Judah & Israel — A House Divided Cannot Stand
THE BOOKS of Moses ended with a curse. If the children of Abraham did not hearken unto the voice of Yahweh, if they did not observe His commandments, then curses would be their lot. Moses writes:
But it shall come about, if you do not obey the Lord [Yahweh] your God [eloheka], to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.
For a relatively short time, all twelve tribes were ruled by three kings. Saul was a failure. Only David obeyed the Lord because, despite his successor’s wealth of wisdom, Solomon loved foreign women. He bedded with the daughter of Pharaoh and also those from his surrounding nations, Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, all of whom the Lord had said to the sons of Israel: “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon’s gluttony was unmatched. Seven hundred wives, many of them princesses, and another three hundred concubines assembled into the arsenal of his affections. In the end, his heart was turned. Though Yahweh had twice appeared to him, Solomon whored after the promises of other gods. The writer of Kings simply writes, Solomon “held fast to these in love.”
11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. 12 Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”
1 Kings 11: 11-13
Thus Solomon’s reign over the united kingdom of Israel amounted to a total sum of forty years. But he would be the last to do so. He then slept with his fathers, we are told, and was buried in the city of David. The writer of Kings simply records that Israel persisted in rebellion against the house of David. When Jeroboam received word that Rehoboam was to be crowned as Solomon’s successor, he returned from Egypt and, with the assembly of Israel to back him, demanded that Solomon had coupled his people with an unnecessary burden.
“Lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you,” he said.
King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive. Lighten their load, they insisted. But Rehoboam forsook their advice for the young men whom he had grown up with.
Their advice: “Tell the people, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!’”
And that is just what he told them.
As one might easily imagine, his edict was not well received. History has recorded for us the very moment when the kingdom definitively split in two, just as Yahweh had promised—and this was it. The northern kingdom, which consisted of ten tribes, became the House of Israel, while the two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained in the kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem remained under Judah’s jurisdiction, and the Levites would join them.
Founded in 930 BC, the northern kingdom of Israel would host a succession of 18 kings over the span of two centuries. The student of Biblical history will likewise note that not one single king of Israel devoted himself to Yahweh—No, not one. The kings of Israel were wicked through and through. They repeatedly did evil in the sight of the Lord, and their final demise did not come without admonishment. Yahweh commanded the voice of the Prophets to be heard—Abijah, Jehu, Micaiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos, and Hosea, in that order. But their pleas, it seems, were of little to no effect. To become a prophet of Yahweh, essentially, was to risk a lifetime pursuit of death sentence.
Yahweh not only defined what the curse was, but in no uncertain terms, simultaneously summed up precisely why they would prefer it. Moses wrote:
And the LORD [Yahweh] shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; and there thou shalt serve other gods [elohim], which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.
Deuteronomy 28: 64
Like Solomon before them, the norther kingdom of Israel went whoring after a pantheon of gods. They forsook Yahweh’s inheritance for an alien providence. And in doing so, God finally delivered them to the desires of their heart. In 722 BC the house of Israel was taken captive by Assyria. Her ten tribes would never return. Israel not only assimilated into the surrounding nations, they became Gentiles.
In short, they chose the curse.
An Excerpt from “The Animal Apocalypse” (1 Enoch & the 70 Shepherds of Psalm 82)
BY CLAIMING that he had killed a lion and a bear, the shepherd boy David was making an astonishing connection. The giant Goliath, he told King Saul, might as well have been a wolf, a bear, a lion, a desert jackal, tiger, a Congolese ape, or an east African hyena—because Israel had a shepherd. The boy who had arisen from the quiet sheep-cotes of Bethlehem knew what it was to lie his father’s sheep down in green pastures, to lead them beside still water, and to guide them on the right path, for his names sake. He knew the value of his father’s sheep, and what it was to forsake his very life in order to defend them rather than run. Likewise, Israel’s shepherd was no hireling. His sheep knew His voice. If they huddled around Him when the wolves arrived, even clung to Him as if their very lives depended upon it, He would not abandon them. It would be His life before theirs. And yet here is another hungry beast emerging from the malevolent shadow—a foreign invader. The uncircumcised Philistine had come, not only to round up the sheep of their shepherd’s providence and scatter them, but to spit upon the shepherd. Why should they fear?
