By Johnny Marrs
April 27, 2016
B’ney Yosef is a diverse nation of Torah observant believers who have been alienated from our brother Yehuda for the greater part of two millennia. Coincidental with this alienation, we have been fragmented in our own doctrines and our dispersion among the nations of the world. We should not lose sight of the fact that our dispersion is a direct result of the fallacies of those very doctrines and attempts to impose our misguided beliefs on our brethren. With the understanding that none of us walks in perfection of doctrine or theology, it is necessary for each and every one of us to respect the differences and boundaries of our brethren and trust that our Father in heaven will ultimately carry out the work that He has begun in restoring the whole house of Israel. It is in this context that the B’ney Yosef North America (BYNA) Articles of Declaration are written. For the prodigal sons of Yosef, as we return home and seek unity with our elder brother Yehuda, it will behoove us to understand and remember that all healthy relationships have boundaries. Many of those boundaries are established around our religious belief system. It is imperative that we respect the boundaries of our brethren just as we would desire for our own boundaries to be respected. It will be of great value for all involved if we can learn from the mistakes of our father Yosef. Yosef had revelation from Adonai with regard to his future authority over his father’s household. In his enthusiasm to share the dreams that he had been given, he further alienated his brothers with whom his relationship was already compromised. Because he chose to cross the boundaries of what his brothers were willing or able to hear at that point in their lives, the fire of their animosity toward him was fueled into hatred. His own misguided enthusiasm ultimately brought him into alienation from his entire family and to assimilation into a culture that was in complete contrast with that of his forefathers. It was only through the intervention of Adonai that restoration was brought to the whole house of Israel. We should see that in this day it will not be of our own volition that the kingdom of Israel is restored. Restoration will only come at the hand of our creator.
The Articles of Declaration of B’ney Yosef North America were prepared with much prayer and reflection. Several key points were incorporated with the intent of honoring the boundaries of our brother Yehuda while at the same time protecting our own with the realization that the will of our Father in heaven will ultimately be done in His timing.
It is in the spirit of recognizing our own personal boundaries that we have established in the sixth paragraph of the articles that (emphasis added):
“We believe this promised awakening began over the last few decades and that we are not only witnesses to this awakening but participants as well. Being drawn to the Torah, to the Land, and to the people of the Land while retaining the testimony of Yeshua, we believe ourselves to be the “B’ney Yosef”—the “Children of Joseph”—prophetically called “Ephraim,” a people who are being called out of the nations, now and once again part of the Commonwealth of Israel. And as part of this “called-out assembly,” we stand on the promise that God will one day join us to the House of Judah (the Jewish People) to become one united Israel, never again to be divided.”
Having recognized the importance of establishing and protecting our own personal boundary in the sixth paragraph of the Articles, it is incumbent on us to provide the same protection to our brethren whether they be of the house of Yehuda, denominational Christianity or our own sister congregation in the next community. It is in the seventh paragraph that we intentionally establish this protection with the following words (emphasis added):
“B’ney Yosef North America is a network of North Americans who have heard the call to join together for the common purpose of the restoration and reconstitution of the people of northern Israel—the House of Yosef/Ephraim. We are in awe of the quick work our Lord has done; yet we proceed in tentative optimism because of the divisive nature of our people. Knowing that reconciliation with Judah will not become reality until we stand together as one, we are humbled by the great task ahead of making the necessary personal sacrifices to unify our house. To exist as the nation God intends, and knowing we have a part to play before God completes His work, we pledge this day to promote unity, peace, and harmony among those who belong—and who will belong—to our House and to the House of Judah. In addition to understanding the need for personal sacrifice for the good of the body at large, we accept the following principles in order to establish ourselves as a unified people:”
The principles have been established in the spirit of unity and order. Each of us who chooses to identify with BYNA agrees to adhere to the bulleted principles that follow paragraph seven:
“We will submit to the will of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and also to those whom God has raised to positions of trust and authority in our local assemblies and within the body of B’ney Yosef North America. We will also commit to lifting these servants up continually in prayer, knowing they face a difficult task.”
In the first bullet we acknowledge and support the established authority.
“We will remain teachable, humble, accountable, and open to correction while seeking to renew ourselves daily through prayer and commitment to God, His Messiah, His Torah, and one another.”
In the second bullet we affirm that we as individuals and as a nation have much to learn and that we should humbly stand accountable and open to correction as we present ourselves as servants of His kingdom.
“We will live in a manner that stands opposed to those things that cause division and strife within the body, being mindful that our walk should always reflect the character attributes of the God we serve.”
The third bullet is clear with regard to division and strife within the body of BYNA and the whole house of Israel. Those who would cause division and strife within the body will ultimately alienate themselves from BYNA.
“We will promote peace, harmony, love, and stability within and between our families, our local assemblies, the communities in which we live, and all of God’s Israel.”
The fourth bullet recognizes the requirement for active promotion of peace, harmony, love and stability within the kingdom of Israel beginning with the most basic division as revealed in the family unit. If we choose to focus on our differences at the family level, we should surely recognize that we will never aspire to the unity of a nation.
