Whether two- or ninety-two-years-old, most of us have a natural aversion to discipline. We don't like to be wrong. We prefer to be our own boss. And that's fine…as long as our choices and actions are in line with the ultimate Set of Rules.
You see, God's perspective on discipline is much different than ours:
“ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor detest His correction; for whom the LORD loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights. ” Proverbs 3:11-12
Because of the LORD's great love, His people were carefully instructed regarding how to worship Him, “that it might go well” with them [Deut. 4:40, 12:25, 28]. God's people were also given along with clear directions regarding repentance—the returning after disobeying or walking their own ways.
The Ultimate Consequence.
After giving instructions, again because of His great love, the LORD clearly outlined consequences for disobedience of His standard. Among these was an ultimatum correction, a “consequence of consequences,” in the event that the people should continually disobey and disregard the LORD's persistent call to return. He says,
“I will bring the land to desolation, and your enemies who dwell in it shall be astonished at it. I will scatter you among the nations and draw out a sword after you; your land shall be desolate and your cities waste. Then the land shall enjoy its sabbaths as long as it lies desolate and you are in your enemies’ land; then the land shall rest and enjoy its sabbaths.” Leviticus 26:32:4
“ Remember, I pray, the word that You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations; but if you return to Me, and keep My commandments and do them, though some of you were cast out to the farthest part of the heavens, yet I will gather them from there, and bring them to the place which I have chosen as a dwelling for My name.’ Now these are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand. ” Nehemiah 1:8-10
So what was the ultimate consequence to God's people? Simply put, it was exile…the loss of the beloved Promised Land…a scattering all over the world. Nehemiah, however, brings our attention to an important promise that directly accompanies exile: the promise of regathering. But this promise was around long before Nehemiah's time…
Here's the setting: Moses’ life was drawing to a close, but there was one remaining message to deliver to God’s people. And here's the best part: the message included you and I! Let's read the following verse from Deuteronomy, keeping in mind the fact that the entire assembly was present, as required:
“I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today …” Deuteronomy 29:14-15
That day, all who belong to the LORD entered in to a covenant, to be established as a holy people for YHVH, and that He would be their God as sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deut. 29:12-13). Part of the agreement was this: obedience brings blessing and disobedience brings cursing. The major blessing was living in the land given by YHVH; the major curse was removal from the land through exile.
Deuteronomy 30:1-4 continues with a prophecy for a later time:
“Now it shall come to pass, when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God drives you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey His voice, according to all that I command you today, you and your children, with all your heart and with all your soul, that the LORD your God will bring you back from captivity, and have compassion on you, and gather you again from all the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you. If any of you are driven out to the farthest parts under heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there He will bring you.” Deuteronomy 30:1-4
In other words, the LORD (who declares the end from the beginning) already knew the how things would play out. Exile was prophesied. The people disobeyed. The prophecy was fulfilled…and we are among the dispersed of the house of Jacob living outside the Land of inheritance.
Diaspora: A Scattering…of Seeds.
And here we uncover an interesting dichotomy: Yes—exile is a punishment resulting from continued of disobedience. But God sees this exile as the scattering of seeds for a later harvest. It is expected that these seeds will grow and eventually yield a harvest. And at THAT time, the perfect time, we will see the regathering. And what a sight that will be!
" The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field (the world); but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way...Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ' First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.' ” Matthew 13:24-25, 30 (Parable of the Wheat and Tares)
The supporting prophecies are many, so this is not something we’re guessing at. Two favorite texts include:
“…But if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.” Nehemiah 1:9
“ Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The LORD lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers .” Jeremiah 16:14-15
If we, then He… What will it be like to participate in an exodus greater than that out of Egypt? To be sure, it’s one event we don’t want to miss…and it’s one of His favorite parts of The Day of the LORD!
But the State of Israel Exists Today…
How do we know this regathering hasn't already happened? Let's start with the Amidah, the "Standing Prayer" prayed three times a day by observant Jews (of the Tribe of Judah/House of Judah). This prayer (actually thought to be the basis for "The Lord's Prayer") calls for the “regathering of the exiles” and the return of the House of Israel, also called the “lost ten tribes.” And if anyone should be in tune to the need for regathering, it would certainly be the Jews—those who personally identify with the instructions and promises of the Hebrew scripture.
But this isn't just about the Hebrew scriptures. The author of Hebrews has more to say on the subject of scattered or dispersed peoples…
“ Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.” Hebrews 8:8-9 (quoting Jeremiah 31:31)
The book of Hebrews was written after the time of Jesus. Yet, the quoted text states that there are still two “houses” which came out of the “fathers”: The House of Israel (northern tribes exiled into Syria) and the House of Judah (southern kingdom, Judah with some Levi and Benjamin, exiled to Babylon but returned to Jerusalem under Nehemiah).