Then again, David was one of the few who truly understood what it was, as a matter of life or death, to cling to Israel’s shepherd. Of his twenty successors, nineteen of which were kings of the southern kingdom, only a select handful followed Yahweh in a likewise manner. The same cannot be said for the northern kingdom of Israel. They desired the providence of any shepherd other than their own. In fact, they welcomed them into the paddocks. And so Yahweh delivered them into their hands.
There is an interesting account in Enoch’s “Animal Apocalypse” (1 Enoch chapters 85-90) that sheds further light on the Hebrews understanding of Psalm 82—which, I remind you, was David’s worldview. Enoch’s vision involves a dazzling display of various colored bulls and heifers, elephants, camels and donkeys, lions, tigers and eagles, rams and sheep, bears and the sort—an animal parade, if you will. It begins with Eden and ends with Eden. But in chapter 89, somewhere about three quarters of the way through humanities redemption narrative, Enoch tells of the many sheep whom Yahweh sent to His flock in order that they might testify of Him and lament over their incessant lostness. He writes:
And many other sheep He sent to those sheep He sent to those sheep to testify to them and lament over them (Enoch 89:51).
In turn, his flock turned on those sheep and slayed them. Enoch is no doubt speaking of the prophets—a familiar Hebrew narrative. Only one sheep among all of them was saved. We will immediately recognize him as the prophet Elijah. Enoch writes:
They sought to slay it, but the Lord of the sheep saved it from the sheep, and brought it up to me, and caused it to live there (Enoch 89:50).
We will also recall that four more prophets followed in his steps—Elisha, Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. Regardless, the northern kingdom of Israel forsook the house of Yahweh, and to the point, Enoch assures us, that they invited slaughter. And so, “He gave them over into the hands of the lions and tigers, and wolves and hyenas, and into the hand of the foxes, and to all the wild beasts, and those wild beasts began to tear in pieces those sheep (Enoch 89:53).”
Enoch mourned the butchery.
It is here where the narrative takes a familiar turn for those of us who are acquainted with Psalm 82 and Yahweh’s divine council. Yahweh calls upon the angelic princes of the Gentile nations—they tally seventy in number—to let them in on His plans. We must also recall that Yahweh disinherited humanity after the tower of Babel, further entrusting them to the care of the elohim. Yahweh essentially tells them, I am now disinheriting the ten tribes of Israel, further commanding that they commit themselves to the moral responsibilities and obligations required of their regal calling. It should be further noted that those seventy shepherds had companions with them. We can therefore surmise that this is indeed a diverse pantheon of divine beings. The children of divided Israel desired the inheritance which the divine shepherds offered, and their variety of angelic companions, not Yahweh’s. It was as if Yahweh said: You seduced them, and so you can have them. Now take them into your care and uphold your campaign promises. We are given no knowledge of their initial reaction.
57 And He called seventy shepherds, and gave those sheep to them that they might pasture them, and He spoke to the shepherds and their companions: “Let each individual of you pasture the sheep from now on, and everything that I shall command you that do you.
58 And I will deliver them over to you duly numbered, and tell you which of them are to be destroyed-and them you will destroy.” And He gave over to them those sheep.
We can now assume that the council meeting is adjourned, its members dispersed, because Yahweh calls upon another divine being, perhaps he is the court stenographer, and asks that he follow them out the door. In fact, Yahweh knows they will disobey His ordinances and do as they please. For this reason, He asks that His servant take a tally of their wrongdoings. Yahweh has no interest in tapping his divine princes on the shoulder whenever they willfully transgress against the Law. They are well aware of the eternal Law, and would clearly not have justifiable reason to dispute the Psalmist David when writing of God’s Law being pure, eternal, and just—mainly:
10 The statutes of the Lord are true,
all of them just;
11 More desirable than gold,
than a hoard of purest gold,
Sweeter also than honey
or drippings from the comb.
For this reason, the court reporter is not to inform the seventy shepherds regarding his findings, not to mention the mere fact that an investigation is underway. Perhaps they are not taking their sin seriously, or the fact that they will be brought into judgement. Their full measure of their breezy attitude is of course all speculation, but this we do know, Yahweh’s detective is only to report back to Him. In time, they will be held into account. This is Psalm 82 all over again.
