Friday, December 8, 2017

Identity Matters

In the Scriptures many of protagonists’ names have meanings that either determine or are congruent with the given person’s identity. Our identity, naturally, plays a major role in our lives; gender, family, community, ethnicity, nationality and profession.  In our day and age one can also be known or identified by one’s association with a political or religious grouping, or other types of ideologies, or even by varying interests. 
At the very beginning the Creator made Man in His image and likeness; He made them male and female. This was humanity’s initial identity and had they continued to “walk” with Elohim they would have come to know themselves accordingly and would have given expression to this “image and likeness”. They truly would have been the Creator’s children, sons and daughters (‘like father - like son/daughter’).  However, having given up their original nature, our progenitors bequeathed to their seed a distorted identity which has taken on manifold expressions all through history. So much so, that the rebellion has morphed to the point of the current frightening gender confusion, attempts at cloning and other technological efforts that at times almost dehumanize what Elohim created in His image.  Darwin’s theory relegated the human species to an animalistic identity and this has evolved into a behavior and a mindset to match.  Animals in many cases have been and are domesticated or trained, and are then harnessed to tasks that serve their master.  Such is the condition we face in the world of humanity today.
A dictionary definition of identity is: ”The state or fact of remaining the same one or ones, as under varying aspects or conditions… the condition of being oneself or itself, and not another…condition or character as to who a person or what a thing is; the qualities, beliefs, etc., that distinguish or identify a person or thing.”
 Elohim had given man his name, and then man named the woman. Humanity continues, likewise, to name their offspring.  The Creator asked Adam to name the animals, and thus involved him with their identity-definition.  The book of Genesis sets in motion a history of identification markers.  Our “father Abraham” is but one example. Many today, even four thousand years after the fact, continue to identify themselves as people groups descended from him.  To follow the identity pattern in Genesis, as mentioned above, there are individuals whose names describe or determine their identity and who have thus been differentiated into families, tribal groupings, or nations yet all originating with Abraham, such as Ishmael, Isaac, or the tribes of Israel.  Then there are more Abrahamic relatives with national identities, such as the Midianites, Sheba and Edom.
In the writings of the New Covenant there are many references to “nationality”, simply by the usage of the term “ethnos”, which means exactly that, a “nation” or a “people group”. In English that neutral term has been translated into “Gentile” or “Gentiles”.  The usage of the term Gentile, rather than people or nation, has become synonymous with being non-Jewish, as mentioned in the last article, while Jewish equals to being a descendent of the forefathers - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  As a matter of fact, these Patriarchs are often called Jews.  So where does this leave us, who claim Israelite identity? 
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul describes the “Gentiles”: “Living in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19).   Peter adds more to the identity of a “Gentle”:  “For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3).   Is this who we are, as redeemed Israelites in Messiah?  Or is this why the apostle says “formally you were [identified as] Gentiles” (and I might add “behaved like them”)? But now “having been brought back into covenant”, do we still identify ourselves as Gentiles, or are we truly the Israel of YHVH that manifests His nature?       
In the Israeli news this week there was a report about 50 Gypsies from France and other locations that convened for a conference in Jerusalem proclaiming Israelite identity.  Their gypsy ethnicity and their claims sparked here unfavorable comments regarding their ultimate intentions.  
Very recently I received a letter from a Jewish Messianic believer, commenting on the Israelite (two house) Movement.  Here are just a few of his “jabs”:   I viewed it as one of the many new winds that blow regularly through the Body of Messiah in these days of delusion… a rather convoluted reasoning process… Remembering the words of Thomas Paine, “To argue with someone who has abandoned reason is to administer medicine to a dead man,”… This is coveting of [identity] the first order. This appears to be nothing more than a new twist on replacement theology.

Because more and more groups around the world are claiming an Israelite identity of some sort we, along with the Jewish nation, are faced with a real dilemma. We, for example, believe in Yeshua as Messiah and claim the New Covenant writings as central to our identity and cultural expression, while the Jewish nation is guarded and protective of their identity. To many Israeli Jews, whether religious or secular, the idea of “non-Jewish lost tribes” poses a threat to their identity and uniqueness.  With all the ones that are coming to the fore as “Israelites”, it remains up to YHVH to sift out the ones who are merely jumping on the band wagon.  Yet we do need to be mindful that there is more happening out there in regards to Israelite identity, although at times to the point of “competition”. To all that we say, let the real Israelites rise up! 


  1. My Israelite identity was revealed by HaShem to me, by a supernatural revelation given through the Holy Spirit. While living here in Texas, just before "Y2K", many years after living contact with the nation and people of Israel.
    Even though I had experienced two extended visits there, totaling 3-4 years in length, yes, living in Israel; even though a "choveyvee Tzion" ardent Christian Zionist living and working and going to school on two separate, personal, "fact finding" missions with my wife and family; nevertheless, at that time I knew nothing about my identity as we describe it today in this Hebrew Messianic Movement. I had no clue, I was as lost as I was before Christ as it pertained to actualizing, realizing my identity as an Israelite.
    Paul speaks of many mysteries associated with our walk as believers. In Ephesians he goes into some detail contrasting our condition as former Gentiles with our new status, available to us because (chapter 2) Jesus Christ " But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations...Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household... And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
    Paul is speaking of things that still are a mystery today, even the though, "He made known to us the mystery of His will", which in my case, if it would have happened on the basis on my efforts and personal background and education and relationships with Israelis etc. would have been revealed to me much earlier while still living in Israel (circa 1978-1980 and 1986-1987).
    But my point is, it didn't happen that way. For me anyway.
    "The mystery of His will...with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of times, the summing up of all things in be specific: that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body and fellow partakers of the promise in Messiah Yeshua through the gospel..."
    Again, as I have said, these are still mysteries. I would say especially the idea inherent in Paul's thought in Ephesians that we as the adopted sons are included as "fellow members". The other members that we who were "far away" are included with are those "who are near".
    That is a real mystery. Not that they are "enemies of the gospel" but "but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable."
    And to think that many gypsies and moslems and hindus (and so on and so forth) are being given this insight that they, with us, are Israelites in the same way that I have just described...Talk about to the point of competition!

  2. Yes indeed a great mystery that is constantly being unfolded as we walk out His kingdom righteousness and can be trusted with the riches of revelation understanding of His Word. We are walking proof that He is a covenant keeping Elohim. Thanks Ken for sharing your testimony.

  3. When people ask "What are you?" ... how do you answer? I have not come up with "THE LABEL", and maybe that is a good thing! We need to come up with the right words that will stimulate more questions and searching, wouldn't you agree? We have sometimes said that we are "Israelites in Exile", but I realize that the term would not work for those who are blessed to no longer be in exile. Shalom My Family. Tom

  4. There are only few and far between now who "are blessed to no longer be in exile", and it's also a good thing to stimulate questions. But even if part of identity is "labeling" there is the more defining aspect, which is the NAME that you are named and called by - in this case Israel. Just as a Jew will be clear about being named such, so should the Israelite identity be a matter of significance and spiritual ties, both to the past and the future.