There is Another . . . .
by Rick Erb
Decades ago, in Episode VI of the Star Wars series (Return of the Jedi), we sat incredulous, as Yoda gasped out with his final dying breath: “There is another · · · · Skywalker.” With the verbalization of that singular bit of information, which had been true all along, Luke was jolted into the realization that he was not the only remaining member of his family, as he had previously assumed.
The Spirit of Almighty G-d does not gasp, but sometimes He does whisper. He whispers, but not all are willing to hear. For years now, He has been whispering to people around the world, in growing numbers, about their hidden ancestry and their previously unrealized connection with Israel.
These are, for the most part, people who are not known to have any Jewish ancestry, and who come from what would be considered by most to be a Christian background. Many are at a complete loss to explain to their friends and family members why they are suddenly observing Sabbath on the seventh day, changing the foods they eat, observing Passover, Feast of Tabernacles, and the other Biblical holidays, and why they have a longing to learn Hebrew and move to Israel.
These people have also experienced outright rejection in one form or another. The rejection has in many instances come from friends and family members who are not willing to leave behind their Christian traditions. However, the rejection has also come from a number of people who describe themselves as Messianic Jews. Some of these Messianic Jews have even suggested (wrongly) that these people are nothing more than insecure “wannabees” who are simply confused Christians having an identity crisis. Again, some people do not listen when G-d whispers.
The historical record is not always clear, but on this point there is not much room for discussion: The twelve tribes of Israel were long ago divided into two separate nations, they warred against one another, and those two separate nations were never reunited. Oh, sure, there were some individuals from the North who crossed over to the South, and maybe even some from the South who went North. But those undocumented aliens became part of the nation to which they moved, and that did not in any fashion constitute a reunification of the two nations.
One of those nations, the one to the north, was conquered, its citizens were driven out of their land, and its descendants were swallowed up by the surrounding pagan nations, where those former Hebrews were outwardly transformed into gentiles. This nation is referred to in the Bible as either “Israel” or “Ephraim.” Their fate has long been the stuff of rumor, myth, mist and legend. The other nation, the one to the south, separately described in the Bible as “the Jews” or “Judah,” ultimately lost its homeland, but never its identity. One noted and highly respected author has described what happened in this way:
Long ago the Father divided Israel into two houses: Ephraim (Israel) and Judah. As His two witnesses they were sent in two different directions to serve two different purposes, to establish His two immutable truths of Law and Grace. And now, in this last day, YHVH would have the two Israels (and their companions) come together, that they might fulfill His Divine purpose and begin to confirm His truth in the earth.
Israel. Her story is a simple one:
Two Different Purposes
Now it is Time to Put Them Back Together Again. (See Note 1)
That seems simple enough. In fact, it should be that simple, but back when Judah and Ephraim separated from one another, they were not on friendly terms; in fact, they were bitter enemies. The family started formally feuding after Solomon died, they divided into two clans, and some of the descendants still don’t seem to realize that the feud is over-or at least it’s supposed to be over. Though a number of Jews are eagerly awaiting the reappearance of Ephraim, and have increasingly come to grips with the notion that Ephraim seems to have been largely hidden among the Christians, many within the Messianic Jewish movement still haven’t acknowledged the possibility that there are Israelites other than themselves who profess faith in Yeshua as Messiah.
Perhaps all of us in this movement would do well to meditate on this promise of a change in the heart, mind and Spirit: “Then the jealousy of Ephraim will depart, And those who harass Judah will be cut off; Ephraim will not be jealous of Judah, And Judah will not harass Ephraim.” (Isaiah 11:13, NASB). This promise is fulfilled as part of the events of the Messianic Age. If we are living in the days leading up to that promised time, then shouldn’t we be expecting to see the events which are described?
When the nation of Israel was first divided, shortly after Solomon died, the division came from G-d (1 Kings 12:24; 14:7&8, 2 Chronicles 11:4). If the fact that Israel was divided into two houses is troubling, then the matter should be taken in prayer before the G-d of Israel; it was His handiwork which resulted in the existence of two houses, and it was He who coined that phrase. Even the prophet Isaiah spoke plainly of two houses, and he was quoting G-d when he did so. “He (YHVH) shall be a sanctuary, but also a striking stone and a stumbling rock for the two houses of Israel; a trap and a snare for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” (Isaiah 8:14 Stone Edition). The “Two House” teaching originated with the Holy One of Israel, and it was He who made separate promises to each of the two houses.
