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Lost Sheep, or Lost Tribes of Israel

by Bernie Parsons 10/27/2006

Many write and preach about the lost tribes of Israel. What the Bible teaches about are the lost sheep of the house of Israel. This "mystery" is easily understood.  Bernie Parsons

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Lost Sheep of the House of Israel

by Bernie Parsons - 10/27/2006

There has been much made of the phrase, "The lost sheep of the house of Israel", (or "the lost tribes of the house of Israel"). There have been many articles written, sermons preached, and debates held over the true meaning of this phrase, which is taken from:

Matthew 10:6: "But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

and from:

Matthew 15:24: "But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

Like almost all of the teaching of Christ and His Apostles and disciples, this is based upon a quotation from the Old Testament.

Jeremiah 50:6: "My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. "

As usual, to understand the context in the New Testament, it is invariably helpful to understand the context of the Old Testament scripture that is being quoted.

Israel and Judah had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, because those nations of God had turned to the false idols of the countries around them. This prophecy from Jeremiah speaks of their turning their hearts back to God.

When Jesus speaks of finding the lost sheep, He is talking about the same thing.

John 10:16: "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd."

Look at the context in Jeremiah once more.

Jeremiah 50:4: "In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.
5: They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten.
6: My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace. "

Notice that in this context, the fractured kingdom is reunited when the ten tribes of Israel (the Lost Tribes) are reunited with Judah (and Benjamin, the remaining two tribes).

This was the purpose of Jesus. He came as a shepherd to reunite the fractured kingdom into one fold. The idea was to bring them all back into a restored relationship with God--reconciliation. This was to be done before Jesus offered Himself for the whole world. God, through Him, gave the Israelites and the Jews a chance to accept Him as their Savior and King--which, as a nation, they refused.

John 1:11: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not."

John 11:51: "And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;
52: And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad."

Who knows where we might be today had they received Him?

Matthew 23:37: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"

After all, Jesus pled just before His crucifixion that, if were possible, the cup of death that He was about to endure be taken from Him.

Matthew 26:39: "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."

In fact, He prayed this earnest, fervent prayer three times. The Jews not only rejected Him, but turned Him over to the Romans for execution.

Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

As the apostle Paul explains in the Roman letter, Jesus came first to the Jews, and preached the gospel to them. After the majority (as a nation) rejected Him, and the gospel, He sent His apostles to the Gentile nations (the world).

Mark 16:15: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."

Matthew 28:19: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:"

As the Jewish Christians seemed reluctant to run with the message, the distribution of this gospel came under duress.

Acts:8:1: "And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles."

Acts:8:4: "Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word."

Acts:11:1: "And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God.
2: And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him,
3: Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.
4: But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying,
5: I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
6: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air.
7: And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat.
8: But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth.
9: But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common.
10: And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven.
11: And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me.
12: And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house:
13: And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter;
14: Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.
15: And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
16: Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.
17: Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?
18: When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.
19: Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only."

Apostle Peter was shown that the gospel was for all, but seemed to miss the point.

Galatians 2:11: "But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12: For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13: And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14: But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?"

Since the Jews, as a nation (Judah), had rejected Jesus, as had the scattered ten tribes of Israel, the gospel was taken directly to the Gentiles. Thus, the gospel flowed forth from Jerusalem into all of the world (the Gentile nations).

Isaiah 2:3: "And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem."

Acts 13:47: "For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth."

Romans 3:29: "Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
30: Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith."

Who knows what great things God might have wrought through the nations of Israel/Judah, had they repented, and turned their hearts to God. As it was, the physical nation was destroyed, and the gospel was preached by the scattered Christians.

Romans 11:25: "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26: And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28: As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29: For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30: For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
31: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.
32: For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."

The need for a physical Israel (or Judah, for that matter) vanished, and the Lord established His spiritual kingdom on the earth.

Romans 2:28: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
29: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God."

John 18:36: "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence."

Luke 17:20: "And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:
21: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you."

When we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are translated into this spiritual kingdom.

Colossians 1:9: "For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
11: Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
12: Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
13: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
14: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:"

Jesus came to round up the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to reunite them with Judah. (Recall that Israel consisted of the ten tribes, while Judah consisted of both Judah and Benjamin.) The ten tribes are often referred to as the lost tribes of Israel--and, indeed, they were lost to God, as they had departed from Him and gone after the idol gods of the heathen. Jesus came to reconcile them, that is, bring all twelve tribes of Israel back together, and back to God, thus healing the fractured kingdom. The majority rejected Him, while a small remnant listened to Him, and obeyed the gospel.

This small collection of believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, taking the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. Eventually, first through the tentative preaching of Peter, and later, the dedicated and forceful preaching of Paul, the gospel was taken to the Gentiles. The whole world was then united in Jesus Christ, and thus brought back to its Creator, and to God Almighty.

Ephesians 2:11: "Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12: That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14: For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16: And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18: For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19: Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20: And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21: In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

The lost sheep of the house of Israel is no great mystery, nor is it some cloaked prophecy for the future. It was our Lord's effort to bring the ten "lost" tribes back to God. The gospel that heralded this effort was preached to the Jews first, and then to the Gentiles.

John 12:32: "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."

More Help

I trust that you have benefited from this scriptural study. There are additional articles available on various interesting and important Bible topics. You may access them by using the links at the top of this page.:

Copyright  2006 by:

Bernie Parsons
75 Osborne Street
Greenup, KY 41144-9641

Phone: 606-473-1455

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