“We will remain aware that knowledge and understanding are gifts from God and that the misuse of these gifts profanes both the gift and the Gift Giver. Therefore, we will refrain from using our knowledge and understanding as a litmus test to determine who does and does not belong to God.”
This fifth bullet should humble us all. How often have we brought profanity to fruition through our own misguided enthusiasm with regard to a gift that Adonai has chosen to bestow upon us?
“We will acknowledge that currently most Ephraimites are not yet aware of their identity and that until Messiah comes, it is not realistic to expect we will stand in agreement regarding all facets of understanding and practice. We will also acknowledge that the work God is doing is happening over a progression of time. Therefore, we will commit ourselves to showing mutual respect and understanding, being quick to extend grace and slow to criticize, knowing this “last days” call will reach into all nations, cultures, peoples, and tongues in God’s timing and not our own.”
It is imperative that each and every one of us personalize this sixth bullet. We are not all in the same place with regard to our understanding or practice. But that does not make us or those around us any less a part of the work that Adonai has begun in His restoration of His kingdom. Failure to recognize and respect the diversity of those being called will serve only to perpetuate the division that has existed for these past millennia.
“We will consent to the need to walk before our brother Judah in a manner that builds trust, opens doors of communication, and displays godly character. We will further acknowledge the need to repent for centuries of hostility, unfair treatment, and religious overzealousness directed at Judah in the name of Christianity and the need to seek forgiveness from Judah and our heavenly Father.”
For two millennia the sons of Yosef have been building walls of division that we have attempted to justify through isolated perceived victories of evangelization. To date we have only succeeded in following in the footsteps of our father Yoseph by alienating those whom we would desire to have a relationship with. It is recognition of our own error of overzealous attempts to evangelize our brothers to walk in our own footsteps that has necessitated the wording of this seventh bullet.
“We will stand ready to give an answer for the hope of our calling, willing to share what we believe with anyone who desires to hear; this is our responsibility. Yet we acknowledge there is a difference between giving answers to questions asked and trying to convert another to our way of understanding and practice. Therefore, B’ney Yosef North America cannot and will not support or defend any attempts to evangelize the Jewish people.”
This eight bullet attests to our willingness and obligation to share the hope and calling of our beliefs with anyone who “desires to hear”. The wording intentionally protects the boundaries of our brethren who may not be at the same point in their walk as we may find ourselves. This eighth bullet recognizes the grievances that have been incurred through our lack of sensitivity to the boundaries of others within the house of Israel. The word “evangelize” is used in the modern and historical sense of the whole of this document and is in no means intended to deter the open and honest dialogue between two consenting parties. However, BYNA is adamant that evangelization in the modern sense of the word, not be carried out in our name.
“We will not force Judah or anyone else to accept that we are who we believe ourselves to be. Instead, we will wait patiently on God to do His work. In the interim, we will actively assume the roles of bridge builders, peacemakers, and repairers of the breach; a people who understand why the community at large —the nation to which we belong—is greater than self.”
The seventh and eighth bullets are inseparable from this ninth bullet in that the intent of this document is to build bridges of peace, to repair the breach and ultimately restore the community, restore the nation that is greater than the needs or ideals of any individual within it. For this to ever come about, we will first have to put aside our personal doctrines and offenses. When we are finally able to walk as our brother’s servant, we will begin to see reconciliation and healing that will allow us to walk as one stick in the hand of our maker.
It is in the context of paragraph seven and its associated bullets that the last two paragraphs of the Articles of Declaration of BYNA are written with these words (emphasis added for clarity):
“As a people who currently remain scattered among the nations, it is imperative that we unite through these declared principles and our deference to God-ordained leadership in order to ensure the tranquility of the House to which we belong. The forming of a civil body of governance will allow us to establish and administer our national affairs and settle disputes that cannot be dealt with on a local level. This will stave off those things that would otherwise create additional division and strife within our House.”
“Beyond whatever small part we each play in this process, we rest knowing that God will do all He has promised through His everlasting covenant made with Israel. Ultimately God is the one Who will make Judah and Ephraim one stick in His hand; we cannot do His work for Him. Before that time, however, we are to treat the two sticks as though they are already one. Today we unite as one nation, willing servants who seek only to glorify the God of Israel and His Messiah through every word we speak and deed we perform. May His mighty and setapart name be blessed over all the earth. Amen.”
May it be that we walk in support of the work that Adonai is doing and not in the continuation of the offense of our forefathers. May it be that we can put behind us the division of doctrines and contention over words that leads to strife and discord. May it be that we will commit ourselves to showing mutual respect and understanding, being quick to extend grace and slow to criticize, knowing this “last days” call will reach into all nations, cultures, peoples, and tongues in God’s timing and not our own. May it be that we walk in a spirit of humility, reconciliation and servitude to His reunification of the two sticks into the whole house of Israel!
– Johnny Marrs, Elder, B’ney Yosef North America