Ezekiel 17:1-2 (NIV) 1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell the house of Israel a parable.
On verses 1-2: Here the Lord gives Ezekiel another picture (also called an allegory or a parable – v2) to tell the house of Israel. Both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, we see that God loves to use pictures and stories to communicate spiritual truths to His people. For some reason God made us to be drawn to stories. Keep this in mind the next time you want to communicate a spiritual truth to others.
Ezekiel 17:3a (NIV) 3 Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: A great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colors came to Lebanon…
On verses 3a: Who is this great eagle? Most scholars agree that the great eagle here symbolizes King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who would come to Israel (that is, Lebanon).
Ezekiel 17:3b-4 (NIV) 3 …Taking hold of the top of a cedar, 4 he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders.
On verses 3-4: The eagle takes hold of the top of a cedar, breaks off its topmost shoot, carries it off and plants it in a land of merchants and traders. This symbolizes how King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would take King Jehoichin of Judah, carry him off to Babylon and keep him there.
Ezekiel 17:5-6 (NIV) 5 “‘He took some of the seed of your land and put it in fertile soil. He planted it like a willow by abundant water, 6 and it sprouted and became a low, spreading vine. Its branches turned toward him, but its roots remained under it. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out leafy boughs.
On verses 5-6: This picture symbolizes how King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would take relatively good care of those remaining in Jerusalem, allowing them to live, grow and bear fruit in Jerusalem like a low, spreading vine (v5-6). Here God compares Jerusalem to a vine whose branches are “turned toward” the great eagle, a picture for how Jerusalem was to be submissive toward Nebuchadnezzar. As long as Jerusalem submitted to Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem would be safe and bear fruit (“produced branches and put out leafy boughs” – v6).
In Jeremiah 27, the prophet Jeremiah has a similar message for the people in Jerusalem. He tells them that God has temporarily given great power to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and that Jerusalem’s best option for the time being is to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar until the day that God saves and restores Jerusalem. As Jeremiah writes:
Jeremiah 27:8-11 (NIV) 8 “‘ “If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the LORD, until I destroy it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. 11 But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.”‘”
So Ezekiel’s message about how Jerusalem would be better off submitting to Babylon than resisting Babylon was very much aligned with the prophet Jeremiah’s message.
What can we learn from this? How do you know if God is speaking to you? When God is speaking to you, He will often use different godly leaders whom you respect to affirm the same or similar message.
Ezekiel 17:7-8 (NIV) 7 “‘But there was another great eagle with powerful wings and full plumage. The vine now sent out its roots toward him from the plot where it was planted and stretched out its branches to him for water. 8 It had been planted in good soil by abundant water so that it would produce branches, bear fruit and become a splendid vine.’
On verses 7-8: The other great eagle who appears here is Egypt. Not wanting to be ruled by the Babylonians, the people remaining in Jerusalem put their trust in Egypt “sending its roots toward” Egypt (v7), thinking that Egypt could save them from Babylonian rule. In so doing, Jerusalem would break its treaty with Babylon and ignore the godly advice of the prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah to submit to Babylon until the appointed time. The people of Jerusalem rebelled against Babylon and looked to Egypt for deliverance despite the fact that they “had been planted in good soil by abundant water” (v8) and were fruitful while under Babylonian rule.
Ezekiel 17:9-10 (NIV) 9 “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. 10 Even if it is transplanted, will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it–wither away in the plot where it grew?'”
On verses 9-10: Because Jerusalem ignored the advice God was giving through prophets like Ezekiel and Jeremiah to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, God says that Jerusalem would not thrive but be uprooted easily (v9). Egypt would not be able to save Jerusalem from the Babylonians. Indeed this would happen within a few years of Ezekiel giving this prophecy. After discovering that the people of Jerusalem were looking to Egypt to deliver them from Babylon, Babylon would crush Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
What can we learn from this? Have you ever been tempted to take a shortcut that you know God didn’t want you to take? Did you take that shortcut only to find that it was the long way around, that it didn’t get you where you wanted to go, and that you should have listened to God after all? For Jerusalem, that shortcut was Egypt. Jerusalem thought that Egypt was their shortcut out of Babylonian rule, even though God had warned them repeatedly that to rebel against Babylon would spell disaster for them (Jeremiah 27:8-11).
Is there a shortcut you are tempted to take, even though you know it is not what God wants you to do? Sometimes, because we do not want to wait for God to work things out His way, we will be tempted to look for shortcuts that are the opposite of what God wants us to do. We think, even though it is disobeying God, “the shortcut will get us where we want to be”. However, such shortcuts end up being long detours. They don’t get us ahead, but hold us back, keep us from God’s best for us, and cause us to suffer unnecessarily.
Heavenly Father, thank You for warning me today that a shortcut without You is never really a shortcut, but the long way around. May I be humble and wise to do things Your way, knowing that Your way and Your time are always best. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!