sent His disciples out, He told them not to go to Samaria, the former capital of the Northern Kingdom and a place Israel could not be found, but instead to the lost sheep of the House of Israel in the nations. This is why the Great Commission is to go to the nations and make disciples. Our tradition has not allowed us to conceive that we are part of Israel, let alone understand the weight Yeshua placed on calling us out from the nations in which we are scattered.


The Paradigm Shift
This slight paradigm shift that we see happening today—this peering outside of our born-into tradition that allows us to understand who we are in God’s prophetic plans—is allowing us to see other matters that perhaps we have also misinterpreted. Earlier I mentioned God giving the followers of Yeshua His Holy Spirit. We have been rightly taught that the Spirit was given to teach, comfort, and guide, leading us in the ways of righteousness. But there is likely another reason that has been overlooked and might give us an additional witness in terms of the weight being on Israel and not Judah. What if the Spirit was given on that day to begin the construction—or perhaps better stated as the reconstruction—of a house? There is precedent in Exodus 35 when Bezalel the son of Uri was given the Holy Spirit to aid him in his work on the Tabernacle . . . the house of God. Our tradition has a hard enough time dealing with the fact that someone mentioned in Exodus even had the Holy Spirit, and yet Bezalel was given the Spirit “in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work” (Exodus 35:31b-33, KJV).

With this in mind, we return to Yeshua’s words, “I have not been sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” He sent His disciples to the same lost sheep. Yeshua was building a house; He was rebuilding a house, the House of Israel, and He was doing it through all those who follow Him through the Spirit. The House of Judah, though having past faults that God dealt with and present faults he will continue to address, was not the house being rebuilt.

Our paradigm continues to shift when we read this statement by Yeshua in three of the four Gospels: “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:32; NKJV). How is that even possible? Our tradition tells us Paul was very clear: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10, NKJV). Unfortunately, our tradition hasn’t done us many favors in this respect, as Paul was quoting Psalm 14. The Psalmist was speaking about those who were declaring “there is no God.” Context matters, and context is often the missing link that a faulty tradition tends to hide from us.

Consider the line from Yeshua above: “I did not come to call the righteous.” It begs the question, Who are the righteous, and do we have a good definition of that word? As much as context matters, so does how we define words and concepts. In this case, the word righteous means “to conform to divine law.” So Yeshua is literally saying, “I have not come to call those who conform to divine law.” Who might He be referencing here? would be a good follow-up question. The Gentiles? No, they weren’t conforming to divine law. Israel in the nations? No, they were following idols. Only Judah was conforming to divine law—not every individual, mind you, but as a people, as a culture, they abided by the law. Not secular law—this wasn’t about Roman law. Righteousness is following God’s instructions, God’s laws. So when Yeshua said, “I have not come to call those who conform to divine law,” who else but righteous Jews fit that description? What about the rest of His statement—“but sinners unto repentance”? Again, a sound definition is required, and thankfully 1 John 3:4 provides us with one: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (NASB). Yeshua specifically stated He was not concerned so much with those who were daily centered on practicing God’s will as stated in Scripture; rather, He was concerned with those who were living without care for or knowledge of God’s Law.

Does this mean that following the commandments perfects our decaying and dying bodies? God forbid! It simply means that when one comes in faith believing, the next step is not to pitch a tent at the Cross and remain there. Instead, we are to pick it up, so to speak, and be about the business of learning God’s will for our lives and then living it. If Jews in Yeshua’s day were not breaking commandments and were praying and living for God, then He wasn’t concerned with altering their walk; they were already living according to divine Law. But those who weren’t—like Israel in the nations—they were the ones in sin (without Law) upon whom He placed the greater weight to reach!

Perhaps the Jews have some fences—commands around commands that we don’t understand, appreciate, or agree with—but a practicing Jew follows God’s Torah out of love, not because he thinks doing so earns him salvation. Our tradition has given us the notion that Jews believe works save, but the reality is they await a Messianic Kingdom—a coming Messiah and a time of peace and perfection—just like we do. It has also filled us with pride to the extent that after coming to Jesus, many of us were directed by pastors and teachers to “provoke the Jews to jealousy,” completely missing the context of Romans 11:11 by assuming the verse is speaking of provoking Jews to jealousy. It isn’t. It is speaking about provoking the House of Israel to jealousy, the ones in the nations who are without hope. Since Isaiah 11:13 declares that Ephraim is jealous of Judah, how can we provoke the Jewish people to jealousy when it is prophesied we will be jealous of them? Tradition can often be a great blessing, but it can equally become a cloud through which we cannot see.