He also imposed separate punishments or curses on each of the two houses (Ezekiel ch. 4). The punishment imposed upon Ephraim included no longer being a people for a period of time. Some believe that the duration of the punishment announced in Ezekiel 4:5 is multiplied by seven, as a result of the application of Leviticus chapter 26. Under that line of reasoning, Ephraim’s punishment would be 2,730 years in duration. (See Note 2) If that term of punishment began in 734 BCE, when the House of Israel became a vassal of Assyria, then the period of punishment ended in 1996. If that term of punishment began in 722 BCE, when Ephraim was no longer a people, then the period of punishment ended in 2008. It was during the span of those twelve years when the Messianic Israel (otherwise known as the “Ephraimite”) movement seems to have begun in earnest, so there is compelling evidence to indicate that this is a valid understanding.
Before Ephraim was dispersed among the nations, there were a few times when the kings of the two houses attempted to join together, and it did not go at all well. Jehoshaphat formed an alliance with Ahab, and he was rebuked for it (2 Chronicles 18:1-19:2). Jehoshaphat also joined with Ahaziah, and G-d destroyed their joint venture (2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Ahaziah (a different one, a king of Judah) attempted an alliance with Jehoram, and they were both killed, just as G-d had warned (2 Chronicles 22:5-8). Not only were the two houses not allowed to join together by way of alliance, they were also not allowed to be joined together by way of conquest over one another (2 Chronicles 28:5-11). Israel was divided into two houses, and it was G-d’s will for things to stay that way until the time of the end.
After G-d had His fill of Israel’s disobedience, the Northern Kingdom was completely deconstructed, and its people were scattered among the nations. Moses foresaw all of this long before it happened. He told our ancestors before they ever entered the land that their descendants would become disobedient, and that they would be scattered among the nations, to the very ends of the Earth. He also stated plainly that their descendants would one day be awakened to their identity, that they would draw near to G-d’s instructions, and that they would then be restored to their rightful place as part of Israel. He spoke this prophecy to all 12 tribes (Deuteronomy 30:1-5), not just to the small remnant from the Southern Kingdom which remained after Ephraim was gone. After the curse was finally imposed upon the Northern Kingdom, it was not long before those people-as a people-were erased from the pages of history.
Out of all the people who once comprised Israel, only Judah remained (2 Kings 17:18). The prophet Hosea tells us the story about how G-d would be dealing with Ephraim. He stated plainly that He was going to scatter Ephraim among the nations, that he would have no mercy on Ephraim, and that Ephraim would no longer be a people. However, G-d also promised, through Hosea, that after the curse of that dispersion was lifted, G-d would once again have mercy, and that Ephraim would be awakened as a people, and be regathered and restored along with the rest of Israel.
Isaiah prophesied: “now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people” (Isaiah 7:8, NASB). He did not prophesy that all of the Northern descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would suddenly merge with those in the South, and be simultaneously renamed as “Jews.” In fact, Jews apparently weren’t even called Jews until after Ephraim was well on its way into oblivion. The first reference in the Bible to “Jews” (depending on the translation) appears in 2 Kings 16:6, and the two nations were not in the process of reunifying. It is clear in the Hebrew that “Jews” and “Judah” are essentially synonymous terms, sharing the same root, and differentiated by only one letter. Ephraim then went on to vanish, just as Isaiah prophesied, and the Jews (the Southern Kingdom) gradually became synonymous (in the mind of humanity) with “Israel,” because, as we know, people tend to define things on the basis of what can be seen, rather than on the basis of what G-d has declared.
For thousands of years that paradigm worked because the descendants of Ephraim disintegrated and were hidden among the gentiles; they were no longer a people, and they no longer realized they were descendants of Ephraim, much less that they were descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Let’s not forget this truth: Being a descendant of the House of Ephraim also means being a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But because the identity had been completely lost, it no longer mattered that there were literal physical descendants of the patriarchs other than the Jews. Ephraim had been placed in suspended animation, as it were, and would not re-emerge on the scene of world affairs until the time of the restoration of all things, just as the Hebrew prophets had foretold.
