Do you look around your life or around the world and wonder if things are going so badly, that there is no hope for a brighter tomorrow? If you feel something like that, you’re not alone. Many people experience the encroaching darkness in our lives, and we wonder. I wonder. Am I making a difference in the world? Will my kids make good choices? Will I be financially secure in the years to come? Am I wasting too much time on unimportant things? We can speculate about all sorts of concerns, and whether or not we’re going to make it through. What can be so difficult, though, is when hope erodes. There is an ancient parable that reminds us that there is still hope!
The parable of the Eagles and the Vine that we have been studying in Ezekiel 17 has so far been been telling the story of recent history in Jerusalem, and that recent history has pretty much been bad news. But the parable is not done. God has more to say, and to many, what God says in part 2 of the parable might not sense to you, when you consider how his people had ripped up the covenant and turned their backs on God. Look at verses Ezekiel 17, verses 22-24, the surprise ending to the parable.
God says he will do what first eagle did, except he will do it better. What did the first eagle do? Read about it here. How will God do it better? Here’s how: When God takes the top of the cedar tree, he will not carry it far away to another land like first eagle did. Instead, God will take that shoot and plant it in Israel where it will grow, produce fruit and flourish.
Ezekiel 17 doesn’t include an explanation of this part 2 of the parable, like it did for the first part of the parable. But because we know the interpretation of the first part, which we studied here, we can now understand the meaning of the second part: God will plant a new king in Israel. The land will be healed and fruitful under the leadership of that new king. He doesn’t say how, and he doesn’t say when this will happen. But we know how, and we know when. We do? We do! This is a messianic prophecy, and God is talking about Jesus!
Therefore, part 2 of the parable is meant to give hope to the people listening to Ezekiel. They are a small group of Jews living in exile in Babylon, and they are hearing God’s prophet talk about the destruction of their beloved home city. This is bad, bad news for them. They have heard Ezekiel share this news repeatedly. Think about what must it have been like to hear such terrible news about the future? How do you feel during those periods of life when its one shock of bad news right after the other?
In the midst of so much bad news, God’s desire is that the small group of Jews hear his heart, and that they would not be unfaithful like the people in Jerusalem. This parable is an opportunity for them to evaluate their lives so that they might be faithful and have fruitful lives.
Notice what God says in the end in verse 24. In this we see the hope-filled upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God. The tall he brings low, and the low he makes tall. That which is green he dries up, and that which is dry he makes flourish. God gives us a picture of amazing hope for his people. These are people who are exiled in Babylon, far from home. These are people who have heard yet again that their homeland is about to be destroyed. These are people that seem to have no hope. God says there is still hope.
When it seems like our life is dead, dry, or not flourishing, remember that God is the one who brings dead things to life. Maybe you carry the false names that people have called you. Maybe you believe negative things about yourself, often because others have declared those about you. Maybe you are feeling loss of hope at your job, or maybe you lost your job. Maybe you have financial difficulty. Perhaps you struggle with anxiety, with relationships, with parenting, or with school. It is all real and oftentimes very difficult. It might even be that your life is like Israel, like the Jews in Ezekiel’s day who were disobedient and rebellious towards God. Maybe your relationship with God feels distant or dead. Maybe it could be said of you what God said about Israel, “You are unfaithful.”
Know this. The parable in Ezekiel 17 reminds us that the end of your story has not been written. Sure, just like Israel, you might be facing consequences of your decisions. But that is not the end of the story, because in God’s upside-down Kingdom he makes the dead come alive and flourish. There is hope in the Lord!
Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash