THE STATUS OF THE INCOMING HOUSE OF ISRAEL
Before Yahweh had called Israel to be His set-apart nation of priests, salvation had always been available to mankind. Anyone who was a worshipper of Him was accepted by Him (John 9:31). Yahweh had made a covenant with Adam after he fell for the redemption of mankind. All who placed their faith in the promised Messiah to come, was accepted by Him and we have a godly lineage recorded from Seth down to Shem.
After the Flood, Yahweh again made covenant with mankind which did not annul the previous covenant made to Adam and his descendant, but added to it the necessary conditions to be placed upon mankind for the adjustments for the changed and renewed earth. Man was allowed to eat meat, presumably because the canopy which was over the earth had been destroyed and the vegetation would now no longer supply him with the same amount of nutrients as in the original Edenic diet. This required the prohibition of eating the animal’s blood, as the life of the animal's soul was in the blood.
Man hunting animals for food would mean that the animal kingdom’s trust in man would be broken and Yahweh would require an accounting for every life that was taken, whether beast or man and a prohibitation upon eating blood (Gen.9:2-3, 5-6), and capital punishment was authorised by God. Again Yahweh gives the command to “be fruitful and multiply” (9:7). This established the marriage covenant.
What is not written in the scriptural account, but understood by those who orally passed on the traditions from generation to generation, was that Adam knew Yahweh’s laws. He was created in His image and likeness and therefore he had within him the knowledge of His nature and His character - it was his heritage. How could he not know what was right and wrong? - it was instinctively within him. In the intimate communion that existed between him and Yahweh in times they had at the end of each day, whatever else that was necessary for his instruction, was made known to him. Such as, his commission to guard and care for the garden, the assignment to categorise and name the animals, which trees were good for food etc., etc. Men were able to live by their conscience and the oral traditions which were handed down to them. A written code only became necessary for the specific covenant of His holy priesthood nation. Up till then men lived under the Adamic/Noahic covenant.
Abaraham lived under the terms of the Noahic covenant until the covenant of circumcision was given to him in Gen.17. The previous promises and the covenant in Gen.15 regarding the land, did not supersede the Noahic covenant under which he lived from the time he was called out of Ur of the Chaldees. The covenant of circumcision was the sign that was established for his descendants, the people of Israel.
The scripture records other men who were worshippers of God that lived under the Noahic covenant. We have Job and Abimelech, king of Gerar (Gen.20-21, 26), as two prominent examples prior to the nation of Israel. These men attempted to walk with Yahweh and He was able to speak with them.
After the formation of the nation of Israel, His covenant with them did not exclude those of other nations who were God-fearing and who worshipped Him as the one and only true God. His covenant with Israel did not annul the provisions made for mankind generally by the Adamic/Noahic covenants - they were still in force. He had called Israel to be a special people unto Himself, a set-apart nation, above the other nations, or people groups of the world, with a higher standard of righteousness, a better covenant with special privileges from the other nations. Anyone, of any other nation, who wished to make a full conversion and be part of the chosen people of Israel, could do so by circumcision and they were then no longer a 'goy’, but accepted as an Israelite.
By the same token, anyone who was a worshipper of God from other nations was accepted as such - i.e. as a God-fearer (ger), without needing to become circumcised. That was the status of Cornelius in Acts 10 before he came into the new covenant through hearing the Word through Peter and by the infilling of the Spirit.
A ‘goy’ (plural - goyim) was a “stranger”, or a foreigner, a non-Israelite, one outside of the special covenant relationship of the chosen nation, but still one whose faith included him in the Book of Life as a worshipper of God. Circumcision was the criteria to becoming part of the nation of Israel (Exodus 12:44, 48) no foreigner or hired servant that was not circumcised could partake of the Passover which was the salvation issue. But anyone who kept the basic statutes and laws of Israel (Lev.18:26 -10 commands); refrained from eating blood (Lev.17:8-10) according to the Noahic covenant and who took part in the national yearly repentance for sin (Lev.16:29); They were to be treated with respect (Lev.19:33), provided for (Lev.19:10), allowed access to the cities of refuge (Nu.35:15); But they would be cut off if they practiced idolatry (Lev.20:2) and they could have no portion with the priests (Lev.25:10), that is, they could take no part in the priesthood.
