(This series is taken from “What Gives America?” an essay by Benaiah Fredericks, new contributor to tpog.com team.)
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)
We are making a Biblical connection between the first Christian settlers in the New World and God’s covenant with Abraham. We have focused on his offspring Ephraim (Genesis 48:19 and Hosea 11:8-10). If we are to accurately interpret God’s word, it is necessary we honor the rules for Bible Interpretation. Of them, we highlight two: Take Scripture in context and Look for the near/far prophetic applications in Scripture. Applying these, we rely on the context for our understanding of “Israel.” The name may refer to Jacob or his sons, all twelve tribes known as the Israelites. Ephraim may also be used as a synonym for “Israel,” especially when the context is prophetic (Isaiah 7:8, Jeremiah 31:9, 20, Ezekiel 37:16, Hosea 5:12-14, Zechariah 9:10-13, et. al.). We will find the reason for this in the Bible’s history.
Making distinctions that fit the context is key. In the Abrahamic covenant, it is Biblical Israel through whom God’s promises would be fulfilled. Since the blessings are for his “descendants after [him] for generations to come…” (Genesis 17:7), it follows that we should detect in this and every generation a nation or people in whom these blessings are manifest. The modern Middle East country of Israel would be the first place to look. Many wrongly assume it is the “Israel” of the Bible. It is not; however, Judah (aka “the Jews) are a visible branch from Jacob’s family tree (Genesis 49:8-12).
Though besieged by enemies all around from its infancy, the Jewish state’s blessings abound. Contrary to what some Christian teachers would have us believe, Israel the modern nation, does not represent all the promises made to Abraham and none given to Ephraim. Once we realize that, we can discover Abraham’s heirs living among the nations.
The name “Israel” came from Jacob’s supernatural wrestling match with God. Genesis 32:24-30 describes it. Jacob means “he who grasps the heel” (that is, “a deceiver”). He was well-named. His role in history required a new name that broke with his early life as Isaac’s son. (This was God’s redemption.) If Jacob was to embark on a new path, his readiness had to be established. The wrestling match was the final test. As a sign his transformation was complete, Jacob became Israel (“God overcomes”). The deceiver was henceforth and forever the overcomer.
Of Jacob’s sons, Reuben was the eldest. As first-born, he should have received a double-portion of the inheritance. (Genesis 35:22 and Leviticus 18:8). Instead, Ephraim, son of Joseph, received the birthright (Genesis 48:8-22). The Bible clarifies why in 1 Chronicles 5:1-2. In Ephraim we have the double portion, the birthright of a kingdom of nations (Genesis 48:19-20, 17:4-5), and, just as importantly, the bearer of the name “Israel.” While Judah received the scepter of kingship, Ephraim received the kingdom. At His Coming, Jesus will re-unite Ephraim, the nations, with Judah, their leader (Acts 1:6, John 10:16). When Christ returns and receives all God’s promises, including those to David’s house, He will rule over Biblical Israel, Ephraim’s offspring, from every nation, tribe, people and language (Micah 5:7-9, Revelation 7:9 and 11:15).
Next, we explore the mystery of “the lost tribes.”