Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wednesday, January 15th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Genesis 25-26, Psalm 11, Matthew 11
Today's scripture focus is Ezekiel 17

Ezekiel 17

English Standard Version (ESV)

Parable of Two Eagles and a Vine

17 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, propound a riddle, and speak a parable to the house of Israel; say, Thus says the Lord GodA great eagle with great wings and long pinions, rich in plumage of many colors, came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar. He broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a land of trade and set it in a city of merchants. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil. He placed it beside abundant waters. He set it like a willow twig, and it sprouted and became a low spreading vine, and its branches turned toward him, and its roots remained where it stood. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
“And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it. It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine.
“Say, Thus says the Lord GodWill it thrive? Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit, so that it withers, so that all its fresh sprouting leaves wither? It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it from its roots. 10 Behold, it is planted; will it thrive? Will it not utterly wither when the east wind strikes it—wither away on the bed where it sprouted?”
11 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 12 “Say now to the rebellious house, Do you not know what these things mean? Tell them, behold, the king of Babylon came to Jerusalem, and took her king and her princes and brought them to him to Babylon. 13 And he took one of the royal offspring and made a covenant with him, putting him under oath (the chief men of the land he had taken away), 14 that the kingdom might be humble and not lift itself up, and keep his covenant that it might stand. 15 But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?
16 “As I live, declares the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die. 17 Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. 18 He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape. 19 Therefore thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. 20 I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. 21 And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken.”
22 Thus says the Lord God“I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and will set it out. I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. 24 And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LordI bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”

Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon
Accompanying David Legge sermon: A Vine, a Wife, Two Eagles, and a Twig

Today's passage is both a parable and a riddle.  As Legge defines it...
a riddle hides the truth to get you to try and work it out, but a parable declares the truth and shines a light upon it....Ezekiel is tending to shine a light on this truth, yet at the same time he seems to be holding it back
The great eagle is King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.   The cedar tree is the royal house of David. The top branch is King Jehoiachin.  King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Jerusalem and took King Jehoiachin back to Babylon.  He sows some seed (Zedekiah, Jehoiachin's uncle) and plants a vine of low stature.  Zedekiah was a vassal king - basically Nebuchadnezzar's puppet.  Instead of being content with his position and the care Babylon was giving him, Zedekiah turned towards Egypt (the second eagle) for help.  He was trying to make an alliance with Egypt to overthrow Babylon.  But Egypt was not as powerful as Babylon, and frankly, didn't really care about Judah.  Talk about political suicide!  Nebuchadnezzar would destroy Zedekiah for this rebellion.

And all of this is the work of God and His judgment on the people of Judah.  God can and will use the wicked to judge His people.

But this chapter ends with hope!

In vv. 22-23 we have, very clearly, a prophecy of the restoration of the people of God – not Zedekiah’s generation but one yet to come – under the gracious rule of Jesus Christ. Who else can this tender sprig planted on the mountain of Israel be but the long-promised descendant of David who would set up a kingdom that will never end? Compare this prophecy with that in Isaiah 11:1, 9:
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”
“They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

The topmost shoot of the cedar in the riddle was first King Jehoiachin, in v. 4 – Israel’s king now exiled in Babylon. Zedekiah, who is represented in the riddle as the seed from the land planted in fertile soil, was placed on the throne by Nebuchadrezzar. Neither Ezekiel nor Jeremiah regarded him as a legitimate king. But this later one, of whom Yahweh is speaking in vv. 22-23, is also a king, a sprig from the topmost shoot, the very crown of the great tree. And from that sprig a great tree will come, a tree so large that birds of every kind can nest in it and shelter in its branches. In the language of OT prophecy this is the Messiah.....

In these chapters in Ezekiel we are constantly being reminded and in the most solemn tones that there are two and finally only two ultimate realities: divine wrath for those who rebel against God and divine grace for those who follow Jesus Christ. It was so in Ezekiel’s day, but there were few then who trusted in the Lord and followed him. 
It is so in our day and there are still comparatively few who have faith in the living and true God and his Son the King ...

It is an index of our sinfulness and the dullness of our hearts that we can read through these chapters of Ezekiel and not shudder: not shudder for what happened to these people and for what might have just as well happened to us. We know very well how much unbelief there is in our hearts, how much of the world’s way of thinking. We know how naturally, how easily we find ourselves admiring the world and forgetting the kingdom of God. We know how easily we see an Egypt as the solution to our problem with Babylon rather than the Lord himself. How easily, how naturally we would have lived as these Jews did who thought themselves safe while piling up judgment for themselves. There but for the grace of God we too go! For that reason, all the more, with the reality of divine wrath is already with us in this world, we must be fools, ingrates, as worthless as Zedekiah if we fail to heed the solemn warnings so often, so emphatically, so relentlessly pressed upon us in Holy Scripture.

But, glory to God, here we sit on the branches of the great tree that God caused to grow in this world, the tree that grew up from the planting of a tender sprig upon the mountain of Israel.

We need to work out our own salvation with free and trembling.  Remembering both the grievousness of our sin, the holiness of our God and the magnificence of His mercy and grace.

And then we need to spread the news of the great tree and its broad branches!

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Ezekiel 18-19
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Genesis 27-28, Psalm 12, Matthew 12

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