Circumcision was the means whereby one could make the transition from being a ‘goy’ (a stranger, foreigner, alien) from another nation, to being a citizen of the nation of Israel. Whenever a “God-fearer” wished to make the transition, they were taken through a process of instruction that would span at least one year and take in all the observances of the keeping of the feasts as well as learning torah until the instructor/guardian was satisfied they had fully embraced all the statutes, laws and commandments with a complete change of heart. Then he was taken through the process of having a mikvah (ritual baptism) and be circumcised. After that, he was an Israeli.
THE JERUSALEM COUNCIL
This procedure was based upon scripture and was the standard practice for conversion up till that time. Paul went up to the elders at Jerusalem to get confirmation on the revelation which he had received. What Paul had been relating of the happenings among the “Gentiles”, those of the nations being saved, was unprecedented and foreign to them. Peter stood up and related his experience of being used to open the door to the “Gentiles” (nations) in Acts 10. Then James quotes a prophecy to confirm and endorse Peter’s experience with Cornelius and of Paul’s gospel to the nations.
He quotes from Amos 9:9-12, a prophecy related to the House of Israel being scattered among the nations and them being rebuilt again according to David‘s Tabernacle. The Tabernacle which David had established had fallen down. “For surely I will command. and I will sift the House of Israel among all nations, as grain is sifted in a sieve. Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. On that day I will raise up the Tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it in days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the Gentiles (Nations) that are called by My name.”
The NJB translates the last verse: “For them to be master of what is left of Edom and all the nations once called Mine - Yahweh declares and He will perform it”. And some other versions of verse 12: “That they may possess the remnant of mankind, and of all the nations who are called by My name." (RNV) “That the remnant of men, and all the Gentiles (nations) upon whom My Name is called, may earnestly seek Me. says YHWH who does all these things." (Septuagint)
“And I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them I will plant them in the land and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land that I have given them, says Yahweh your God. (Amos 9:9-12)
Note the repetition of it being nations upon whom His name was called, those that were His people. The context of the passage is clear. The subject of the passage is the dispersion of the House of Israel and its regathering, of which it is said that it shall be as the repairing, rebuilding, raising up and restoration of the Tabernacle of David.
What does this really mean?
First of all, why the Tabernacle of David?
There were three types of Tabernacles constructed in Israel’s history, the Tabernacle of Moses, that of David and that of Solomon. The second temple was similar to the first one of Solomon. The Tabernacle of Moses which was used in the wilderness and in the land up till the time of David was according to the function of the Levitical priesthood directly under YHWH. The Temple of Solomon was also constructed according to the function of the Levitical priesthood but under the dominion of Kings appointed to rule in His Name and this type shall be used again in the kingdom age.
THE TYPOLOGY OF THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID
The Tabernacle of David was of the Melchizedek order of priesthood, where its priests served before the Ark of His Presence with spiritual sacrifices of praise and worship, by songs and with instruments, with Psalms and in dancing in a twenty-four hour schedule before Him to glorify His Name. David established this pattern of worship by divine revelation (1 Chronicles 28 and verse 19 in particular). This was performed by 24 divisions of Levites who served in turn in shifts, so that continual worship ascended before His Presence.
This was based upon David’s personal relationship with Adonai (Lord), and in that, the revelation of the Melchizedek order of priesthood itself, as cited in Psalm 110:1 and 4. “YHWH said to my Lord (Adonai) sit at My right hand ......... “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” This is what has been renewed for believers in Yeshua our High Priest (Hebrews 8:7-13 - a quote from Jer.31:31).
Abraham came under the Melchizedek order (Gen.16:18-20) as did all the patriarchs which followed and that was the order under which the first covenant was established at Sinai. The Levitical covenant was established as a result of the nation’s failure to maintain their faithfulness to Yahweh and keep covenant relationship with Him. When they broke the covenant, they forfeited their priesthood unto Him and only the Levites qualified to stand before Him, to minister for them.
David, entered into that first covenant relationship that was established at Sinai, and he functioned as both a priest and a king to the nation. The Psalms are replete with the expression of David’s relationship with His Lord and his obvious experience of having the Ruach HaKodesh in his life in a vital way. In his priesthood, he brought back the Ark of the Covenant from captivity and set it in the tabernacle which he established for it.
