In a sense, we existed before we started. B’ney Yosef North America was established on March 6, 2016, but the Ephraimite Awakening that gave birth to BYNA was in motion long before our organization came together. If we must pick a place and time, a good candidate would be Galilee around the year 30 AD. According to Matthew’s gospel, that was when Messiah Yeshua sent His disciples out to preach, instructing them specifically to go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). A little later, He explained to a Canaanite (or Syro-Phoenician) woman in Lebanon that He had only come for the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24).

The church has taken passages like these as instructions to carry the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. As a result, today more than 2.5 billion people, about one-third of all humanity, identify as Christian. Truly the church has gathered the scattered peoples of the earth, bringing them together in a diverse community of faith centered on Messiah Yeshua –a faith expressed in ways as different as there are languages and cultures.

What has happened in recent years is a refinement of Yeshua’s message. More accurately, the understanding of many Christians is being refined to hear a little more clearly what our Messiah has been saying. It seems Yeshua’s “lost sheep” statements are linked to passages that depict Israel as sheep. For example:

Then Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (Numbers 27:15-17)[1]

I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd. And the Lord said, “These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.” (2 Kings 22:17)

All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6)

My people have become lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray. They have made them turn aside on the mountains; they have gone along from mountain to hill and have forgotten their resting place. (Jeremiah 50:6)

“I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest,” declares the Lord God. “I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment.” (Ezekiel 34:15-16)

Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:35-36)

Each of these passages refers to God’s covenant people, the nation of Israel. For nearly two millennia, the church has understood its place as part of Israel, but could not account for the continued presence of the Jewish people. One train of thought considered them cursed of God and cut out of the covenant – a way of thinking that has led to centuries of persecution against the Jewish people. Another line of thought has modified that extreme position by considering that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, but that they are doomed to perish unless they accept Jesus in the way Christianity defines salvation. That, sadly, has only increased the division between Christians and Jews. However well-meaning Christians are in trying to communicate their sincere faith to Jews, their Jewish counterparts only see another veiled attempt to entice them away from the identity and purpose they have been given by God Almighty.

What has begun to change in our generation is the understanding that there may be another way to approach this problem. If Jews continue to exist as a people and have re-established the state of Israel in fulfillment of prophecy, then they must still be part of God’s covenant plan. Christians, however, are identified as belonging to that same covenant people, so maybe Israel consists of both Christians and Jews. If so, then there is something at work here that we still do not fully understand.

The Two House, or Commonwealth, approach wrestles with this specific question. The answer comes in the Bible’s recurring narrative about the two houses of Israel: the Jewish House of Judah, and the non-Jewish House of Israel (also called Ephraim, and the House of Joseph). These two distinct parts of Israel have two different purposes in God’s Kingdom plan of redemption for all the nations. Many scriptures point to the regathering of both Houses (all twelve tribes of Israel) when Messiah reigns from David’s throne in Jerusalem (see, for example, Isaiah 11:1-16, Ezekiel 47:13-23, Hosea 1:1-11, Zechariah 1:1-12, Matthew 19:28, and Revelation 7:1-8).

This is the approach to Scripture that has inspired the establishment of B’ney Yosef North America. We have seen God come through on His promises to regather and restore Judah, and we believe the regathering of Ephraim is now taking place. Moreover, we believe the people of Ephraim reside largely in the church in its many forms, as well as in many peoples across the world who may be descended from Israel’s scattered tribes.

Our purpose is to join in the regathering of God’s covenant people by promoting mutual respect and understanding, not only between Christians and Jews, but among the many peoples who identify as Christian, Messianic, and Hebrew Roots. Our hope is that, by actively engaging in this ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-19), we can hasten the day of our Messiah’s return and the final redemption (2 Peter 3:11-13).

[1] Unless otherwise specified, scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB), Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.