August 17 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: 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. This is what King Zedekiah of Judah was about to discover.

The parables of the two eagles, the branch, and the vine in Ezekiel 17 illustrate what happened and would happen to Israel and its kings. The first eagle was a great eagle. It represented the powerful nation of Babylon. It took the topmost branch of the cedar tree. The cedar tree represented David's palace in Jerusalem (it was made of the cedars of Lebanon). The topmost branch represented the king and noblemen of Judah (v.12), which included Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Mechach, and Abednego (2Kings 24:11-16; Daniel 1:1-3). The eagle (Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon) took the branch (King Jehoiachin) and transplanted it in Babylon. He left its seeds to grow and prosper in the land of Israel as it became a vassal nation, pledged by an oath to God to be faithful. Though the root of the vine (King Zedekiah) was weak and its nation dependent on Babylon (a prosperous but low vine), it (he) would soon rebel against the protection of the eagle and extend its branches toward another powerful eagle (Egypt). Zedekiah would look for help and protection from Egypt but be frustrated and hurt rather than helped. The vine would be uprooted, stripped of its fruit, and wither away by an east wind. Later it would be burned. This would be the fate of King Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem; they would suffer famine and plague and finally be attacked and destroyed. Babylon was the nation from the east who would soon destroy her.

Was there then no hope for Judah? Yes, there was hope. There is hope for anyone who repents (Ezekiel 18:30-32, more...). In the future God will give hope to the whole nation of Israel. God 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).

Zedekiah, the king of Judah, did not have much hope. For breaking the treaty with Babylon and joining a rebellion with Egypt, his days were numbered. Unfortunately, he was going to bring Jerusalem down with him. The Jewish exiles in Babylon were 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 believed all these bad things were happening to Jerusalem because of the sins of their ancestors. God says this saying is not true. Although he had previously said that the sins of the fathers could affect their children for three generations (Exodus 20:5; 34:6-7; Deuteronomy 5:9), it does not mean that it is necessarily true in every case, for the judgment was upon those who hated God. It is the soul or person that sins who is directly responsible for his sins. An innocent person who acts with justice and righteousness need not suffer punishment from the Almighty. The punishment is upon those who do not and will not repent. This was 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. Would Zedekiah possibly 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 made Zedekiah, a weak cub, think he could 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 was charred by fire, withered and ready to be blown away. She could produce no more branches. Zedekiah would be the last king until the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come. Would 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? God has already been gracious and merciful to us. God says,

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).

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 were provided by The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the O.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp.1259-1263)

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