Ezekiel 17:11-14 (NIV) 11 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Say to this rebellious house, ‘Do you not know what these things mean?’ Say to them: ‘The king of Babylon went to Jerusalem and carried off her king and her nobles, bringing them back with him to Babylon. 13 Then he took a member of the royal family and made a treaty with him, putting him under oath. He also carried away the leading men of the land, 14 so that the kingdom would be brought low, unable to rise again, surviving only by keeping his treaty.
On verses 11-14: After capturing King Jehoichin of Judah and taking him to Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would appoint Zedekiah, Jehoichin’s uncle (“a member of the royal family” – v13), to stay in Jerusalem and to take Jehoichin’s place as ruler in Judah. Nebuchadnezzar would place Zedekiah under oath and make him sign a treaty promising that he would cooperate with Nebuchadnezzar’s policies. At the same time, to make sure that Jerusalem would not rise up and become a strong city, Nebuchadnezzar “carried away the leading men of the land so that the kingdom would be brought long, unable to rise” (v13-14) and would be dependent on keeping this treaty.
What can we learn from this? Everything rises and falls with leadership. Nebuchadnezzar understood this. Thus he hollowed out Jerusalem of its leaders. If you want to keep a city from rising up, keep leaders from rising up in that city.
Ezekiel 17:15-21 (NIV) 15 But the king rebelled against him by sending his envoys to Egypt to get horses and a large army. Will he succeed? Will he who does such things escape? Will he break the treaty and yet escape? 16 “‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, he shall die in Babylon, in the land of the king who put him on the throne, whose oath he despised and whose treaty he broke. 17 Pharaoh with his mighty army and great horde will be of no help to him in war, when ramps are built and siege works erected to destroy many lives. 18 He despised the oath by breaking the covenant. Because he had given his hand in pledge and yet did all these things, he shall not escape. 19 “‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: As surely as I live, I will bring down on his head my oath that he despised and my covenant that he broke. 20 I will spread my net for him, and he will be caught in my snare. I will bring him to Babylon and execute judgment upon him there because he was unfaithful to me. 21 All his fleeing troops will fall by the sword, and the survivors will be scattered to the winds. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken.
On verses 15-21: Zedekiah would go against his word and rebel against King Nebuchadnezzar, aligning himself with Egypt in the hope that Egypt would deliver him from Nebuchadnezzar’s control. However, Zedekiah’s plan would not be successful. Nebuchadnezzar would crush Zedekiah’s rebellion, execute Zedekiah’s children in front of him, put out his eyes, and keep him as a prisoner till his death (see 2 Kings 25:1-7).
It is important to note that when Zedekiah rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, Zedekiah was not only breaking his own word given to King Nebuchadnezzar, but even more Zedekiah was ignoring the word given to him from the Lord. The Lord had repeatedly warned Zedekiah and all of Jerusalem through prophets like Jeremiah to submit and not to resist King Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 27:8-11). He warned them that if they refuse to submit to King Nebuchadnezzar, they would be uprooted from their land, and this is exactly what would happen in 586 B.C.
What can we learn from this?
Keep your word and fulfill your promises, even when it hurts. God is not pleased when we break our promises and fail to keep our word. When we do not take our own word seriously, we break trust with people, we lose credibility, and we end up suffering in the end.
When we ignore God’s Word, we do so to our own detriment. God gives us His Word not to increase our suffering but to minimize it. So don’t ignore what God says.
Ezekiel 17:22-23 (NIV) 22 “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.
On verses 22-23: The two great eagles described earlier in this chapter – Babylon and Egypt – were not able to give Jerusalem the security that Jerusalem longed for. However, like the greatest eagle of all, here God promises to “take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it” (v22) “on the mountain heights of Israel” (v23).
In other words, here God promises to pick a leader of His own and install him as the leader of Israel. This leader will be exceedingly fruitful and successful (“it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar” (v23), such that birds can nest and find shelter in him).
Who is this shoot that will one day become a splendid cedar? It is the Messiah, a king that God would one day raise up to lead, protect, and provide for His people. This Messiah of course would appear, centuries later, in the form of Jesus Christ.
Ezekiel 17:24 (NIV) 24 All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. “‘I the LORDhave spoken, and I will do it.'”
On verse 24: There is no one who compares to the Lord. More than Nebuchadnezzar, more than Egypt, God is sovereign. He alone decides who will have power and who will not (“I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall” – v24).
Heavenly Father, You are alone are sovereign and powerful. It is You who chooses who will be exalted and who will be humbled. I worship You for being the One true sovereign and powerful One. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!