For the week of December 22, 2001 / 7 Tevet 5762
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 44:18 - 47:27
Haftarah: Ezekiel 37:15-28

One Nation Under God

I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms (Ezekiel 37:22).

In the midst of all the trouble that surrounds the state of Israel these days, it is encouraging to read the Scriptural promises of future blessing and restoration. Admittedly, as we focus on current events, it may be difficult to believe that some of these things will actually happen. But let us remember that there was a time, not too long ago, when very few people believed that a Jewish state could ever again exist in the Middle East. The miracles of the return, albeit partial and unstable, encourage us to believe that the God who reestablished Israel in the Land will fulfill every one of his good promises to his people.

God through the prophet Ezekiel foretold several significant aspects of Israel's physical and spiritual restoration. In this week's Haftarah, we read of a most remarkable one - that of being a united kingdom again.

From early in Israel's history, the nation was divided. Near the beginning of the reign of the fourth King of Israel, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, there existed two kingdoms. The descendants of David ruled over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the South, while other kings, not of David's line, ruled over the rest of the tribes in the North. The Southern Kingdom was called, "Judah," the Northern Kingdom was known as, "Israel" or "Ephraim."

Over a hundred years before the time of Ezekiel, the Northern Kingdom had already been invaded by the Assyrians, who scattered the people throughout their empire. Ezekiel himself lived during the early days after the Babylonians invaded the South and exiled most of Judah's inhabitants to Babylon.

And so it is during the time of the nation's decimation, when there was so little hope of any positive future, that Ezekiel prophesies not only a return to the Land and a great spiritual renewal of the people, but that the centuries-old division between the two kingdoms would be resolved.

God's promises are thorough and complete. God's work of restoration of the nation will create something greater than what was ever before. Biblical history reveals that division between the tribes existed long before the time of Rehoboam. When God fully restores his people, we will be truly united for the first time.

There seems to be some confusion as to whom is being referred  in this portion. Yet Ezekiel's words are clear: the descendants of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms will one day be one nation in the Land of Israel.

Sadly there are those who have developed the notion that the Northern Kingdom represents something other than the literal, natural descendants of the 10 tribes. While there is some uncertainty as to what exactly happened to them and where they eventually settled, God can and will take care of this. It is possible that there are groups of people in various countries who are descended from the ten tribes. If that is the case, God, just as he promised, will return them to the Land and unite them with the other physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob currently living there and elsewhere.

What is not helpful is any idea that national Israel itself includes peoples of other ethnic groups. Inclusion of the nations into the promises of God is realized through believing in Yeshua the Messiah. But participating in God's goodness through the Messiah does not somehow make that person a member of the house of Israel.

Asserting that followers of the Messiah who are members of other ethnic groups become part of the people of Israel nullifies God's word of promise to Israel, removes Israel's unique place in God's plan, and detracts from God's purpose for the nations.

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