A Cloud of Confusion
Often a cloud of confusion creates a climate of confusion. Sometimes it so pervades our paradigm that we unknowingly add to Scripture to support the conclusions that have been handed down to us. Generally we add time or an antithetical statement to a verse. For example, in John 3:16 we are told God so loved the world that He gave His Son, and all who believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. Where in that verse does it say that we must believe now, at this point in time? If our interpretation of Zechariah 12:10 is correct, doesn’t it seem to indicate a time in the future when God might reveal Yeshua to the Jews? If there is no specific point in time for the fulfillment of John 3:16 or even John 14:6 (“No one comes to the Father but through Me” —NASB) and God seems to indicate in various verses that He has a future plan for Judah, then where else but through our traditions did we inherit the idea that we have the right to impose our timetable onto God’s work? Our tradition even weakens words so they no longer resemble their original intent. For example, what about the word believe as used in John 3:16—is it passive or does it demand action? Yeshua said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15, NKJV). So does belief prompt action, obedience? What if a Jewish person who has not heard of Yeshua is already keeping the commandments? Isn’t that what Yeshua was desiring His people to do? By definition I believe that person would fall into the category of the righteous that Yeshua said he did not come for.

The parable of the Prodigal Son might be one example of tradition clouding our visibility. Traditionally, Christians have understood this story to be speaking about, who else, two Christians. One was more mature and walked righteously, while the other was immature and, if it weren’t for the grace of God, would have no hope. A good Christian and a bad Christian if you will. But what if this story is speaking about something else? Considering Yeshua’s statement that He came for sinners and the lost sheep of the House of Israel, then what if the younger brother in this story is Ephraim? And what if the older brother, the one who never left his Father’s fields (read “covenant”), was Judah? We then have the older brother representing the Jewish people, who, though not perfect, have by and large remained in a covenant relationship with God. And Ephraim, the younger brother, has been squandering his inheritance in the nations and caring for earthly pleasures over heavenly treasures.

If this interpretation is correct, it is quite interesting to ponder that Ephraim, the younger brother who walked away from God and found his way back only by the grace of God, nearly immediately sets out to correct his older brother, who has never left the Father. Such license was given to us through our tradition. The understanding we have of the Great Commission is one that doesn’t even follow the Greek used in this New Testament verse. “GO!—and make disciples” is how we in the West tend to read Matthew 28:16. We see it as a command to convert the world, including the Jews, to whatever form of Christianity we belong to. This is another example of unknowingly adding to Scripture. The Greek word translated as go is a passive participle; most scholars agree it is best rendered as going and should be paraphrased to say, “As you are going, teach.” The idea of the Great Commission is actually in line with Deuteronomy 6:7: “You shall teach them [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (NKJV). So it isn’t a command to convert the world to Christianity; it is really a call to walk in a manner that reflects the will of God, and as we go, as we live—in all we do—to teach!

We have a duty, an obligation to give an answer for the hope of our calling. We are to share Yeshua and His work with anyone who is seeking, because only when one seeks can he find. We have a responsibility to answer questions that have been asked, but we do not have the authority to virtually force others to accept our beliefs. Somewhere along our history highway, we reoriented the process described in Scripture. It is God who draws a man to Himself (John 6:44), and when he is drawn, when he begins to seek, only then will he find. Answers to questions that have not been asked will almost always fall on deaf ears.

We cannot force another to accept our views, but throughout much of our Christian history, we have done just that to the Jewish people. Over the last two thousand years, we have seen forced baptisms; we have seen Jews forced to eat unclean animals; we have even witnessed the murder of Jewish people in the name of Jesus. These are acts of true heresy, but tradition, unfortunately, has also given us an alternate definition of heresy. Today it means “to not agree with orthodoxy,” but in the past the Greek underlying word (hairesis) meant “to storm a city; to take by force.” When we attempt to force another to accept our views, whether religious or secular, we are acting as heretics. An interesting side note to consider is that historically heretics were not those burned at the stake or those who lost their heads on chopping blocks; instead, heretics were the leaders who gave orders to light the matches and swing the axes!