Flip, then, to the book of James, brother of Jesus and the leader of the council of believers in Jerusalem. The opening salutation of His letter to believers is very unique:
“ James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad…” James 1:1
And Matthew records Jesus saying,
“ These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” Matthew 10:5-7
What an interesting twist! Jesus, of the tribe of Judah, gives instruction for His disciples to go—not to the entire world (gentiles) at this point—but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, the ten northern tribes. And He's an authority who would know about the dispersed of His own!
The Two Houses.
History vividly shows how dispersion, because it it's unmistakable tie to disobedience, is not a one-time deal. Failure to follow the LORD's instructions always brings correction, and continued disobedience intensifies the consequence (for a vivid example, read Leviticus 26).
The first to experience exile were the northern ten tribes of Israel, which were conquered by the Syrians and never "returned" (a concept parallel to regathering). The House of Judah was exiled to Babylon but returned in part to Jerusalem…only to be exiled again in 70 A.D. by the Romans. The House of Judah returned, again in part, to the Land in 1948 when the secular country of Israel was born.
So while some of the House of Judah have returned, we are still awaiting the great regathering of ALL of the House of Judah and the House of Israel, as prophesied. And what do you know—the promise of regathering is actually repeated continuously throughout portions of scripture referring to The Day of the LORD. Starting in Ezekiel, we learn the following:
“ The Gentiles shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity; because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them. I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them. Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob, and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name— after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid. When I have brought them back from the peoples and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands, and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations, then they shall know that I am the LORD their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations, but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer. And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord GOD.” Ezekiel 39:23-29
This passage is the perfect summary for us of Exile and Regathering. Revisiting Israel's trespasses (sins) against YHVH which caused their expulsion (called captivity here), the text beautifully magnifies YHVH's mercy. He will gather His people (us) out of the nations. And we will know He is our Elohim, the one and only God in heaven and on earth.
The Rest of the Story…
So what are other landmarks of the time leading up to the Great Regathering? Zechariah paints a clear picture for us…
“ Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, Makinga very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. Then you shall flee through My mountain valley…Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You. It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish. It shall be one day which is known to the LORD— neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen that it will be light. And in that day it shall be that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and half of them toward the western sea; in both summer and winter it shall occur. And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be— ' The LORD is one,' and His name one.” Zechariah 14:1-9
It's ever so subtle, but did you catch it? “Thus the LORD my God will come, and all the saints with You…” The whole company of saints, all of them, can only come if they have been gathered—to rule and reign in the Kingdom with Him.
Ezekiel saw the regathering this way:
“ Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: ‘For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.’ Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. “And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?’— say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand.”’ And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and 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 shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again.” Ezekiel 37:15-22
Ezekiel brings the whole package together for us a few verses later…
“ Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” Ezekiel 37:26-28
YHVH references here the everlasting covenant with His people. After He gathers His people, He will establish His tabernacle in their midst—the completion of the correction cycle back to restoration. The LORD disciplines those He loves, so it will go well with them. And there can't be anything better than living as His people with His sanctuary established among us forevermore.
It's About Time…
The concept of Exile and Regathering has largely been hidden from Christian circles, but it's time for us to see and understand the prophecies and promises in the Bible for what they are. Of course we want to be with Jesus—of course we desire His return. But it's (again) a story of perfection beyond what any human mind could generate. From the beginning, Jesus came to gather His scattered sheep into one fold, to gather the dispersed who call upon the name of the LORD, that they may all be saved.
Jesus' disciples had just this scenario in mind and longed for just such a day as they question Jesus in Matthew 24:
“ Now as He (Jesus) sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ' Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? '… Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:3,30-31
Jesus systematically outlines what we can expect as His second-coming draws near. And the banner even as He arrives? It is the complete regathering of the twelve tribes scattered abroad (to borrow a line from James). Now that's an entrance!
It's an entrance well worth the wait…and an entrance well worth the exile that draws our hearts back in obedience to His ways. As we see The Day approaching, let's take Jesus' advice—
“Look up…because your redemption (regathering) draws near…” Luke 21:28
Amen! Come quickly LORD Jesus…
Tags: Diapora, dispersion, Exile, gathering, House of Israel, House of Judah, Israel, lost sheep of the house of Israel, lost ten tribed, lost tribes, our redemption, Rapture, regathering, second coming, the Two Houses