Ezekiel 17-19
(Parable of the Eagle and the Cedar)
August 29th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set forth an allegory and tell it to the Israelites as a parable. 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. Taking hold of the top of a cedar, he broke off its topmost shoot and carried it away to a land of merchants, where he planted it in a city of traders."

- Ezekiel 17:1-4 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

These three chapters conclude the section of response to the optimism of the exiles. After comparing Jerusalem to a wayward daughter, the LORD told Ezekiel to use a parable to explain the current situation to the people of Israel.

In this parable an eagle carries away the top of a cedar (representing King Jehoiachin, descendent of David, who was taken into exile). The eagle planted a separate seed in the soil of Israel (Zedekiah - the last king before the final siege). This tree reached out towards another eagle (Egypt), thereby weakening itself and was caught in the LORD’s trap.

Then the LORD said that he “ ‘will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it’ (17:22 - NIV),” referring to his plans for a descendent of David to reign again (but not Jehoiachin).

In chapter 18, Ezekiel explains that the word of the LORD had come to him regarding the distinction between righteous and non-righteous people. He lists the characteristics that distinguishes one from the other, and identifies the consequences for each (one lives and the other does not). The person who is righteous by God's law

       doesn’t eat at the pagan shrines,
       doesn’t worship the idols so popular in Israel,
       doesn’t seduce a neighbor’s spouse,
       doesn’t indulge in casual sex,
       doesn’t bully anyone,
       doesn’t pile up bad debts,
       doesn’t steal,
       doesn’t refuse food to the hungry,
       doesn’t refuse clothing to the ill-clad,
       doesn’t exploit the poor,
       doesn’t live by impulse and greed,
       doesn’t treat one person better than another,
    But lives by my statutes and faithfully
       honors and obeys my laws.
    This person who lives upright and well
       shall live a full and true life.
         Decree of God, the Master.

    - Ezekiel 18:5-9 (paraphrased from the NIV)

The LORD also explained that a son is not responsible for his father’s sins, but would be judged on his own behavior. In addition, a sinner can repent and live and a righteous man can stray and not live. Some people of Israel had said these rules were unjust but the LORD insisted it is just, as he “ ‘takes no pleasure in the death of anyone’ (18:32 - NIV).”

Chapter 19 is a poem titled "Lament for Israel's Princes." It describes the end of times for the princes of Jerusalem.

Reflection and Application

The LORD had a plan for restoration and succession. Even though Jehoiachin was evil, the LORD would use one of his descendents to lead the people again in the future, fulfilling his commitment regarding the family and house of David.

The LORD used many analogies and parables because we need reminders and because different people relate to different illustrations. In recent chapters, he used the analogy of a person, cedar trees, bad vines, and good vines. The people who heard all this could not claim that they did not know what was going to happen.

We too should make sure that we hear and understand what the LORD is saying to us. He can intervene in the affairs of the world at any time, put people in positions that serve him, use one group or person to teach a lesson to others, and always offers the opportunity to repent.

The current events in our world reflect our free will, as well as the broken state of our natural world and our evil intentions, but the mighty LORD intervenes according to his will. If we attune ourselves to him we will be better able to recognize the events that he has orchestrated in our lives and in the course of the world.

A blog entry in "The Bountiful Reaper" reminds us that "It is true that the life choices of one generation may influence the life choices of another generation, but ultimately each person is responsible for themselves before God (1)." God emphasizes this point in Ezekiel 18, and the blog author re-iterates the point by using the children of the Exodus as an illustration:

    Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, yet they still had their hearts in Egypt and made false god, the golden calf, while Moses was still on Sinai with God! God prevented that generation from entering the Promised Land because of their sin, despite all he had done for them!

    The next generation was born just before the Exodus or in the wilderness. The male children were not even circumcised, so great was the lack or concern for the things of God shown by Moses’ generation. Yet it was this generation that entered the Promised Land and served God until all those who had seen God working had died! The generation after them turned away from God once again.

    If God had judged the following generation by the acts of the previous one then the story might have been very different!

    - Excerpted from "Ezekiel 18 – Individual Responsibility," by the Bountiful Reaper (2)

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever seen an eagle in person? What was the situation?
    2. How is God intervening in your life today?
    3. How can we encourage others to be aware and share their experiences with God’s intervention?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you planted us with a plan to prosper and grow. Help us to seek your light.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Arborists and Landscapers

    (1) "Ezekiel 18 – Individual Responsibility," on the Bountiful Reaper web site thebountifulreaper.wordpress.com
    (2) IBID

    Looking Ahead
    Tomorrow's reading: Ezekiel 20-23 (History of Corrupt Leadership 101)

    Comments and Questions
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