59 And He called another and spoke to him: “Observe and mark everything that the shepherds will do to those sheep; for they will destroy more of them than I have commanded them.
60 And every excess and the destruction which will be done through the shepherds, record how many they destroy according to my command, and how many according to their own caprice; record against every individual shepherd all the destruction he effects.
61 And read out before me by numbers how many they destroy, and how many they deliver over for destruction, that I may have this as a testimony against them, and know every deed of the shepherds, that I may comprehend and see what they do, whether or not they abide by my command which I have commanded them.
62 But they shall not know it, and you shall not declare it to them, now admonish them, but only record against each individual all the destruction which the shepherds effect each in his time and lay it all before me.”
The seventy shepherds, we read, immediately began to slay and destroy, gleefully delivering the former sheep of Yahweh’s flock into the jaws of ravenous animals. Enoch began to weep and lament on account of those sheep, for each shepherd “slew and destroyed many more than was prescribed.” But that is not to say that Yahweh did not have his detective on the case. Heaven’s commissioned officer kept careful record of every perished soul.
66 And the shepherds and their associates delivered over those sheep to all the wild beasts, to devour them, and each one of them received in his time a definite number, it was written by the other in a book how many each one of them destroyed of them.
We further read that, after the investigation came to a close, the book which contained his findings (and tallied their transgressions) was read before the Lord of the sheep, “and He took the book from his hand and read it and sealed it and laid it down (Enoch 89:69).” Yahweh has a habit of sealing books.
Early on in 1 Enoch, we learn that it is the angels Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel who look down from heaven and witness the unprecedented bloodshed upon the earth, and all the lawless deeds stemming from men and the giants and the fallen Watchers who had begat them. After initially authorizing that the cries from the destruction of the earth below reach the very gates of heaven, they then approached the throne of Yahweh and said: “You know all things before they come to pass, and you see these things and you have permitted them, and say nothing to us about these things. What are we to do with them about these things? (Enoch 9:11)”
This is stunning insight into the life of a divine being. They were rigorous in their work. They paid attention to detail. The angels despised injustices. They were certainly aware regarding the activities of men in the earth below them, and could keep a tally on each lawless dead. Furthermore, they not only understood that Yahweh knew all things before they came to pass, they also concluded that nothing could transpire unless He permitted it. Yet they were left clueless. It appears as though, for this very reason, they were frustrated. Evil had been wrought upon the earth—and in such a manner that their former colleagues had committed themselves to the task. They had only now become aware of its extent as to open up the gates and let all of heaven in on the news. Yahweh knew this calamity would happen, but he didn’t let anyone in on it. This prompted the question on their end, “What are we to do…?”
The seventy shepherds who received the northern ten tribes of Israel knew full well that Yahweh could not legally re-inherit what He had disinherited, once they were dispersed. He was through with them—so to speak. And so they treated them as playthings. But that is not to say that Yahweh was finished with them, or that He hadn’t thought this through. He had plans. In fact, He had big plans. Israel’s story was far from over. Then again, the Gentiles whom He had disbanded at Babel, He had a set arrangement in mind for them as well. Sshhh, it’s a secret. We are dealing with a divine program so clandestine that members of Yahweh’s council were left unaware. His prophets could only receive them as jigsaw pieces, and even when assembled—if properly assembled—they might be best read as illegible codes. Only after the fact, when the perfect works of Jesus Christ was through, could anyone make sense of them. Once revealed, it was undoubtedly the most brilliant maneuver in all of human history. But by then it would be too late.
The elohim never saw it coming.
“And Jezebel Looked Out the Window…”
Israel — Children of Painted Faces and Whoredoms
THE SEVENTY SHEPHERDS were likely rejoicing from the frosty, windswept slopes of the Golan Heights, hungry and salivating for a scattered flock, the very day when the last prophet of Israel took unto himself a wife of whoredoms. The word of Yahweh had come unto Hosea. He said: “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking Yahweh (Hosea 1:2).” Hosea’s sentiments are not made known to us. All we are given is that he did exactly what he was told. The wife whom he chose, her name was Gomer, was likely morally pure at the hour of their vows—a virgin. She soon thereafter conceived and bore him a son. At Yahweh’s instructions, Hosea named him Jezreel, which means God sows. “For yet a little while, and I will punish the house of [king] Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel.”
