Let the Nations Sing and Praise Him

I was dancing to the song “Baruch Adonai” by Joel Chernoff the other day at an outreach.  The words to the chorus struck me as I had never really ‘heard’ them before.

“So let the nations sing and praise Him and Israel will say, ‘Amen’.”

These words resounded over and over in my head as I realized, once again, the importance of the nations in the salvation of Israel.  It is the nations, when they sing and praise YHVH, that Israel will say “Amen” – Let it be so!

The Importance of Being a Nation

“In his name the nations will put their hope” (Matthew 12:21).

“And again Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him” (Romans 15:12).

“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you” (Galatians 3:8).

The nations are an important part of YHVH’s redemptive plan for all of mankind, including the nation of Israel.   The first mention of nations occurs after the flood.

“This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japeth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood” (Genesis 10:1).  Descendants of Japhethites became maritime peoples and had their own clan within their nations and had their own languages.  Some descendants of Ham became Caananites, Egyptians, and the offspring of the infamous Nimrod.   The descendants of Seth became the Semites and grew into the sons of Eber (Hebrews) (Genesis 10).   Noah’s sons and their clans grew into the nations.

“These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations.  From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32).

A nation is defined in World Book Dictionary as a grouping of people who share a  real or imagined common history, culture, language or ethnic origin often possessing or seeking its own government.

At the time of Abraham, the nations had grown and were known as Canaanites (in Canaan), Rephaites (in Ashteroth Karnaim), Zuzites (in Ham), Emites (in Shaveh Kiriathaim), Horites (in Seir), Amalekites, Amorites, Sodomites, Gommorites, and Zoarites (Genesis 14).    It was from Mesopotamia in the Ur of the Chaldeans that Abraham traveled to Canaan – both nations of which Abraham was told not to be part.

In Genesis 17:4 YHVH changes Abram’s name meaning  ‘exalted father’ to Abraham meaning ‘father of many’.     YHVH gave Abraham a new name and promised that all nations would be blessed through him. He also promised Abraham that many nations would come through his offspring as well.  However, the covenant promise that YHVH made with Abraham,  came through only one of his sons – Isaac.  His other sons, Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah grew into the promised ‘many nations’ along with the existing nations.

“As for me, this is my covenant with you:  You will be the father of many nations.  No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.  I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you” (Genesis 17:4-6).

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him” (Genesis 18:18).

“I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed …” (Genesis 26:35).

The covenant promise made to Abraham went from Isaac to his son,  Jacob.  Jacob had 12 sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Gad, Asher, Dan, Naphtali, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin.  After Jacob has an encounter with an angel and overcomes the struggle, his name is changed to Israel. It is these 12 sons, who with their families and offspring,  are known as the Tribes of Israel.  As a national entity in the world, they are known as Israelites.

Biblically, the sign of the covenant given to Abraham was circumcision, thus all Israelites would have been circumcised, not just those descending from the Tribe of Judah.  Historically, this is substantiated with the events surrounding Dinah and Shechem. “Jacob’s sons replied … to Shechem and his father Hamor.  They said to them, ‘We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised.  That would be a disgrace to us” (Genesis 34:14).  They continued to offer their sister to Shechem if all the men in the city would be circumcised.  The ultimate deceptive deed of murder after the circumcisions was carried out by Simeon and Levi.

When Jacob lay dying in Egypt, he blessed all of his sons.  However, the promise of the blessing went to his son Judah because he made the decision not to kill his brother Joseph.   Instead, Judah suggested the brothers sell him to the Ishmaelites who were distant relatives.   The blessing promised that one day a descendant of Judah would hold a scepter and receive the obedience of the nations.  This person would not just be part of the Israelite nation, but would specifically come from the Tribe and lineage of Judah.

“The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his” (Genesis 49:10).

This promise and blessing was fulfilled in a son of David, from the Tribe of Judah – Yeshua.

“I, Yeshua, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the congregations.  I am the Root and Offspring of David …” (Revelation 22:16).