Religious tradition begets religious pride. For two thousand years, Christian love has not always been kind to brother Judah. We have not discerned that though our two Houses see the Father through differing lenses, we are indeed family and are being drawn according to His purpose and in His timing toward a common series of events that includes the coming Messianic Kingdom. I have an Orthodox Jewish friend by the name of Hanoch Young. We have filmed videos together and are currently working on a book that will illustrate how our two Houses can indeed get along. What he and I have learned in discussing our faith understandings is that we truly are separated by only one word—again. You see, we both believe there is a coming Kingdom, a King who will reign from David’s throne. We both foresee the exiles returning from the nations and a time of world peace when Torah will be taken to the nations by God’s united Kingdom of Israel. What divides us is that I believe Messiah has been here once and will come again, and Hanoch is waiting for His first appearance. But He is still the same Messiah, and we are still being drawn to the same place in history. Consider this illustration:


The arrows pointing toward the circle show that God is drawing all who are His toward the coming Kingdom. Whether scattered in the nations or living in modern-day Israel, the whole House of Israel—its members appearing in every color and speaking every language—is being drawn to a single place in time. While the illustration should make sense on this rudimentary level, here is an aspect that does not: Imagine, if you will, that Ephraim is on the left side at 9:00 and Judah is on the right side at 3:00. Ephraim’s interpretation of the Great Commission and other aspects of the New Testament compels us to leave our place at 9:00 and go to Judah at 3:00, only to bring him back to our location to make him look, act, and think like we do—in spite of the fact that God is already bringing us both toward the Kingdom at the center. Our destination is the same, and God twice promised through Jeremiah the prophet that He would correct us in due course. All of us need correction, and God promised to provide it. Yet we as Ephraim still feel compelled to conform others to our viewpoint.


Treating the Two as One
There is a wonderful picture provided for us in Ezekiel 37. The prophet is told by God to take two sticks—one for Judah and the other for Joseph (Ephraim). Ezekiel holds them in his hand as if they are one stick, and then God makes them one in His hand. The point is that before God does His work, He expects Ezekiel—and I believe Judah and Ephraim by extension—to treat both sticks as if He has already made them one. It will take a massive pride dump in order to treat the two sticks as one when you consider that (1) we as Ephraim have a hard enough time treating our own stick as one; (2) Ephraim sees Yeshua as Messiah; and (3) the stick of Judah does not hold this same belief. Yet until God makes the sticks one, we remain two individual sticks, two individual peoples. That means we need to look beyond any theological differences for the good of the body as a whole so we might actually treat the two sticks as if they are already one.

Think about how difficult an assignment that is. Think about the barriers of tradition that must be overcome in order to do the will of God in this task. It is, for me, one of the most humbling undertakings I have ever faced. It is perhaps the greatest undertaking that has stood before all of us. We need to learn how to belong to a people who are scattered among the nations, accepting that our nation is larger than what we can currently see; we must also acknowledge that when it comes to theology, we have great differences of opinion with the other house. And yet still we are to treat the two as one.

Humility and prayer are the keys: learning to live with mutual respect and understanding. Judah will remain Judah and Joseph will remain Joseph until God makes the two one. No longer can we engage in theological shoving matches. No longer can we afford religious posturing. If what we believe about Yeshua is correct, then we must trust He will fully reveal Himself to Judah in His timing. Perhaps that is what Zechariah 12:10 is declaring to us.

And what if we should learn we arrived at certain conclusions in error? Well, that is a possibility no one ever desires to entertain. Yet one thing is clear: Both Houses have fixed their hearts and eyes on the God of Israel, and when Messiah comes, we will all stand corrected on more issues than we will be comfortable with. Until that day, my dear brethren, let us just walk together in unity, treating our two sticks as if they are already one—and may this tradition become the framework we hand down to those who come after us.