It was at the royal palace in Jezreel, slightly more than a century earlier, where Jehu was determined to overcome the last formal obstacle to his kingship, and triumphantly entered. Every descendant of Ahab had to go. Only one remained. Upon hearing of his arrival, Ahab’s widow painted her eyes and adorned her head. The wicked queen Jezebel then looked out the window.
Jehu was not seduced.
“Throw her down,” he said.
Two or three of her own trusted officials did as Jehu commanded. The horrors of her scream was perhaps bested only by a crackling thud and the striking silence to follow, when a splattering of blood painted her palace wall and adorned her horses. As Jehu trampled her underfoot in order that he might enter into the palace to eat and drink from the table that was now his, one would think the binding was closed on one of the wickedest dynasties in Hebrew history. But there was still one final paragraph which needed filling. When his attendants went to bury her, as soon as his appetite was quenched, they found nothing more of her than a skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Even her own dogs, apparently, had turned on her.
Jehu was apparently not dazed. This was to fulfill the word of Yahweh, he insisted, which He had spoken through His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel, and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so that nobody can say, ‘This is Jezebel.’”
Hosea’s firstborn son was named Jezreel after the very soil which was fertilized by Jezebel an entire century earlier. Jezreel however would remain the only child of Hosea’s seed. But that is not to say that he would be Gomer’s last.
His wife then conceived and bore a daughter.
Said Yahweh, “Call her Lo-ruhamah, for I will no longer have compassion on the house of Israel, that I would ever forgive them.”
She then conceived and bore another son.
Said Yahweh, “Call him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
Though the full measure of Gomer’s discontentment, particularly the number of lovers she bedded with, is not known, our imagination is not to be undermined. When Hosea finally succeeded in tracking down his wife, Gomer had sunk to such wretched undesirable depths, likely indebted into the service of a cult prostitute, that she wasn’t even valued at 30 pieces of silver—the going rate for a slave (Exodus 21:32). He redeemed her anyways. He purchased his own wife for fifteen pieces of silver and a helping of barley, food fit only for barn animals.
Like Gomer, the northern kingdom of Israel had gone to lovers who supplied her with the bread and water, the wool and flax, the oil and drink which she desired. Even Yahweh’s good gifts, she claimed in her willful ignorance, were attributed to the bounty of her extra-marital providers. She had bedded with so many divine spirits that there was no longer any truth, not even knowledge of their Elohim, in the land. They wanted His consort instead. Israel preferred the queen of heaven. For this reason, her children were to plead with her as a sort of last ditch effort, because the prophets had been ignored. Unless she put away her whoredoms, her adulteries from between her breast, Yahweh would “strip her naked in public, while all her lovers look on. And no one will be able to rescue her from [His] hands.” Furthermore, Yahweh would expose her “as in the day that she was born, and make her as a wilderness, and set her like a dry land, and slay her with thirst.” Yahweh would build a wall so large that she would never find her way through the thickets home.
In this manner, He would put an end to her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her solemn feasts, adding “and I will destroy her vines and fig trees.” Essentially, Israel’s very identity would become strange to her.
722 BC. That was the year that Yahweh divorced Israel. Hosea barely had time to let the pigment dry on papyrus. Over a century later the Judean prophet Jeremiah would write:
And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce
Attention must be called to the Mosaic Law, namely Deuteronomy 24:1-4. By law, a husband is not permitted to remarry a wife whom he has divorced due to immorality.
1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the Lord, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.
Israel was through. Had the divine princes of the surrounding Gentile nations tired of them, or should they be usurped from the throne of their providence, or conquered, by other members of the diverse pantheon, Yahweh still had no legal rights to restore them. Jeremiah wrote, “They say, if a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man’s shall she return unto her again? Shall not that land be greatly polluted?” And by the way, this is not to say that Judah did not also play the part of the harlot. Jeremiah would add:
…yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also.
