In our last chapter, we spoke about the dividing of the Kingdom of God that occurred under the hand of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. This division of Israel into two, created the familiar terms found in our prophets—the House of Israel (in the north) and the House of Judah (in the south). However, Scripture doesn’t leave us with a dire picture of Israel’s collapse; but rather, it speaks to us of a glorious reunion of the two houses! This is important to us because we still haven’t seen the restoration of these two houses—that’s right, it’s still a future event! The prophets have lots to say about this time of the regathering of Israel from among the nations, and the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Israel, or the Kingdom of God. Let’s explore some of these passages!
You remember in the Covenant Series, we looked at the prophecies concerning the Scattering and Gathering through the prophet Hosea. In Hosea 1, the prophet recorded that he had 3 children, prophetically named by God to display His plan with the northern House of Israel. In verse 9, God told Hosea to name his 3rd child ‘Lo-Ammi’, which means “not My people”, since God declared that the House of Israel would cease being His people. But God continued His prophecy by tempering His judgment with this promise of restoration—
“Yet the number of the sons of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered; and in the place where it is said to them, ‘You are not My people’, it will be said to them, ‘You are the sons of the living God’. And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint for themselves one leader (King), and they will go up from the Land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.” (Hosea 1:10-11)
So in this passage we find that the two houses will be joined back together again, and they will appoint one leader to rule them again. So this is a picture of the reunion of the two kingdoms. So who will be the new leader/king over the reunified Kingdom? Amos tells us about that. As has been the case previously, Amos speaks about Israel’s judgment, then tempers it with a promise of restoration.
“Behold, the eyes of Adonai Elohim are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the Land; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the House of Jacob, declares Adonai. 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 [not a kernel will escape the sieve]. All the sinners of My people will die by the sword, those who say ‘the calamity will not overtake or confront us.’ In that day I will raise up the fallen booth [Sukkah] of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all nations who are called by My name, declares Adonai who does this.” (Amos 9:8-12)
The promise of restoration beginning about halfway through this passage says that in the day, God would “raise up the fallen Sukkah of David”. This is an interesting choice of words used here. A sukkah is a temporary dwelling, used by shepherds in the fields for their flocks. They would take branches and tie them together, or weave them together, and then lay leafy branches on top of them to make a shelter. This would be a shelter for the livestock and the shepherds in the fields. The major fall feast, the Feast of Sukkot (Tabernacles), is named after this practice. It commemorates when Israel left Egypt and dwelled in sukkot (the plural of sukkah) in the wilderness.
The idea expressed here is that David’s Sukkah—his royal dynasty, referencing the fact that David was a shepherd over the nation of Israel—had fallen into disrepair. This began under Rehoboam, son of Solomon, when the kingdom divided, and continued to deteriorate under the various kings of both Houses of Israel. David’s Dynasty was a united kingdom; He never ruled a divided kingdom. But that strong dynasty of David had fallen, and the prophet now pictures David’s Dynasty (his shepherd’s sukkah) as broken down. But the promise here is that God would restore David’s Sukkah, and He would close up its breaches. Adonai is promising here to rebuild David’s Dynasty “as in days of old”! This means that David’s Dynasty will be the future ruling power over the unified Kingdom of Israel. So whereas Hosea has declared that the Kingdom will be reunited under one king again; Amos identifies that King as a descendent of David—restoring his father’s good name.
Hosea also agrees with this identity of the new King as representing David’s dynasty. Check out these verses in Hosea 3—
“For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward, the sons of Israel will return and seek Adonai their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to Adonai and to His goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4-5)
Wow! That could be in a history book! Indeed Israel has been many days without a king or sacrifice, but the promise is that David will be their king once again! Now when this prophecy was spoken by Hosea, King David was already dead. But the one being spoken of here is the Son of David—Jesus the Messiah! In Hebrew, the word david means ‘beloved’. This is a title of the Messiah. Ephesians 1:6 says, “…to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved”. So Hosea said in the passage above—“…the sons of Israel will return and seek Adonai their God and the Beloved their king…” Notice here that the sons of Israel would seek the Beloved, at their “return”. This will become more clear as we proceed in this study. The regathering from among the nations coincides with the new king being recognized. And when did Hosea say they would do this? In the latter days! This is exciting, isn’t it?
A Shepherd of Shepherds
Jeremiah wouldn’t be left out of this conversation! He also mentions the new coming king. In chapter 23, Jeremiah begins a lamentation against the ‘shepherds’ of Israel. Why? Because the shepherds have a responsibility to feed and guard the sheep. But the shepherds (leaders) of Israel were self-serving and caused the sheep to be driven away. Now we’ve already learned that the people of Israel were scattered because they forsook the Torah of Adonai, so this picture shows us more of the responsibility of shepherds in Israel. Their responsibility is to teach the people the Torah and how to live it! But they weren’t doing that. They were ignoring the Torah, or worse—making the Torah a burden so that the people didn’t want to keep the Torah. This forsaking of the Torah resulted in the people being driven from the Land, but the greater judgment would fall upon the shepherds (teachers) of Israel whose responsibility it was to teach the Torah.