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Blessed are the Peacemakers (Bringing Peace to Chaos)

Today we have many who cry out that those who seek peace are those who are willing to compromise truth. I find this conclusion to be more than troubling, especially when Yeshua said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”

The word shalom is the Hebrew word for peace, and it appears in the Tanach (OT) 236 times. The Greek counterpart to shalom, eirene, appears another 92 times in the Apostolic Writings (NT). Combined we see the word peace or a related concept 328 times in the bible. With that great city known as Jerusalem carrying the meaning of “teaching of peace,” with Isaiah using the name “Prince of Peace,” and Paul using the descriptive phrase “Lord of Peace,” do you think the idea of peace is important to God?

What exactly is peace? Some dictionaries define it as being free from dispute, or lacking stress, disturbance, anxiety, or agitation. It is, seemingly, a state of quiet or tranquility. Sometimes the best picture of the concept a word carries is found when we find a word or words that appear to portray the opposite conditions. In this case, war would be a word that described a lack of peace. Others would include fighting, arguing, corrupting, manipulating, using force, etc. It is an interesting side note that I very well could add the word heresy here, because the underlying Greek word from which we get heresy (hairesis – G139) means, “to storm a city; to take by force.” In biblical context, a heretic isn’t somebody who simply disagreed with any mainstream statement of beliefs, which is how heresy is defined today, in English. Historically, a heretic was one who tried to force others to accept his own understanding. In an odd twist to our modern definition of heresy, it wasn’t the heretics who were being beheaded or burned at the stake; the heretics were the ones who gave the orders for the axes to be swung or the matches to be lit. Heresy is a lack of peace and it should be noted, peace is one of the character attributes of Holy Spirit.

There is another word we have in our language that paints an opposing picture to the concept of peace, that word is chaos. The idea of disorder and confusion, which both stand in direct contrast to being free of stress and anxiety, is how chaos is defined. Disorder and confusion, however, are the hallmarks of the modern condition of the faith. With 40,000 denominations and sects within Christianity (not to mention however many home groups there are), and great polarization and division within the Hebrew Roots or Ephraimite movement, using the word “chaos” or the phrase “lack of peace” are sadly two of the best ways to describe the condition of our House. Where we should stand as one, joined by the core beliefs that we all share, we instead create division and animosity among a body over minutia and minor doctrinal points that, when it comes to the welfare of our assembly, are perhaps not as important to God as they are to us. When we factor in that our Scriptural understanding comes as a gift from the Holy Spirit, how do we not profane the gift, and gift giver, when we use our understanding as the litmus test by which we judge others? That action disrupts peace because that action was not God’s intention.

The Psalmist said we should “seek peace,” which I think is captured in a NT verse that includes, “being of one mind and one accord.” Perhaps we misunderstand what “one mind and one accord” means? Was it that we were supposed to look, think, believe, and act alike in every way, or be one in function, purpose, or intent? If we are to seek peace, and keep ourselves free from dispute, disturbance, anxiety (etc.), then clearly being of one mind and one accord is us laying aside any differences so that we can function together as God intended for the good of the body at large. Agreeing on every detail of doctrine and understanding is simply not a reality while we continue to exist in a fallen state.

Today we have many who cry out that those who seek peace are those who are willing to compromise truth. I find this conclusion to be more than troubling, especially when Yeshua said, “blessed are the peacemakers.” I don’t believe that he was overly concerned with national and international politics, I don’t believe he was speaking about the world system, his entire message was wrapped around the call to repent, to begin to turn the hearts of the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel back toward the God of Israel, and toward the Kingdom to come. Therefore, “blessed are the peacemakers” was a statement he made that was dealing with those who strive to bring peace to the faith, peace to the House to which we belong…. peace among the brethren.

Today we stand at a time in history where God is doing an incredible work of changing paradigms and drawing people closer to Him and His will and instruction for our lives. Yet, there are facets of our body that seem to look for reasons to divide or stand alone as a rogue islands with no sense of community at all. The idea that we are part of the same nation is simply beyond the grasp of some at this time and this causes disunity, disruption, agitation, stress… a lack of peace. I submit that we keep these people in prayer and leave open doors to communication between us and them praying that God would compel them to repent and establish meaningful discourse. Beyond that, and until then, I submit that it is time for those who seek and love peace and who are willing to decrease “self” for the good of the body as a whole, to rally around each other so that together we become a voice of reason and balance in a world that almost seems to derive it’s energy from chaos. We cannot change hearts, only God can do that. What we can do is join together in love and peace while standing as beacons of hope; pointing to a God who loves peace among brethren. We should be reflecting His character attributes to the world around us while letting Him work on the hearts of those who don’t see the blessing of living together in His shalom. May our lives be filled with His shalom.