The paradigm that “Jews” is synonymous with “Israel” also worked pretty well during the time of Yeshua, and when Sha’ul (Paul) wrote about the gentiles being grafted into Israel. The reality is that some (many, if not most) of those “gentiles” likely were descended from Ephraim, but because the individualized cognizance of that identity was erased by G-d until the time of the restoration of all things, it was little more than a trifling theoretical notion; Ephraim had been completely disintegrated by G-d, and no longer existed as an identifiable people. Although, Yeshua’s brother, Ya’akov (James), was very specific in his epistle. He declared that he was writing to “the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad.” (James 1:1, NASB). In his epistle, Ya’akov does not even use the word “Jew” anywhere in his letter, even though he himself was a Jew. Yet he is clear that he is writing to twelve tribes. Those twelve tribes collectively comprised the whole House of Israel, even though most of Israel had lost its identity and been dispersed abroad long before he wrote.
We seem to have entered that period of human history in which the fulfillment of all prophecy may very well occur. Part of that which has been prophesied includes the awakening of Ephraim as he yearns and returns to Torah, and the regathering and restoration of Ephraim begins as a visible, physical, literal, identifiable group of people who will be joined with the Jews, and together with the Jews, we will take on the forces of darkness. The prophetic writings are replete with references to two separate but unified-in-purpose groups of Israelites.
The Jews are part of that equation-a valued and integral part, as they have carried the nation’s “banner” at great expense as the only identifiable portion of Israel over the millennia-but they cannot be two completely separate groups and at the same time be collectively referred to in the singular as “the Jews.” There is still a difference between a Jew and an Ephraimite. Only now, praise G-d, we are no longer at war with one another. Instead, our purpose is unified and mutually beneficial. We are now in a symbiotic relationship, and we are well on the way to once again being made into one unified people in the hand of Messiah. Together, we will make up the Whole House of Israel at the appointed time.
G-d revealed to our ancestors, before they entered the land of Israel, that their descendants would not live according to the instructions which had been delivered to Israel, and that they would be removed from the land. He went on to promise that He would not forget the covenant He had made with the Patriarchs. He further promised that He Himself would remember the covenant for us, even though we ourselves had no memory of it. He said: “But despite all this, while they will be in the land of their enemies, I will not have been revolted by them, nor will I have rejected them to obliterate them, to annul My covenant with them-for I am Hashem, their God. I will remember for them the covenant of the ancients, those whom I have taken out of the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be God unto them-I am Hashem.” (Leviticus 26:44&45 Stone Edition). Some have argued that self-described Ephraimites have no way of “proving” or “knowing” that they are descendants of Israel. While that might seem to be true in the natural sense of things, the fact of the matter is that the Holy One of Israel has remembered that fact for us, and He has revealed it to us on an individual basis (Hos 5:3).
A significant number of folks in the Messianic Jewish movement have for decades been vilifying and encouraging intolerance toward those who identify with Ephraim. These tormentors would do well to recognize that you need us and we need you. The family feud is over, and we all need to get with the Father’s program. You do not get to be both the bow and the arrow (Zechariah 9:13). You are the bow, and we are the arrow. You are useless without us, and we are useless without you. You do not get to be both sticks (Ezekiel 37:16). You are one of the sticks in His hand, and we are the other. The L-rd G-d Almighty has told us in advance that He will whistle for us, Ephraim, and gather us back in at the appointed time (Zechariah 10:7-9). We are getting ready for that definitive promise of G-d, but many of you stand against it. He has also stated that at the appointed time, He is going to roar for us (Ephraim) to awaken (Hosea 11:10-11); many of us have done so while He is still whispering, and we have already come trembling.
Very likely, He will not be whispering much longer. He has told us in advance that He will roar for Ephraim at some point. When that happens, there will likely no longer be any question in your minds about the rebirth of Ephraim. We are preparing for action; but many of our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters are still trying to feud with us on the basis of traditional manmade religious boundaries, rather than honestly dealing with the plain text of the Bible. Hostility is inconsistent with the Father’s program, and we need to unite, get with His program and start bearing good fruit together. Such fruit will be evidenced by love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, humility . . . and unity (Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:1-3). Such positive attributes have been sadly and completely lacking in many of our Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters (see note 3). But as we see in the story of the Prodigal son, it is fitting to celebrate and be glad.
“There is another · · · ·”; there most certainly is, and we are him. We are that people of whom the prophets spoke so very long ago. Are you ready to join with us or not? Are you ready to start evidencing the fruit of the Spirit or not? Are you ready to start framing your theology and your identity on the basis of what the Bible actually says or not? The G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has whispered to us; we have believed Him and we have responded. Once again, some people do not listen when G-d whispers. Are you planning to wait until He roars?