“Woe to the Shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture, declares Adonai! Therefore thus says Adonai the God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: ‘You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds’, says Adonai. ‘Then I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and bring them back to their pasture, and they will be fruitful and multiply. I will also raise up shepherds over them and they will tend them; and they will not be afraid any longer, nor be terrified, nor will any be missing’, says Adonai. ‘Behold the days are coming’, says Adonai, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the Land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, Adonai our Righteousness. Therefore the days are coming’, declares Adonai, ‘when they will no longer say, As the Lord lives who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt, but As the Lord lives who brought up and led back the descendents of the household of Israel from the north land and from all the countries where I had driven them. Then they will live on their own soil.’
Awesome!! God says that He Himself would come and regather His flock from all the countries they were scattered into! The One speaking in this passage is none other than Jesus Himself! He said that when He returns, “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other!” (Mt. 24:30-31) Jesus is the righteous Branch that will be raised up for [or in the place of] David, and He will regather His sheep and reign as King! Once again, we see the connection between the regathering of the exiles and the raising up of the new King. And this passage makes it clear that that new king will be none other than God Himself!
But Jeremiah isn’t alone in this prophecy concerning the shepherds of Israel, and the Great Shepherd to come. Ezekiel speaks extensively about this in chapter 34. Here’s some excerpts from this chapter:
“Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat sheep without feeding the flock. Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost…My flock was scattered over all the surface of the earth, and there was no one to search or seek for them…Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them. For thus says the Lord God, Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. 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. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries and bring them to their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the streams, and in all the inhabited places of the land…I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong [evil shepherds], I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment…Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant David [the Beloved], and He will feed them; He will feed them Himself and be their Shepherd. And I , Adonai, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I Adonai have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them and eliminate harmful beasts from the land so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods.” (Eze. 34:2-4, 6, 10-13, 16, 23-25)
Pretty consistent, huh? God Himself is going to come and seek out His lost sheep. This sounds like what Jesus said in Luke 19:10—“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Here again, God [Jesus] is declaring that He will regather Israel from among the nations and place One Shepherd over them. This is synonymous with the ‘one leader’ and (as we’ll see) the ‘one King’ spoken of in other prophetic passages. So the picture is that Messiah [God in the flesh] will come and enter into judgment with the shepherds of Israel, then began regathering His sheep from among the nations that they’ve been scattered in, and after they’ve been regathered, He’ll set up one Shepherd over a re-unified flock of Israel.
These two passages concerning the judgment on the shepherds of Israel is also the background for the exchange in John 10 concerning the Good Shepherd. There, Jesus said—
“I am the good Shepherd; the good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep [the religious leaders of Israel whom Jesus was now entering into judgment with], sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My own and my own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.” (John 10:11-16)
See what’s being said here? Jesus is using the passages from Jeremiah and Ezekiel to chastise the religious leaders. He’s comparing Himself with them. They are hirelings, with no concern for the sheep. They only serve themselves; but Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and His concern is for the sheep. Now notice Jesus’ statement about having other sheep, “which are not of this fold”. What’s that all about? At this time [and even today], the House of Judah and the House of Israel was separated! Those living in the land during the days of Messiah’s first coming were those from the House of Judah! They had gone into Babylonian captivity, and been returned to the land; but the House of Israel (the northern kingdom) was still [and is still] in exile among the nations! The House of Israel is the other sheep from another fold, but Jesus is going to regather them also and the two folds will become one flock with one shepherd—straight out of Ezekiel 34! See how context brings the teachings of Messiah to life?
Bones and Sticks
We’ve almost concluded our survey of the prophets concerning the Kingdom of God, but before we do, there’s one other chapter we need to consider. After Ezekiel spoke of the coming Shepherd razing judgment against the shepherds of Israel, he continued by speaking against the mountains of Seir (Ez 35)and blessing the mountains of Israel (Ez 36), before prophesying again concerning the pouring out of the New Covenant—“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ez. 36:26-27) Ezekiel goes on to mention that God will cause the cities of Israel to “be inhabited, and the waste places rebuilt”, and that He would do this “on the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities” (vs. 33). The Land would become like the Garden of Eden once again (vs. 35) and the waste places would be full of men like Jerusalem is full of flocks on the appointed feasts (vss.37-38).