Proverbs 6: 16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: (17) A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, (18) A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, (19)  A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

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Dying in the Wilderness

We are part of Israel; we are children of the Most High God. He loves us, He will care for us, He will sustain us… and He will leave us in the wilderness with our spiritual baggage intact unless we learn how to get beyond the minutia that we allow to divide us.

Every story that God has seen fit to place in Scripture is there for a reason. It might be to preserve our understanding of history. Perhaps it is being used to edify and encourage as we walk through life in modern times. Some stories speak to us about future events; they are more prophetic in nature. Or, it might also be that a story is all of these things and more. One thing is for sure, God wasted no ink. Each word, sentence, paragraph, and book is there for a reason.

There are a few stories that I believe are particularly relevant at our current point in time. The book of Job stands out from others. Job is unique in that his story truly transcends time. Every human being has gone through a trial or a pain and the story of Job shows us that there is light at the end of every tunnel when we fix our eyes, and keep them, on the Lord. But two other stories really stand out as related not just to this Hebrew Roots Movement we see today, but also to this growing desire to see and be a part of the restoration of the whole House of Israel. Those two stories are Joseph’s life (Genesis 37-50) and the story of the Exodus. It is the latter story I would like to focus on today.

When Israel was in Egypt (read “world” or “nations” here) they were as a dormant tree. They were Israel, but there was no life in them in regard to their relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God sent a Prophet back into the land (a picture of messiah) and an awakening began. Picture a tree coming out of its winter slumber. There was a time of trial (perhaps the word “tribulation” can be used here) before they ultimately were able to leave Egypt and head toward a land of promise. Their trek was rough, they were chased, but ultimately they were delivered, if you will, and they made it safely through the water and to Mt. Sinai. There they received instruction (you might call that “discipleship”) and God sustained them.

For most of these Israelites, this story doesn’t end well. The Israelites walked in fear, they were insecure, and that manifested itself in the form of murmuring, back-biting, and idolatry. It is as if the Israelites simply came out of Egypt with too much spiritual baggage to fully walk as God intended for them to walk. A decision was ultimately made: those who were 20 years of age and older at the time of the exodus would not see the Promised Land. Instead, they would be cared for, loved, even sustained, but would ultimately die in the wilderness they wandered in.

The Messianic Movement

In a sense, the Messianic movement began just over 100 years ago when the newly formed Hebrew-Christian Alliance of America (HCAA) gave a voice to Jewish Christians as they determined to retain their ethnicity while living as Christians. As time went on, the HCAA would inspire other groups, like Jews for Jesus, but the final form of that inspiration became the early face of what is now the Messianic Movement. That group, the Messianic-Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), exposed the more Jewish aspects of the Christian faith. The thought was predominately to show a more Jewish Jesus to Orthodox Jews. That action, however, had a side effect; it began to open the eyes of many non-Jewish Christians around the world to a more “Hebrew Rooted” faith. Indeed, Jesus was Jewish and his followers were too. In fact, the entire NT is a very “Jewish” book, a fact that becomes clear as one reads through a more Hebraic perspective.

Slowly over the years more and more “gentiles” began to trickle into Messianic synagogues but they were never fully accepted as part of the family. I am not seeking to lay blame on anyone or make statements that might question intent or inflame others, I simply believe the focus was on the Orthodox Jewish community and the non-Jews were simply not part of that plan. Thus, over time, independent non-Jewish congregations began to develop around the country and eventually the world. This sub-culture that came from this seemingly combines mainstream Christianity with aspects of Judaism, and is what has became known as the Hebrew Roots Movement. Today, there are literally thousands of congregations around the world and probably hundreds of thousands (or more) Christians who also identify with the more Hebraic aspects of the Christian faith. These people continue to see Yeshua (Jesus) as messiah, but also embrace the commandments while believing they are at least a part of Israel. This is not replacement theology; it is just a people seeing the depth of what it means to be part of the family of God.