The Gentiles

According to World Book Dictionary a gentile is a person who is not Jewish.  This means in a broad sense that the person does not follow the God of Israel.  Over the centuries, the Israelites,  due to exile, dispersion and integration,  became known in the world as being of the Jewish faith.  Even those today who have the name Levi or Cohen are considered “Jewish” even though their names suggest they are from the Tribe of Levi and the priesthood of Aaron.

In a physical sense, Jewish can mean that a person has bloodline heritage with the Tribe of Judah.  Some talk about DNA evidence today, but with all the intermarriage that has happened over the centuries, no one can be sure it is an authentic way to determine bloodlines.   In my personal opinion a ‘real Jew‘ has a deep-rooted understanding of persecution and self-preservation in the world in which we live.  Their entire history from the beginning has been one of bloodshed and enemies trying to remove them from the face of the earth.  In every Jew today, there is still this underlying knowledge that someday they, too, could end up in a death camp.  It is this knowledge that binds them together as a nation whether in times of peace or adversity.

In its archaic form, according to the dictionary,  a gentile is a pagan or heathen.    All nations apart from the Israelites (Jewish faith) could have been considered pagan or heathen when it comes to having faith the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  When a gentile or person from the nations puts their faith in Messiah Yeshua, they are required to give up their pagan gods and heathen practices, yet they are to remain in the condition in which they were called: Gentile or nation.    Their new identity is not with Israel or Judah, but in Yeshua, the Messiah of Israel.

“Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him.  Were you a slave when you were called?  Don’t let it trouble you … Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to” (1 Corinthians 7:20-24).  It might be said, “Were you a gentile when you were called?  Don’t let it trouble you … each man should remain in the situation God called him to….”

Unfortunately, many people find that being part of the nations brings condemnation from those who believe they are Israel and/or Judah.  They feel as if they are second-class citizens in the ‘commonwealth of Israel‘ when the ‘wall of partition‘ was abolished in Messiah’s flesh.  There is always the murmur of a regathering of Israel and Judah and if you’re not one of ‘them’, then what happens to ‘you?‘   This should not be the case as the regathering of the remnant of Israel and Judah not only includes the nations, but it is the nations that are called out first and bring the regathering to fruition.

Isaiah 11:10-12 prophetically speaks about the regathering of a remnant of God’s people – the exiled of Israel and the dispersed of Judah.  This regathering will take place through the root of Jesse, the Messiah of Israel.

In the time of the regathering, the nations will rally to the Messiah and find their rest in Him.  The Israelites and those from the Tribe of Judah will be brought from everywhere on earth and join them in Jerusalem.

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples, the nations will rally to him and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10).

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia from Hamath and from the islands of the sea” (Isaiah 11:11).

“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth” (Isaiah 11:10-12).

The nations or gentiles have a calling on their lives that is foundational not only to the salvation of all Israel, but the return of Messiah King.    Unfortunately, many today don’t understand that calling and either try to ignore it or re-identify it.  To try and change your identity to one of the other groups: Israel or Judah would be  negating the very covenant YHVH made with Abraham by denying the ultimate blessing to all nations.

Ruth is a wonderful example of the blessing coming to all nations.  In the beginning, Ruth is called a Moabitess.  She refuses to leave Naomi and tells her that Naomi’s God will be her God, Naomi’s people will be her people.  She moves into Bethlehem and gleans in the fields as do all widows and foreigners (gentiles).  Ruth follows Naomi’s instructions to perfection and is redeemed by Boaz.  Eventually Boaz and Ruth marry and she has a son named Obed who is the grandfather of King David.  Yet, nowhere is Ruth ever called a Jewess or Israelite.  She is still known today by her faithfulness, her obedience and her blessing to all of us, as Ruth the Moabitess.

Rome

Paul wrote many things to the congregation in Rome who were obviously a gentile majority.    These believers were no longer pagans as they were given very important foundational truths from the Apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13, Galatians 2:8).

Paul teaches these Gentiles that Abraham was justified by faith exactly as they are.    He explains life through the Spirit and how believers become slaves to righteousness apart from works of the law.    He speaks of how the Israelites are like the sands of the sea, but only a remnant will be saved.  He makes clear that all men, whether descendants of Israel or the nations will stand or be cut off from covenant life based on faith.  He tells these Romans that being a Jew is not about circumcision of the flesh, but a true Jew has circumcision of the heart and is a praiser of God (Romans 2:29).

