O Israel, return the LORD your God.
For you have stumbled because of your iniquity;
Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
“Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously.
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips.” Hos 14:1-2
A time was coming, which Hosea was prophesying of, when Israel will return to the LORD with words, with the sacrifices of his lips, to take away his iniquity, and not the sacrifices of bulls and goats.
John puts it this way:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins (return to the LORD with words), He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity. 1 Joh 1:8-9
It is because of Messiah’s sacrifice for sin, that Israel can return to the LORD, bringing words with them instead of bulls and goats. It is Ephraim’s backsliding that the LORD will heal, so that they will return to Him with words, and reject their idols.
But from the time of Jesus Christ, Israel has not returned to the LORD through the shed blood of Messiah — that is something we are still waiting to see. But let us examine that a little more closely:
Ephraim (northern kingdom or ten tribes) was sent to Assyria, and Judah (southern kingdom or two tribes) was sent to Babylon. Judah returned after seventy years, rebuilt the Temple and Jerusalem, and became a people so transformed, that when foreign rulers (the Greeks and Romans) tried to set up idols in the Temple and compel the people to sacrifice to idols, that the Jews (so named because they were of Judah) fought against impossible odds rather than submit to idolatry any longer. The Jews became a proverb among the Romans for stubborn and unrelenting devotion to YHVH above any other god. They were truly healed of their backsliding.
What about Ephraim? He did not return to Israel. In fact, while he was in Assyria, he forgot the LORD, he forgot the Law of the LORD, and he forgot that he was ever the people of the LORD (Hos 2:12, 8:14, 13:6). The LORD likewise forgot Ephraim’s children — for a time (Hos 4:6). Ephraim became so assimilated with the idols of the nations that he loved, that he became immersed in those nations until he could not be distinguished from them. They became not His people. However, just as the division was from the LORD, this also was from the LORD: He was sowing him like wheat among the nations (Amo 9:9). He was dispersed even further from Assyria until he had leavened the whole earth.
How could the division of Jacob; how could Ephraim’s forgetfulness be part of God’s plan? When Messiah Yeshua came the first time, after an initial wave of acceptance, most Jews rejected Him as Messiah. The Redeemer came to the house of Judah and the house of Judah closed the door to Him. Paul tells us this was part of God’s plan, because then the Redeemer came to the Gentiles (Rom 11). The Gentiles accepted Him and will continue to accept Him until the last of them come in, and then the house of Judah would accept Him. In this way, the first would be last and the last first.
Now we just saw, that the house of Ephraim was sown among those Gentiles until they could not be distinguished from them. It was the Gentiles (among whom Ephraim was sown like wheat), who had rejected the Law of the LORD, who have been accepting Messiah Yeshua as Savior for the past 2000 years, while the Jews (Judah) have staunchly refused to do so.
So let us revisit one of the few encounters with a Gentile that Jesus has, which is recorded in the gospels:
Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.” But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. Mat 15:21-28
The house of Israel, Joseph, or Ephraim, was scattered among the nations; and while Judah had returned to his land when Jesus was alive, Ephraim or the house of Israel, the northern kingdom, had not. They were still lost. Jesus has been searching them out and gathering them for the past 2000 years.
There have been two witnesses in the earth, that testify in the face of the paganism of the nations (the Tower of Babel rebellion) that YHVH is God. Gentiles who have become Christians, and Jews. Gentiles / Ephraim have had their backsliding healed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and come to Him with words, saying, Take away all our iniquity and receive us graciously. They testify that the LORD, He is God, and that His word is true. And Jews / Judah also testify that the LORD, He is God, and that His word is true.
Two witnesses, Ephraim and Judah, Christians and Jews, who, even though they differ in many respects, both agree that YHVH is God. God obeys His own Torah. Let every fact be established by the mouth of two witnesses (Deu 19:15). He had to divide Israel in order to create two witnesses. He had to return Judah to the land, so that Judah could preserve the written Word, and He had to disperse Ephraim among the nations, so that the nations could receive Jesus and salvation for their sins. Ephraim preserved the living Word.
(I do not believe that only biological descendants of Ephraim among the Gentiles have become Christians, as some erroneously claim. Ephraim among the Gentiles perhaps were the first, centuries and millennia ago, to receive Jesus in their lands (read Rev 7 in this context), but through them, a foothold of faith was established in the nations, which has only continued to grow as time has passed. That faith calls all men everywhere to repent, and receive Jesus Christ as Lord (Act 17:30). When the Gentiles come to the God of Israel, they are to be grafted in and treated as the native born, the Torah commands (Exo 12:49, Rom 11:17). There is one God and one people of God, from Genesis to Revelation!)
However, the division will not last. As we continue through the prophets we will see God’s great plan for uniting the two houses again and bringing in the restoration of all things.