Ezekiel then receives a vision from Adonai. In this vision, Adonai shows Ezekiel a valley “full of bones”. The bones were numerous and “very dry”, meaning they had been there for a long time. God told Ezekiel to prophecy over the bones and command them to live. Ezekiel obeyed and “the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, and exceedingly great army” (vs. 10). God then interprets the vision for Ezekiel—
“Son of man, these bones are the whole House of Israel [re-united]; behold they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’ [We’ve been in exile so long that our bones are dry and we have no hope.] Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says Adonai, ‘Behold I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am Adonai, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. I will put My Spirit within you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, Adonai, have spoken and done it’, says Adonai.” (Ez. 37:11-14)
Adonai is giving Ezekiel a glimpse at the future restoration of the Kingdom. Israel’s bones are very dry, meaning that they have been scattered for a long time [remember the passage from Hosea earlier referring to Israel being a “long time without a king and sacrifices”?]. But Adonai here promises to bring Israel up from her graves! I know that many people consider this to simply be metaphor here, alluding to the picture of Israel being dead, and scattered across the valley; but I think more is intended here. This time of the regathering of Israel from among the nations actually coincides with the return of Messiah, as we saw earlier in Mt. 24. Jesus promised that when He returned, He would “send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” But we also find another event occurring simultaneously with this return of Messiah—
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God [the great trumpet from Mt. 24], and the dead in Messiah will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain [throughout the nations] will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:16-17)
So we see here that at the return of the Messiah, and in conjunction with the regathering of the elect from the nations, the dead in Messiah from ages past will be resurrected! The passage in Ezekiel 37 can be read quite literally! The Thessalonians passage mentions that we’ll be caught up with the Messiah in the clouds, but that’s not where we’re gonna stay. According to Ezekiel (and all the other prophets we’ve studied in the last two series), this regathering is ultimately going to end up on the mountains of Israel. God’s promise to Abraham would be fulfilled and his descendents would finally, and eternally, be planted upon the Land of Israel once again!
But God doesn’t end His teaching session with Ezekiel there. He continues by immediately telling the prophet to take two sticks and inscribe on them—“For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the House of Israel, his companions’”. Remember that the House of Ephraim was another term for the northern House of Israel in the book of Hosea. So here, we find one stick identified as the House of Judah and another identified as the House of Israel. God then instructs Ezekiel—
“Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’ say to them, ‘Thus says Adonai your God, Behold I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand…Behold I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms…My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.” (Eze. 37:17-19, 21-22, 24-26)
I hope at this point that you’re starting to see that the prophets are all speaking of the same event concerning this regathering from among the nations. At this future regathering [“in the latter days” according to Hosea 3:5], the House of Israel (Joseph) and the House of Judah will be reunited, and one king/shepherd/leader will be over them, identified as “My servant David”. This regathering also triggers the outpouring of the New Covenant upon Israel, as expressed in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36, and we see that same language here when it says “and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them”. That phrase is almost identical to the passage in Ezekiel 36:27 concerning the New Covenant.
These passages, taken together, reveal an exciting time to come for the nation of Israel. The divided kingdom is destined to be reunited at the return of the Messiah, and He will become the new King/Shepherd/Leader over a restored Kingdom of God. I would also like to point out that what we find in these passages throughout the prophets is that the new covenant, the restoration of the Kingdom of Israel, and the return of Messiah are simultaneous events! When Messiah returns, the new covenant will be poured out, and the Kingdom of Israel [Kingdom of God] will be restored. I know that strikes sound strange to many of us, after all, Messiah hasn’t returned yet, but aren’t we in the new covenant now? And aren’t we in the Kingdom of God already? The answer is yes. We are in the New Covenant now, and yes, we are in the Kingdom of God now; however, that doesn’t change the fact that the new covenant/restoration of the Kingdom is a future event! Haha! Are you thoroughly confused? Haha! This is what we’ll explore through the teachings of the Apostolic Scriptures. This paradox does have an answer.
The Big Picture
Let’s take a summary at what we’ve learned in our study of the prophets so far:
- Both houses of Israel would be exiled into the nations, beginning with the northern Kingdom of Israel and followed by the southern Kingdom of Judah.
- God Himself would come to judge the evil shepherds of Israel and would Himself be the Good Shepherd that searches out His lost sheep. He would feed them (teach them) the true way of righteousness (as defined by the Torah). (Ez. 34)
- God would send “fishers” among the nations to fish the children of Israel out. (Jer. 16)
- While still among the nations, Israel would repent and turn to God with all of their hearts. God would in turn circumcise their hearts. (Dt. 30)
- God would put “one head/one shepherd/one king” over the reunified Kingdom of Israel/Kingdom of God.
- God would initiate the “new covenant” with Israel by putting His Spirit in Israel, giving them a new heart and writing the Torah upon their hearts.
- As a result, Israel would walk in His judgments, observe His ordinances and do them.
- This obedience to the Torah would then cause the promises given to the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) to come to pass. Israel would be returned to their land—(even brought out of their graves!) and gathered to the wilderness in the Land of Israel where God would meet them face to face. This regathering and meeting would eclipse the former one at Mt. Sinai. All nations would know that He is God when they witness this!
- At this time, the curses (plagues) put upon Israel for their disobedience would be removed and placed upon their enemies. God would redeem Israel from among the nations with a mighty hand, an outstretched arm and fury poured out!
- In the aftermath of this, Adonai will create a covenant of peace with the beasts of the field and war will be abolished. The Land of Israel would be tilled again and become like the Garden of Eden. The Tabernacle of God would be established in Jerusalem once again.
With these truths in mind, this should give us enough context to explore the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus and His Apostles as presented in our Scriptures. We’ll turn there next time!