Wednesday, February 7, 2018

It Takes Two To Make One

In an interview with Kelly and John Mills, on BYNA’s online radio program - Reunion Roadmap - several of Kelly’s songs were aired. One of them, “Two By Two”, was about the many symbolic duplicates in Scripture that point to Israel’s two parts - the House of Judah and the House of Joseph; two trees, two witnesses, two lamp stands etc. One such pair, that was not mentioned and is frequently omitted from other references to the ‘two’, is the ‘two nations/goyim’ – the two separate people groups (Ephraim and Judah) who have had different prophetic destinies.  Obviously in Scripture there is an emphasis on the two separate (historic) kingdoms.  In this article I want to stress the importance of still differentiating Bney Yehudah from Bney Yoseph, as two distinct national groupings.  At times these two are viewed as two separate religious groups: Judaism and Christianity.   Coming from this perspective, conversion from one to the other is seen as a unifying factor.  However, religion has not and never will be a unifier.   According to Scripture the only unifying option is (ultimately) becoming one nation, one kingdom on the one land that YHVH covenanted to our forefathers (see Ezekiel 37:22).
The early Jewish Zionists understood that unity was based on their national identity even 100 years before the formation of the State.   At that time there was a concerted effort by a small remnant to bring the national identity of the Jewish people to the forefront of their conscience.  Peretz Smolenskin (1840-1885), for example, declared that the Jews were “not a religious grouping but a people.”  Another of these Jewish forerunners was Leon Pinsker (1821-1891), who wrote Auto-Emancipation.  
The nation of Joseph/Ephraim has not had the privilege of being YHVH’s known people through the generations, but we do have the birthmark of the “faith of our father Abraham” as a ‘starter’ (see Romans 4:16). This faith has succeeded in granting us a spiritual identity. But because genuine faith often morphs into religion, it has clouded over the natural heritage.   At the same time, having said this, we cannot underestimate the fact that the lost tribes’ impaired vision was by YHVH’s design, as according to His promises the seed had to be hidden during the period of its sowing.  In this way YHVH had a set time and a season for the fulfillment of His Word (see Isaiah 55:10-11).  But in the harvest the true sheaves of His sowing will be seen and then brought back to Zion’s threshing floors, so that: "The nations also will know that I, YHVH, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore" (Ezekiel 37:28).  
Initially YHVH ordered the prophet to take two etzim/sticks and to write on them.  But rather than focus on the symbolic act that Ezekiel was charged with, let us view this scenario from YHVH’s perspective and see what He is showing us through the prophet’s actions. We must bear in mind that it is He who is taking these two groups and identifying them as two separate peoples or nations. Judah, having been the first one to be ‘taken’, experienced its regeneration (at least in the natural) in the form of Zionism (as noted above).  As we know, it was soon after establishing the Jewish national identity that YHVH started gathering the second nation/people and identifying them as the “Ephraimite nation,” or Bney Yoseph.
Once YHVH identifies them, He begins to   ^l. dx'a,-la, dx'a, ~t'ao br:q'w") "…draw them near to one another…”  (Ezekiel 37:17 emphases added). (As mentioned, the prophet’s symbolic act in the past was a prophetic display of what YHVH is Himself doing in our day.)  Thus, YHVH is breathing life into the dry bones of the House of Joseph through the New Covenant, bringing them to their true identity as His people and reconstituting them as the second nation, just as Hosea prophesied: “on the third day I will raise them up” (6:2).  
Even as in Ezekiel’s day when the people were asking the prophet, “What are these?” so too today many are asking the same question: ‘What are these two houses of Israel that we are hearing about?’   Please notice the usage of “these” and not “this,” meaning that there are two separate entities and that “drawing near” or becoming aware of one another is an essential phase in the unification process.  At that stage the witness of the two is to be “before the eyes of the people” (ver. 20), that is after the two nations have drawn near each other they become clearly visible. It is then that the prophet continues to deliver a very powerful message of what YHVH is ready to do: "…say to them,  “Thus says Adonai  YHVH, ’Surely I will take the nation of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will ‘put them upon [or ‘on’ - literal translation] the nation of Judah, and make them one stick (nation), and they will be one in My hand…  and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; at that time they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again” (Ezekiel 37:19,22 emphases added).  
Again keep in mind that the focus is not on the symbolic act of the two sticks in the prophet’s hands (which was acted out some 2700 years ago), but for us now. It is all about what YHVH is doing with the Houses of Joseph and Judah as two nations.  Thus (from the above scriptures), we can infer that they will remain two distinct nations and kingdoms until they are both back in the land.  Knowing this, both need to respect where the Almighty has the other at this time, while He is overseeing their respective prophetic destinies until He makes them one nation and one kingdom in the land.  
At present the nation of Joseph/Ephraim is a nation within the nations while being gathered, restored, and raised up from oblivion.  From the vision of the dry bones, which precedes the description of the two sticks/etzim, we learn that the first stage of the dry bones coming to life is to “hear the word of YHVH” (ref. Ezekiel 37:4). The apostle Paul, writing to these dry bones in the valley of the shadow of death of this world, declared the good news of their Redeemer Messiah Yeshua; the reason for His coming, His death, and the greatest news of all, that YHVH raised Him from the dead.  This covenant of resurrection life (Jeremiah 31:31) was YHVH’s answer to His own question to Ezekiel: “Can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 37:3).  Once the bones are infused with resurrection life they also need sinew, flesh and skin, which grow on them by means of hearing (and doing) the Word of YHVH from the Torah of Moses, the Prophets, and the New Covenant writings (see Ephesians 4:16).   

As we look toward the 3rd Bney Yosef National Congress, we recognize that at this time there are three main unifying factors in the House of Joseph/Ephraim.  The first is being re-identified as YHVH’s people (the Jews were never called “not my people,” but those of the House of Joseph/Ephraim were).  The second is the reconstitution of our Ephraimite national identity while still in the nations.  The third unifying factor is our love toward and hope of returning to the lands promised to our forefathers.  We gather in these national congresses as a “family” and not as loosely connected strangers.  We may have a hundred different ideas on how to walk out our personal lives in the Spirit of Messiah Yeshua and the Torah, but this doesn’t change the fact that we all have been redeemed by the same life of a Kinsman Redeemer (whom our Heavenly Father raised from the dead). What’s more, we share the same forefathers, the same covenant promises, and the command to love one another.