Her harlotry challenged Yahweh to take similar action as with her sister Israel. This was accompanied by an invitation to repent—an additional 136 years’ worth. Meanwhile in Gehenna, they sacrificed their children to the flames while the Temple of Yahweh looked on. Under the shadow of the Temple, idols filled households. Like Israel before them, they also went whoring after Yahweh’s supposed consort, Asherah, the queen of heaven. And then one day, the prophet Ezekiel observed with his own eyes as the Shekinah glory, accompanied by members of His heavenly host, left the Temple behind. If they did not want him as their Elohim, then He would not have them as his people.
18 Then the glory of Yahweh departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. 19 When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of Yahweh’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.
In turn, the Temple was free to burn. The year was 586 AD when the southern kingdom of Judah was utterly humiliated by their Babylonian captors. The prophet Jeremiah lived to see it. Much of his ministry was defined with the wet of papyrus, no doubt attributed to the sogginess of his tears rather than the stain of pigment. Concerning Israel and Judah’s demise he wrote: “Israel is a scattered flock, the lions have driven them away. The first one who devoured him was the king of Assyria, and this last one who has broken his bones is Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (Jeremiah 50:17).” Among those taken into captivity was the young prophet Daniel. Neither he nor Jeremiah and Ezekiel would live to see Judah restored. But unlike Judah, who served a 70 year sentence, the northern kingdom of Israel would make no such return.
That mystery would not be resolved before the Old Testament came to an end.
“Feed My Sheep…”
A Dead Husband, His Scattered Flock, and an Invitation to Wed
THE ANSWER to Israel’s problem relies on the simple fact that Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMashiach, is the good shepherd whom King David and the Prophets spoke of. He is the angel of Yahweh who stood before Moses in the burning bush—the pillar of cloud who led Israel by day and the pillar of fire who led them by night. Though the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, in many ways little changed. Jesus had always been the guiding light of salvation, the pathway to the Promised Land. But very few desired the good Shepherd. They wanted any elohim but their own. They wanted a sacrifice of their design. If Judah believed Him not, Jesus said, it’s simply “because ye are not my sheep.” In other words, not everyone who alleges Judah as their heritage, or cries “Lord, Lord!” for that matter, can rightfully claim spiritual kinship with Abraham.
Though it is true that the books of Moses ended with a curse, the bad blood pitted between Yahweh and the adulterous house of Israel, which included now the seventy people groups He disinherited at Babel, would not always remain. A day was coming, Yahweh promised, when He would gather His children from every nation, indeed, from the very ends of the earth, by which they had been scattered.
1 So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you,
2 and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons,
3 then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you.
4 If your outcasts are at the ends of the earth, from there the Lord your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you back.
5 The Lord your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers.
6 Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live.
In a likewise manner, Jesus actually spoke of two folds. On the night He was betrayed, the Shepherd sat around a table with his friends, breaking bread, washing feet, and outlining a rather peculiar plan for the congregation of His coming kingdom. He said it like this:
“14 I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of mine. 15 As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep.16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.”
The sheep whom He spoke of were undoubtedly the northern ten tribes. They had been lost to the Gentile nations for nearly an entire millennium. When Jesus had earlier announced His imminent departure, the Jews quickly inquired among themselves, “Whither will He go that we shall not find him—will He go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles and teach the Gentiles?” In a way He would do just that, but first and foremost through the Apostles. By announcing His intent to bring the sheep back into the fold, Jesus was directing their attention to the prophet Micah:
I will surely assemble all of you, Jacob,
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel.
I will put them together like sheep in the fold;
Like a flock in the midst of its pasture
They will be noisy with men.
The prophet Amos said it like this:
For behold, I am commanding,
And I will shake the house of Israel among all nations
As grain is shaken in a sieve,
But not a kernel will fall to the ground.
Ezekiel spoke of it too.
16 Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord God [Yahweh], ‘Though I had removed them far away among the nations and though I had scattered them among the countries, yet I was a sanctuary for them a little while in the countries where they had gone.’”
17 Therefore say, ‘Thus says the Lord God [Yahweh], “I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.’”
The prophet would further add:
As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day.
Such promises fill the pages of the prophets. Isaiah’s position was that Yahweh would raise a sign for the nations and would assemble banished Israel, gathering them and Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isaiah 11:12). This is what Amos meant when he said the very nations would be shaken as grain in a sieve, that Israel might be separated—further insisting, not a single “kernel will fall to the ground.” That is, none of whom the Father has given can be snatched from His hand. But these promises in and of themselves do not resolve the mystery. Despite best intentions, one must ask, how could the Messiah possibly regather Israel? Specifically, what gave Him the legal authority to remarry a divorce bride when His very law openly opposed it?