In his kingship he united the two kingdoms (Ephraim and Yehudah) into one, defeating their enemies, taking the whole immediate territory given to them and even annexed neighboring peoples, thereby extending their borders to the future messianic age era expectations of being from the “Nile to the Euphrates”.
The prophets spoke of the restoration of the re-unification of the House of the two Houses of Israel. The disciples questioned Yeshua as to when this would take place (Acts 1) and with the Israelites from the dispersion coming to faith, the apostles interpreted this as the season of its fulfillment.
The apostle James understood that the Melchizedek order was reinstated and that the spiritual “House” which Yahweh had promised David was being raised up again which bypassed the rituals and regulations of the Levitical order. The believers as priests under the Melchizedek order were once again “to enter in within the veil” into the Holy of Holies before the Ark of His Presence (Hebrews 10:19-22). It was a new and living way made possible by the sanctification of the heart through the indwelling Spirit of Messiah.
“Having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Yeshua, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High priest over the House of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)
The Holy Spirit was now the “schoolmaster” who would teach the new believers as they continued in the faith and heard the Word preached every Sabbath in the synagogues in whatever city they lived (Acts 15:18-21). Circumcision in the flesh was no longer a criteria for acceptance into a “Jewish” community as the Spirit had done the work of circumcising their hearts already. Rather than go through the prolonged instruction in Torah observance, the Spirit would teach them. Only the necessary things to avoid were laid upon these ex-Israelites returning from the nations rather than burden them with all the statutes, ordinances and laws of the Word.
After much discussion on the basis upon which those coming in from the nations could fellowship, James quotes the prophecy from Amos of the raising up of the Tabernacle of David. Yahweh had promised to build David a "House" - tabernacle (2 Samuel 7:8-11) This was not only a prophecy of a physically structured "house" for Him to dwell in, which was fulfilled by his son Solomon (2 Chr.2), but also a spiritual "House" as Isaiah prophesies in Ch.22:20-25 that would be fulfilled in Messiah.
As Isaiah prophesies, the key of the House of David would be given to Him to open the door of the kingdom or to close it. He would be the Door of the sheep (John 10:7), to open it to the remnant of the House of Israel to return and enter into the kingdom.
Under David's Tabernacle, Ephraim and Yehudah were brought together and united in worship and under his reign they were brought under theMelchizedek priesthood which was a foretaste of the kingdom era to come. So here again, was the raising up of the Tabernacle of David - the two Houses worshipping together in unity before His Presence.
So James decrees only the necessary observances be placed upon these returning Israelites from the nations as they joined their brother Yehudah worshipping together as one in Messiah.
“My verdict is, then, that instead of making things more difficult for Gentiles who turn to God (epistrepho) returning, coming again) we should send them a letter telling them to abstain from anything polluted by idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from illicit marriages. For Moses has always had his preachers in every town and is read aloud in the synagogues every Sabbath” (Acts 15:18-21 NJB)
These necessary things were related to ceremonial laws for bodily purity and it was not the intention to exclude the moral code of law (10 commands etc.), even though those precepts were not stated in this decree. In effect, the gospel net was cast wide and allowed whosoever will to come into covenant relationship with Yahweh and grow at their own pace and depth in their relationship with Him. Neither was it intended to exclude circumcision, or any other ceremonial laws, like Nazarite vows for instance, but these were listed as the necessary elementary requirements for fellowship in the holy covenant community. The understanding of, and practice of all other precepts of His ways, would come as they progressed in their spiritual walk.
In the wisdom of God, this also allowed for souls to come in as children of Abraham, under the Noahic covenant, and not become grafted into the Olive Tree as Israelites. When the apostolic age closed, truth fell to the ground and the “gospel” of personal salvation was preached, rather than the “gospel of the Kingdom”, which was the restoration of Israel as a royal priesthood nation once again. Salvation was made available to all, but the endtime focus is the raising up of His Bride, Israel, to rule and reign with Him in the kingdom on earth.
This requires all 12 tribes to be returned and restored to their covenant relationship with Yahweh as His royal priesthood nation - His Bride which is composed of Two Houses - 2 entities which feature the two aspects of the Melchizedek order (King/Priest).
The Priesthood carries the manifestations of the Spirit and the Kingship carries the laws and precepts of the kingdom. The Two Houses (Ephraim/Israel and Yehudah), the Spirit and the Word must be raised up to their full potential in order to function as His government upon earth for the Millennial age - His kingdom upon earth.