I can almost hear these Romans saying, “Wow, we’re Jews now if our hearts our circumcised.”  Suddenly they become arrogant and think they are better than the flesh circumcised Jews.  Paul knows they could begin reading the Scriptures and believe that they have insights that those of the circumcision do not because they have the Spirit.   He knows that  this could lead to heresies that maybe the Jews don’t need Yeshua’s salvation because they have Torah.   He must remind these gentiles that they are redeemed people from the nation of Rome no better, no worse than the Jews.  All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory includes all of Israel as well as the nations.  Every human needs salvation and all men come to the Father by faith in Yeshua.

Furthermore, he does not shy away from calling them what they are: Gentiles.   He makes sure these Gentiles understand their relationship to Israel because he is a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles (1 Timothy 2:7).   He makes sure they understand the enormity of their salvation at the expense of ‘hardening in part’ of Israel.  He doesn’t want them to be ignorant.  He doesn’t want them to be conceited. He wants them to know their calling is to make Israel envious and bring forth ‘life from the dead.‘    When they fulfill their purpose, the ultimate result will be ‘all Israel will be saved.‘

“Did they (Israel) stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?  Not at all!  Rather because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.  But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!” (Romans 11:11-12)

I am talking to you Gentiles.  Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them.  For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:13-15).

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited:  Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  And so all Israel will be saved …” (Romans 11:25-26).

Paul uses the illustration in Romans 11 of an Olive Tree.  Because he is speaking to Romans and calling them gentiles, he likens them to ‘wild olive shoots’.   The natural branches are the Israelites.  The root is that which supports the tree and brings the nourishing sap to the branches.  Without the root, neither the Romans – the wild olive gentiles nor the Israelite natural branches would survive as part of  the Olive Tree.

The importance of this illustration is to make sure the Romans do not become arrogant and boast over those branches that were cut off due to unbelief.  Grafting is a very sensitive process and generally something wild is not grafted into something natural.  So, these Romans with ‘new circumcised hearts’ need to be afraid because it is just as easy for them to be cut off  from the Olive Tree as were the natural branches.

“If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted int among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches.  If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.  You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.’  Granted.  But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith.  Do not be arrogant, but afraid.  For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either” (Romans 11:17-20).

The saddest part of the letter to the Romans is that it wasn’t heeded.  In fact, it was the church in Rome that decided to make Rome, not Jerusalem the center of the faith.  Rome is where the Roman Catholic Church was born.   Through manmade traditions and church control, all Biblical ways of life in the ‘commonwealth of Israel’  were quenched and removed.  Gentile believers became known as Christians and did not graft into the Olive Tree and receive the nourishment that came through the root,  but remained in their pagan condition and live out a dying faith.     Through arrogance and ignorance, the Gentiles completely lost their calling and purpose for the salvation of the nation of Israel.

False Jews

There are some people in the Body of Messiah who call themselves Jews but are not.  This is not in reference to having a ‘new Jewish heart’, but a misunderstanding of their identity.  These people take on new names and allow others to believe they are truly Jewish descendants.  They dress as Jews, live as if they were of the bloodline of Judah.   For the sake of being a Jew, they deny their own heritage as one of the nations.  This is a serious matter because in Revelation Yeshua warns two different congregations about this very issue.

“I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich!  I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan” (Revelation 2:9)  Smyrna is afflicted, poor, and slandered by those who consider themselves “Jews” but are not.  These “Jews” are actually Satan’s synagogue which means they are probably challenging others about their bloodlines and making a big deal about heritage.  There is probably malicious gossip going on and a lot of false accusations and false doctrines that causes the dissension and slander of the ‘non Jews’.     Smyrna is going to suffer great persecution even to the point of death probably because the “Jews” are taking them into the wilderness,  but those who overcome will receive the crown of life.