One might view all of this as a revival or an “awakening” similar, perhaps in part, to the awakening of Israel in Egypt. Yeshua told a parable in Matthew 24:32-34 about a fig tree. He depicts the fig tree as asleep, in its winter slumber, hibernating if you will. He states that when we see it bring forth new life, new stems and leaves, and it begins to grow again that we are to know that summer is near. He went on to say that the generation that sees this happen won’t pass away before all is fulfilled. Most scholars believe the fig tree to be Israel but they have mistakenly interpreted the point of the parable, in my humble opinion, to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. While that event is of great importance and God’s hand has been clearly on it, the nation state of Israel is secular, messiah is not King at this time, Torah is not the law of the land, and God’s Israel awaits it’s reunification with the entire family of God. In other words, the parable is not speaking about a secular nation but rather is speaking about a people awakening to who they are and what their part in God’s plan is. In one sense, these are the “Lost Sheep” regaining their identity and desiring to walk in the statutes and commandments of God. I said, “in one sense,” because I do believe this parable is dealing with the whole House of Israel and not just those in the nations who, until now, have not understood what it meant to be part of Israel.

Old habits die hard

When these groups of Hebrew Rooted Christians were still part of mainstream Christianity, they were not taught methodology. By that I mean they were not taught hermeneutic rules (rules of interpretation), nor languages, nor historical analysis, nor anything else that might have helped them reach their own conclusions as they worked through Scripture. Instead, they were taught facts and they were taught how to repeat the facts, as each denomination understood them. Instead of the teacher giving the student the tools necessary to reach his own conclusions, the teachers were in a sense cloning themselves, perhaps inadvertently, and perpetuating the denomination in the process.

This lack of methodology and the parroting of facts didn’t change when most of these Christians began to walk this more Hebraic path. These followers of Yeshua were given additional insight by the Spirit, and they were allowed to see an additional truth or two. This awakening (or perhaps a “paradigm shift”) is a work of God, not the work of diligent man and his improved study habits. Thus the student, who still lacks the ability to methodically make connections biblically and historically, goes down the same road of polarization that we have seen between the denominations. The moment our facts are shown to be in conflict with the facts of others, the Hebrew Rooted Christian does what has always been done in the church when it has been confronted with conflict. We get mad, we lash out, and then we divide from other brethren. The reason there are over 40,000 denominations and sects of Christianity is simply because we never learned to sit down with somebody who comes to a different understanding than we do, and just TALK to them. Instead, we yell, fight, name call, polarize the situation and ultimately burn bridges of communication. We remove any chance of “proving all things” because we were too insecure and ill-equipped to fairly and prayerfully “consider all things.”

Throughout all forms of social media, which I still think is a great way to network and share information, we find people who did not properly inspect where the information they are now accepting as truth came from. This isn’t their fault as they lack the tools to properly inspect the information themselves, forcing them to rely on the work of others. The result is when a person like this is confronted about a particular conclusion; they lack the ability to defend it. Remember, they didn’t dig out the facts and prove them, they simply read them in a book or on a website, thought it made sense, and repeated it as truth. So, their response to conflict is to lash out and cause strife and division because they have no ability to defend, nor explain in detail, what they believe. Thus the Hebrew Roots Movement, which I maintain has reached some great truths, is exposed as an immature movement full of spiritual baggage, just like it was when Israel came out of Egypt. Because of pride, insecurity, and a lack of quality discipleship, the movement, which is part of a great awakening of God, fights against itself as well as the rest of the church. Ephraim (Israel in the nations) can’t get along with Ephraim! How then can he possibly think he can get along with people who don’t see Yeshua as he does? Does Ephraim not see that the covenant is made with the House of Judah AND the House of Israel? At least at this time, Judah does not see Yeshua as messiah and yet God is still going to include them in the covenant. That means the line in the sand that we have drawn based on our understanding, needs to be revisited. To do so would mean fighting against the culture we were born into, one that demands that everything look, think, and act like we do, or we reject it.

Will we die in the wilderness?

