But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
What does he mean by that? It's a good question. A lot of commentators say he means the 'Jews.' Does that also include the tribe of Benjamin and the tribe of Levi who stayed in the southern kingdom with the tribe of Judah? And since when is 'Jews' synonymous with 'the house of Israel'? Israel was 12 tribes, not one. The house of Israel was ten tribes, not one.
Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: Rom 15:8
Some will say the circumcision in this passage refers to the 'Jews.' But, Paul explains that the circumcision refers to the heart because that was the Old Testament promise God made--I will give them a heart of flesh and I write my laws on their hearts.
My sheep know my voice and they will follow me, he says.
If we look at the sheep who followed his voice, they are 99.9 percent Gentile. Is he calling them 'the lost sheep of the house of Israel'?
Why not? And have these people you refer to really followed his voice?
In Ezek. 34, Christ is described searching for his sheep, who are "meat to all the beasts of the field;" and they "wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill;" and he says, "my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth." Their shepherds feed upon them.
The "lost sheep" metaphor is similar to the metaphor Jesus used, when he said it is the "sick" who need a physician. He said that the sinners are being called to repentance, not the righteous.
10 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.
13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Two sticks and they shall be joined one to another....and they shall become one in mine hand.
Solve that puzzle for me first.
15 The word of the LORD came again unto me, saying,
16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17 And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18 And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19 Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
This seems to say that the ten tribes of Israel which had been taken into captivity long before Ezekiel's time would be united with the tribe of Judah, which is very likely what actually happened. There was some contact between the Israelite tribes and the kingdom of Judah after the Assyrian captivity, as indicated in 2 Chronicles 35:17; when Israel kept the passover in the reign of Josiah. Obviously the ten tribes were not lost at that point in their history. Many of Ezekiel's prophecies make reference to the Israelites.
After the Babylonian captivity, the names Israel and Judah (or Jew) applied to the same people, as suggested by Ezekiel's prophecy where the two sticks become one. Some descendants of the ten tribes who had been living in what is now Iraq returned with the Jews and rebuilt the temple.
AFAIK, the Scripture does not actually say that the ten tribes were "lost." That is a fairly modern idea.
The New Testament refers to Zabulon and Nephthalim, two of the ten tribes.
Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
There is also a reference to the "country of the Gadarenes" which may allude to Gad, another tribe.
And they arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.
20 And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22 And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.
These things are fulfilled in the church, and in Christ, in whom, Paul said, all the promises of God "are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us." [2 Corinthians 1:20]
The "mountains of Israel" are symbolic of the promises and revelations of God, as Jacob indicated when he blessed Joseph, Genesis 49:26, and said, "The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills
: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren."
Mountains are high, or lofty, and durable, as are the blessings
that Jacob inherited. They were spiritual, and eternal.
The king referred to by Ezekiel is Christ, who has inherited the throne of David.
23 Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwellingplaces, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God.
24 And David my servant shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them.
25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.
26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.
27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
28 And the heathen shall know that I the LORD do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore.
The "everlasting covenant" is the New Covenant that Christ confirms with his saints in the present age.
See this post