“I know your deeds.  See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.  I know you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.  I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you” (Revelation 3:8-9).  This is the congregation of Philadelphia that seems to have it all together.    They have the Word and the Name of Yeshua as their security, and they have a open door to Him that no one can shut.  However, there are those who call themselves “Jews” but are not.  They are liars.  Because of the lie they themselves have embraced  they are telling the ‘non-Jewish’ believers they are not loved by God.  They are putting a bloodline on the love of God.  Ultimately, these “Jews” will be put in their place and have to admit that YHVH loved these ‘non-Jewish’ people (of the nations?).

These two injunctions against those in the congregations of Smyrna and Philadelphia  who have taken on a false identity rather than the one they have in Messiah is harsh and direct.    People who take on a false identity and slander others, lie to others, judge others, gossip about others could be likened to ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ and are considered by Yeshua as part of the synagogue of Satan.

“God has caused me to be fruitful …”

Joseph, the Hebrew son of Jacob,  and Asenath, the Egyptian daughter of a priest,  had two sons: Manasseh and Ephraim.  Manasseh means “because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”  Ephraim means “because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”  Only through adoption into the family of Jacob did Manasseh and Ephraim receive the name of Israel.  Neither Ephraim nor Manasseh were part of the original 12 Tribes or sons of Jacob.  They received their father  Joseph’s land inheritance.

On his death bed, Jacob blessed Joseph’s first two sons as his own.

“May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the Angel who has delivered me from all harm – may he bless these boys.  May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac and may they increase greatly upon the earth” (Genesis 48:15-16).

Joseph realized that his father has crossed his arms and put his right hand on his younger son.  He tried to move his father’s hands, but Jacob did not allow him to do it.  Ephraim was blessed as the oldest son with the right hand.

 

“But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know.  He too will become a people and he too will become great.  Nevertheless, his younger brother will be greater than he, and his descendants will become a group of nations” (Genesis 48:19).

There are those who believe that because of this blessing Ephraim becomes synonymous with the nations.  However, the blessing says that Ephraim will become a group of nations while there were and are still many nations in existence.  Ephraim, like all nations, needs the salvation that comes through Yeshua.

Though some believe that one must be a lost Ephramite because they begin to love Torah and celebrate the festivals of YHVH, nowhere does Scripture indicate this as a trait of an offspring of Ephraim.  It is true, that when one becomes re-attached to the Olive Tree, they do receive nourishment and become fruitful.  Yet, there is no direct evidence that this happens only to Ephraimites.  In fact, it is that very fruitfulness that the gentile produces with the new circumcised heart that makes Israel envious – especially those natural branches who are ‘cut off‘ from the nourishment.    It is important to remember that Paul does not give  Ephraim the call to make Israel jealous because Ephraim is already Israel’s son and has been blinded.   Paul gives the calling to the Gentiles, the nations.

Some call themselves Ephramites as another name for a lost tribe of  Israel.  This  is not supported in Scripture.  James writes his letter to ‘The twelve tribes scattered among the nations’ (James 1:1) which means he knew they existed.  He would not send a letter out into the unknown.  He fully expected the letter to be ready by those making up the tribes.

Anna, who was at Yeshua’s redemption of the firstborn, was from the Tribe of Asher.  Paul was willing to give up his own salvation for the sake of his people, Israel.  In Acts 2 at the day of Pentecost/Shavuot, there were Jews from every nation under heaven.  Zecharias knew his lineage from Aaron.  Yeshua traveled in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali and the Galilee of the Gentiles which implies that there were Zebulunites and Naphtalites along with the Gentiles in the land during Yeshua’s lifetime (Matthew 4).   Israel was in the diaspora then as they are even today.   It would be foolish to think that YHVH doesn’t know where His people, His treasured possession, are located.

When the 12 Tribes are sealed and gathered together on Mt. Zion in Revelation,  Ephraim isn’t even one of the tribes mentioned.    This supposed ‘new-found identity’ is just another way to exclude and deny the value and importance of the nations in the ultimate redemption plan for Israel.

 

The Nations

Many times the nations are seen as being totally against Israel and, for the most part,  they are.     In the end, all nations will go against the Land of Israel.  All people from the nations who do not come up to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles during the Millennial Kingdom will have no rain (Zechariah 14).  Yet the nations are used as part of the rebuilding process of Israel.  Nations that came from the loins of Abraham are mentioned in these verses in Isaiah.