We are part of Israel; we are children of the Most High God. He loves us, He will care for us, He will sustain us… and He will leave us in the wilderness with our spiritual baggage intact unless we learn how to get beyond the minutia that we allow to divide us. The division, brethren, is preventable. Throughout the history of the church right on through the current state of the Hebrew Roots Movement, most division is based on our own understanding, or lack of it. Doctrine has become the litmus test as to who should or should not, be considered family. Not to weaken the need for sound doctrine, but our understanding, especially in this fallen state, should never have become that litmus test, and yet it is. We seemingly look for things to use as fodder in a fight against our brethren. A sword does not sharpen in a sword fight, that chips and dulls the blade. We sharpen a sword when the metal is rubbed smoothly against other metal, patiently.

I know many of you who are reading this understand what I am saying and have gone out your way to re-open doors of communication with those we once alienated over our perceived superior understanding. These were doors to family and friends who are now where we were, not all that long ago. And let us not forget that our understanding is a gift from God, a gift we profane, when we use it to beat down others! Still, even today, we all know many who are still stuck in the quagmire of destructive behavior which continues to paint the efforts of us all in a bad light. As Paul wrote:

“But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and striving about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless.” (Titus 3:9)

Indeed, not only unprofitable and useless, but if we can’t rally around the weightier matters of God’s Law, and cease dividing over things only we think are important, we will have some very serious repercussions to deal with. In addition, we will answer for all we have said and done especially as it relates to how we treated others. I fear the result of our actions will be that history repeats itself and that we will be left in the wilderness while the next generation walks into the Kingdom where messiah will reign as King. Stop for a moment and imagine how the Israelites felt who went through the entire Exodus and Sinai experience only to find out they were too spiritually damaged to see the Promised Land. That might be us; we might have a little too much Egypt in us to be part of what is yet to come. God will not allow us to profane a Holy thing and right now too few of us know how to handle a Holy thing.

Yet brethren, we do have hope, we CAN do this… I am truly convinced of this! But it will take work, it will take love and patience, and a willingness to let it be about everyone else but ourselves. When we can get to that point, when we can remove “self” and make it about God and His Israel…. then we will see the Promised Land! If we don’t, well, if we don’t history will repeat itself but this time we won’t be reading about it, we will be living it.

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Until The Two Become One

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!

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Ephraim’s Shifting Paradigm

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.[1] There was a Jewish rabbi, a teacher, whose name was Yehoshua[2] (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[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] 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[6], 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[7], 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[8], is the younger brother who was cut off and said by God to be “not my people.”[9] 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,[10] and why Jeremiah prophesies about two Houses[11] 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.

Misguided Love?

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,[12] 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.[13] 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,[14] and he quoted Jacob’s blessing over Paul as a commission.[15] The Great Commission was then to the nations, not to Judea.[16] 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[17] which in Hebrew is really the idea of returning,[18] 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,[19] but how is it that we have forgotten a basic principle shared by Yeshua, “He that seeks will find”?[20] 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![21]

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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Why Did Christianity Stop Looking So Jewish?

Those who believed Yeshua was Messiah simply saw him fulfilling prophesies and expectations that were taught and understood within an existing religion.

I would like to share a progression of history that is not taught in many churches today. In fact, there are teachers and leaders in many churches that have never learned of this history; yet this history sheds light on the soil in which the early church grew and was nurtured. Yeshua, or as most of us in the West know him, Jesus, is believed by many to be Messiah and is Jewish. His message was about repentance (turning/returning) and was directed toward a particular people.[3] What he was not doing was attempting to steer people toward another god, nor was he attempting to install a new religious system or set of practices. Those who believed Yeshua was Messiah simply saw him fulfilling prophesies and expectations that were taught and understood within an existing religion. So, until the time of the destruction of the second Temple, and perhaps for a short while longer, Christianity by and large was seen as a sect of Judaism.[4] And not only was the leader of this sect Jewish, his 12 apostles were all Jewish, and his message, for the most part, went forward in and around Judea. On top of this, the Book of Acts contains examples where the disciples retained access to synagogues despite their theological differences with other Jews at that time, and we even see Paul going into synagogues week after week reasoning with both Jews and Greeks.[5] It is actually difficult to ignore the fact that the face of early Christianity was Jewish. So what happened?

