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F on exam paper August 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Ezekiel 17, 18, 19

Repercussions for Rebellion

In school we are taught academic lessons. If we learn the lessons well enough, we progress to the next level and are awarded. If we fail, we are held back. If we cause trouble, we are disciplined and perhaps taken out of school. A lifestyle of rebellion and not heeding instruction causes repercussions. In today's Bible reading, this is what King Zedekiah of the nation of Judah is about to discover.

The parable of the two eagles, branch, and vine in Ezekiel 17 illustrates what has happened and will happen to Judah and its kings. The first eagle is called a great eagle. It represents the powerful nation of Babylon. It snatches the topmost branch of the cedar tree. The cedar tree represents David's palace in Jerusalem (it was made of the cedars of Lebanon). The topmost branch represents the king and noblemen of Judah (v.12), which includes Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego (2Kings 24:11-16; Daniel 1:1-3). The eagle (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) snatches the branch (King Jehoiachin) and transplants it (him) in Babylon. He leaves its seeds to grow and prosper in the land of Israel, and it (the people of Judah) becomes a vassal nation, pledged by an oath to God to be faithful. Although the root of the vine (King Zedekiah) is weak and its nation is dependent on Babylon (a prosperous but low vine), it (he) will soon rebel against the protection of the eagle and extend its branches toward another powerful eagle (Egypt). Zedekiah will look for help and protection from Egypt but will be frustrated and hurt rather than helped. Because of Zedekiah's treachery, the vine (Judah) will be uprooted, stripped of its fruit, and wither away by an east wind (Babylon). Soon thereafter it will be burned. This will be the fate of King Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem– they will suffer famine and plague and finally be attacked and destroyed by Babylon.

Is there no hope for Judah? Yes. There is hope for anyone who in contrition turns to God from his sins (Ezekiel 18:30-32, more...). In the future God will give hope to the whole nation of Israel. The LORD Himself will be like an eagle and take a shoot from the topmost part of the cedar, and He will plant it in the land of Israel. Once again she will have peace and prosper as a nation. This shoot refers to Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:2), and at other times He is called a “Branch” (Jeremiah 23:5).

King Zedekiah has no hope. For breaking the treaty with Babylon and joining a rebellion with Egypt, his days are numbered. Unfortunately, he is going to bring the citizens of Jerusalem down with him. The Jewish exiles in Babylon are shaking their heads pitying them and quoting the popular proverb, “The fathers eat the sour grapes, but the children's teeth are set on edge,” (Ezekiel 18:2b; Jeremiah 31:29-39, NIV). In other words, they believe all these bad things are happening to Jerusalem because of the sins of their ancestors. God says this proverb is not true. Although He previously stated that the sins of the fathers can affect their children for three generations (Exodus 20:5; 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:9), it is not necessarily true in every case, for the judgment is upon those who hate God. It is the soul or person who sins who is directly responsible for them. An innocent person who acts with justice and righteousness will not suffer punishment from the Almighty. The punishment is upon those who do not and will not repent. This is Zedekiah and the people remaining in Jerusalem.

Ezekiel 19 is a funeral dirge, a lament already prepared for Zedekiah and his royal officials when Jerusalem falls. Will Zedekiah learn from it? In this dirge are two illustrations. The first is an illustration of a lioness (Israel) and her two cubs. One cub (King Jehoahaz) grew up to be a fierce lion, but when he was strong he was led with hooks (literally in his nose) into captivity in Egypt. Another cub (Jehoiachin) also grew up to be a fierce lion, but he was surrounded, trapped in a net, caged and brought to Babylon, never to return. If these two lion cubs could be captured and caged, what makes Zedekiah, a weak cub, think he can do better?

The second illustration in this funeral dirge is a mother (representing the nation of Judah) who is likened to a healthy vine in a vineyard, planted by the water. She was once fruitful and full of branches (kings), but now she is charred by fire, withered and ready to be blown away. She cannot produce more branches. Zedekiah will be the last king until the Messiah, Jesus Christ, comes. Will Zedekiah learn the lesson from the dirge? Unfortunately, no.

What about us? Will we learn the lessons God is teaching us or will we rebel and suffer repercussions like the Israelites? God has already been gracious and merciful. He challenges His people.

Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, O house of Israel [or Judah]? For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:31-32, NIV).

God loves us, too. We have the same challenge: Repent and Live!

Lessons to Live By

  • Be grateful for the grace God has given you and operate within it.
  • If you are rebellious against God and authorities, repent and live. God does not want to be against you.
  • You do not have to suffer repercussions, if you will learn life’s lessons and be obedient.
  • If you are innocent of wrongdoing, don’t believe the lies that you are destined to failure because of your family, or you are suffering for their sins. It is upon the wicked that God brings punishment, not the righteous. If you are behaving with wickedness, get right with Him and He will be merciful (more...). Continue to live in the fear of the LORD and walk in His ways, and you will receive His favor.

Today’s Bible Memory Verse

John 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (NIV)

End note: Insights on interpretation with these Scriptures are provided by The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp.1259-1263)

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