“Arise, shine, for your light as come, and the glory of YHVH rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but YHVH rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

“Lift up your eyes and look about you:  All assemble and come to you; your sons come from afar, and your daughters are carried on the arm.  Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you the riches of the nations will come.  Herds of camels will cover your land, young camels of Midian and Ephah.  And all from Sheba will come, bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of YHVH.  All Kedar’s flocks … the rams of Nebaioth will serve you … Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you” (Isaiah 60).

The nations are also seen in Revelation as part of the final redemption.  This is the crowning moment of the promise and covenant to Abraham where all nations are blessed through him.  To believe that the nations dissolve into Israel and lose their identity is not seen in the majestic expression of worship of the Lamb at the throne of YHVH in heaven.

“And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).

“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9).

Last Days

“In the last days the mountain of YHVH’s temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be above the hills and all nations will stream to it” (Isaiah 2:2).

In these last days, prophecy for Israel is being fulfilled in front of our eyes as the nations begin to live out their purpose.  The calling of the Gentiles needs to be accepted as a valid part of YHVH’s redemption plan for all nations.  They need to be seen as the culmination of the covenant YHVH made with Abraham.   As more and more Gentiles turn to the God of Israel, they need to see the importance of remaining one of the nations while understanding being ingrafted into the Olive Tree of Israel.

As Gentiles embrace the Scriptures as their own and leave the ignorance of their past religious systems,  they are building the spiritual temple of the Lord.    As they live like Ruth within the ‘commonwealth of Israel’  with all it’s promises, covenants, and privileges, they are showing that YHVH’s house is truly a “house of prayer for all nations.”   As they worship YHVH as He desires, they will make Israel jealous for their own Messiah.  This call, this message can only come through the fullness of the gentiles and will bring forth ‘life from the dead’ so that  ‘all Israel will be saved.’

“He lifts up a banner for the distant nations, he whistles for those at the ends of the earth.  Here they come, swiftly and speedily!” (Isaiah 5:26).

True Identity

When Yeshua spoke with Nicodemus, he did not say that a person has to be born again to enter Israel.  He said that everyone must be born again to enter the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven.

The purpose of being born again is more than just becoming a part of Israel.  If it were, Nicodemus would have already attained that hope and there would have been no need for the discussion.   Yet, according to Paul even the natural branches of Israel were cut off and need to be re-grafted into the Olive Tree of Israel through faith.

The goal of the born again believer whether from exiled Israel, dispersed Judah or of the nations is to live as a part of the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now.    The born again believer is to receive a new circumcised heart, be transformed and renewed in mind.  The believer is to grow into maturity through discernment and use of the full counsel of Scripture for their physical as well as their spiritual nourishment.     The purpose of the maturing process is to become the Bride of Messiah, fully mature and ready to rule and reign with Yeshua forever – in the Millennial Kingdom and the New Jerusalem.

Within this identity of each born again believer, there can be no anti-semitism in the heart of the nations.    Each Gentile will have to go through a gate to enter the New Jerusalem.  The name above each gate is a name of one of the Tribes.  Those redeemed from the nations will have to go through one of those gates or stay out where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth  (Revelation 21:12).

The 12 gates to enter the city will be made of 12 pearls, each gate of a single pearl (Revelation 21:21).  A pearl is made by an unclean sea creature, the oyster.   These pearls could represent those of the nations who have been redeemed and purified.  No person who denies the intrinsic value of the nations in the New Jerusalem will want to go through an ‘unclean gentile’ gate and may also remain outside where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The significance of the gates to the New Jerusalem is that the Jew and non-Jew are unified in the Messiah of Israel.  He is not only the King of the Jews, but the King of Kings over all the earth.

No matter what our physical heritage is – Israel, Judah or the nations – we all have purpose in God’s plan of redemption for the world.    In living for and loving the King of the Jews, there is a new identity for all who believe – the one new man in Yeshua (Ephesians 2:15).  Within this new identity all created divisions are nullified.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua” (Galatians 3:28).

“When they had heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance until life” (Acts 118:18)

“Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: “We had to speak the word of God to you first.  Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.  For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:46-47).

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:28).

“Amen.  Come Yeshua!” (Revelation 22:20).

 

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