There are 3 events that began to reshape the face of what we now call Christianity. Two of them happened so close in time that it is hard to differentiate the effect that each of these events had on the body. The first is the death of James, the brother of Yeshua. There are some early historical references and hints within the NT that James was the head of the Church of Jerusalem.[6] One might consider this congregation to be the first mega-church as it appears to have had over 20,000 members out of a population of 80,000 that lived in Jerusalem at that time[7]; so much for the teaching that all Jews rejected Yeshua![8]

James is said to have died before the destruction of the second Temple. Early Christian tradition states that James was invited to speak at Passover before many Jews who did not believe Yeshua was Messiah. When James began to speak of the Passover and its relation to the work of Yeshua, he was killed. Shortly thereafter, the Temple was destroyed and many Christians (read: Jews and non-Jews who followed Yeshua) saw this as an abomination, and thus used the warning in Matthew 24:16 to flee to the mountains. It is estimated that about half of the Jews who believed that Yeshua was Messiah left and did not return.[9] The remaining half stayed and began to expand in numbers again until the Bar Kokhba Revolt of 132-135AD. Simon Bar Kosiba was a Jewish military leader who led the final revolt against Roman occupation, which ultimately failed. A Rabbi by the name of Akiva, in an attempt to rally support behind the effort, gave him the name Bar Kokhba (a Messianic title) and the remaining Jewish believers in Yeshua would not fight for the sovereignty of Jerusalem under the banner of one whom they believed to be a false Messiah. They too left and did not return to the area.[10]

As this sect of Judaism began to spread geographically, and as those from areas outside of Judea became part of this movement, animosity beyond what already existed between the two groups began to grow. It wouldn’t be long before both sides, but perhaps mainly the Christians, began to pass decrees to make themselves appear less Jewish in appearance. For example, at the Council of Elvira[11] decrees were passed that tried to keep Jews and Christians apart by ordering the latter never to share a meal with Jews, never to marry Jews, never to use Jews to bless their fields, and that Christians were never to observe the Jewish Sabbath (of course, these decrees also serve to substantiate that Christians had been doing these things up until this point).[12] Slowly, over time, more decrees and similar teachings began to come together in such a way that there would eventually be no mistaking Judaism and Christianity. What was once a sect of Judaism became, at least in outward form, a new religion. And within that religion, the view that the Jews were “Christ Killers” was already gaining momentum. For example, in the homily Peri Pascha, Melito of Sardis (circa middle of the second century) wrote “The God has been murdered; the king of Israel has been put to death by an Israelite right hand.”[13] Another example, Justin Martyr (also circa middle of the second century), in his Dialogue with Trypho, A Jew, explains why the Jews have suffered exile and the destruction of the Temple, saying to his Jewish interlocutor “tribulations were justly imposed on you since you have murdered the Just One [Jesus].”[14]

I do want to state, however, that this is not the view of many or even most Christians today. I am simply stating that over the course of history, there have been times where Jews were wholly blamed for Yeshua’s death. For the purposes of this article, I am looking at the general view of early Christians which informed the views of many who would come later.[15]

[3] See Matthew 4:17, Luke 5:32, and Matthew 15:24
[4] See Acts 24:1-6, also verse 14, and Acts 28:22
[5] Acts 18:4
[6] Fragment X of Papias, Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 2:1:2, 3:5:2, Acts 15:13, etc.
[7] Estimating the Population of Ancient Jerusalem, Magen Broshi, BAR 4:02, Jun 1978
[8] See Acts 21:20 and look at the underlying word for “many thousands.”
[9] Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3:5:3, de Mens. et Pond., 15, Haer 29:7, etc.
[10] Justin, “Apologia”, ii.71, Eusebius 4:6:2-3, Orosius “Hist.” vii.13
[11] Generally accepted to be 306AD
[12] The Council of Elvira. CUA.EDU. Text of 81 Canons in English. Web. Accessed 22 Aug 2014. http://faculty.cua.edu/pennington/Canon Law/ElviraCanons.htm
[13] On the Pascha, 68; Melito of Sardis. On Pascha and fragments, ed. S.G. Hall (1979), p. 55.
[14] Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 16
[15] For a more in-depth historical treatment of this topic, see Jeremy Cohen’s Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

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