Why—He would make her a widow, of course. Jesus died for the sins of the world.
To this effect Paul writes:
1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?
2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.
4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
The Apostle Paul was undoubtedly a brilliant orator of the Law—and widely misunderstood. He has already made his intended audience known, that he is speaking “to them that know the law (Romans 7:1).” And the law was clear. It unequivocally stated that a husband can never remarry his bride once she has been given the bill of divorce—particularly once she has become another man’s wife. This is the law. It is eternal. Yahweh will not break it. However, by saying we are loosed from the law of her husband, or rather, dead to the law, he is directing our attention to Deuteronomy 24.The woman is only free from the law of adultery once her original husband dies. To this Paul adds the glorious fact—she is now free to marry “him who is raised from the dead.”
Finally, this is the mystery revealed—the good news so rarely spoken about or known among the brethren. The scattered northern kingdom of Israel can now legally return to the Father through the death and resurrection of His son, the bridegroom. Unbeknownst to the spiritual princes of the nations, His master plan was indeed brilliantly executed. Yahweh disinherited the nations at Babel. He then scattered the assembly of Israel into all the nations so that they in turn became the Gentiles. And then He re-inherited not only all the peoples of the world, but the very earth which had once been given to the princes to govern. Then again, that is not to say everyone chooses Him as their shepherd. In fact, few will. But should they do so, there have only ever been two houses to discover. In all of Scripture, we are hard pressed to find a third option. Yahweh did not make a covenant with a Gentile church that is distinct from Israel. Israel is not sitting around waiting for our imminent rapture so that Yahweh may continue with his scheme. This is false advertising. There has never been a break in the story. If Jesus is our bridegroom, then we have no choice but to find our identity in one of those two houses—Judah or Israel.
Jesus instructed Peter to “feed My sheep,” and though it is true that Peter, James, and John initially agreed to spread the Gospel among the circumcised—that being the house of Judah—while Paul labored with the uncircumcised, Peter did not always shy from the scattered sheep. Paul’s first epistle to the Galatians, an assembly which Peter frequented, was in itself a prophetic fulfillment that Israel would begin to draw back to Yahweh in the latter days. The Galatians were Israelites. But getting back to Peter, the first line of his own epistle reads: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered (1 Peter 1:1).” James likewise addressed his book “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad…” In both cases, the Apostles were writing to the scattered sheep of Israel.
If we are not Jews but claim Jesus as our Messiah, then we are the children of painted faces and whoredoms, finally freed by law of her former adulteries, and brought back into the fold. Like the parable of the prodigal son, we are the foolish younger child who claimed his father’s inheritance in order that he may live with the pigs in a foreign land. The fact that we have been welcomed back with open arms is proof enough that the grace of God is awe-inspiring. Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).”
For this very reason, we must be careful of Christ’s warning:
“1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
2 But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
3 To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
This parable Jesus spoke unto the Pharisees but, John writes, they did not understand. Regardless, He spoke unto them again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep (John 10:7).” He would quickly add: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” Blessed are those today who do understand. There are at present two divided houses, but if the Word of Yahweh through the prophets is to be fulfilled, then we are faced with a singular option. There is only one sheep gate. Conclusively, Judah and Israel will be reunited into one fold. By this we are to understand that all of the good Shepherd’s sheep will be regathered to the Promised Land. But that day has not yet happened. We have yet to be sifted out of the land—from the furthest ends of the earth. We have not, as Deuteronomy 30 foretold, been brought into the inheritance which our fathers possessed, in order that we too may possess it.
The final trumpet has not yet alerted us to heavens rallying cry. The good Shepherd has not yet descended with a shout, commanding the eyes of the dead, with the blessed voice that is only legible among His dearest friends, to be woken and behold Him. We have yet to be gathered as one flock, with Psalm 23 eternally constituting our rule of faith.
Or as Jesus told the Jews in Jerusalem, while confronted with charges of blasphemy: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).”
Upon hearing this, the Jews, John wrote, took up stones again to stone him. They wanted a shepherd—any shepherd but their own.