Imagine making a deal with someone. Imagine making an oath in God’s name over it. What do you think would happen if you broke that oath? What do you think the other person will do? How do you think God will react? What impact do you think it will have on others that were depending on you and following after you? What if you happen to be one of the followers? What if you are watching what it taking place? What if you hear what the consequences are going to be? Will you lose hope? Where will you turn? What will you do?
With God, there is always hope! He has hope, mercy, grace, and love to the point He provides second chances and provides opportunities for people to turn back to Him. Even when we consider what it says in the book of Revelation, it speaks to how not everyone is impact when each of the curses comes on the earth, yet there are still people who don’t turn back, won’t turn back, and will continue to rebel against God!
In today’s reading, it starts with just such a situation where God sends Ezekiel to share a parable with the people so that they can hear the story as well as the interpretation and impact of the bad choices and then closes with a message of hope. Let’s get started and see how this final set of readings will close out this loop of getting through the Bible.
The Parable of the Eagles and the Vine1The Lord spoke to me. 2“Mortal man,” he said, “tell the Israelites a parable 3to let them know what I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them: There was a giant eagle with beautiful feathers and huge wings, spread wide. He flew to the Lebanon Mountains and broke off the top of a cedar tree, 4which he carried to a land of commerce and placed in a city of merchants. 5Then he took a young plant from the land of Israel and planted it in a fertile field, where there was always water to make it grow. 6The plant sprouted and became a low, wide-spreading grapevine. The branches grew upward toward the eagle, and the roots grew deep. The vine was covered with branches and leaves.7“There was another giant eagle with huge wings and thick plumage. And now the vine sent its roots toward him and turned its leaves toward him, in the hope that he would give it more water than there was in the garden where it was growing. 8But the vine had already been planted in a fertile, well-watered field so that it could grow leaves and bear grapes and be a magnificent vine.9“So I, the Sovereign Lord, ask: Will this vine live and grow? Won’t the first eagle pull it up by its roots, pull off the grapes, and break off the branches and let them wither? It will not take much strength or a mighty nation to pull it up. 10Yes, it is planted, but will it live and grow? Won’t it wither when the east wind strikes it? Won’t it wither there where it is growing?”
The Parable Is Explained11The Lord said to me, 12 “Ask these rebels if they know what the parable means. Tell them that the king of Babylonia came to Jerusalem and took the king and his officials back with him to Babylonia. 13He took one of the king’s family, made a treaty with him, and made him swear to be loyal. He took important men as hostages 14to keep the nation from rising again and to make sure that the treaty would be kept. 15But the king of Judah rebelled and sent agents to Egypt to get horses and a large army. Will he succeed? Can he get away with that? He cannot break the treaty and go unpunished!16“As surely as I am the living God,” says the Sovereign Lord, “this king will die in Babylonia because he broke his oath and the treaty he had made with the king of Babylonia, who put him on the throne. 17Even the powerful army of the king of Egypt will not be able to help him fight when the Babylonians build earthworks and dig trenches in order to kill many people. 18He broke his oath and the treaty he had made. He did all these things, and now he will not escape.”19The Sovereign Lord says, “As surely as I am the living God, I will punish him for breaking the treaty which he swore in my name to keep. 20I will spread out a hunter’s net and catch him in it. I will take him to Babylonia and punish him there, because he was unfaithful to me. 21His best soldiers will be killed in battle, and the survivors will be scattered in every direction. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken.”
God’s Promise of Hope22This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “I will take the top of a tall cedar and break off a tender sprout; I will plant it on a high mountain, 23on Israel’s highest mountain. It will grow branches and bear seed and become a magnificent cedar. Birds of every kind will live there and find shelter in its shade. 24All the trees in the land will know that I am the Lord. I cut down the tall trees and make small trees grow tall. I wither up the green trees and make the dry trees become green. I, the Lord, have spoken. I will do what I have said I would do.”–from Ezekiel 17
Individual Responsibility1The Lord spoke to me 2 and said, “What is this proverb people keep repeating in the land of Israel? ‘The parents ate the sour grapes, But the children got the sour taste.’3“As surely as I am the living God,” says the Sovereign Lord, “you will not repeat this proverb in Israel any more. 4The life of every person belongs to me, the life of the parent as well as that of the child. The person who sins is the one who will die.5“Suppose there is a truly good man, righteous and honest. 6He doesn’t worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn’t seduce another man’s wife or have intercourse with a woman during her period. 7He doesn’t cheat or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security; he feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 8He doesn’t lend money for profit. He refuses to do evil and gives an honest decision in any dispute. 9 Such a man obeys my commands and carefully keeps my laws. He is righteous, and he will live,” says the Sovereign Lord.10“Then suppose this man has a son who robs and kills, who does any of these things 11that the father never did. He eats sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines and seduces other men’s wives. 12He cheats the poor, he robs, he keeps what a borrower gives him as security. He goes to pagan shrines, worships disgusting idols, 13and lends money for profit. Will he live? No, he will not. He has done all these disgusting things, and so he will die. He will be to blame for his own death.14“Now suppose this second man has a son. He sees all the sins his father practiced, but does not follow his example. 15He doesn’t worship the idols of the Israelites or eat the sacrifices offered at forbidden shrines. He doesn’t seduce another man’s wife 16or oppress anyone or rob anyone. He returns what a borrower gives him as security. He feeds the hungry and gives clothing to the naked. 17He refuses to do evil and doesn’t lend money for profit. He keeps my laws and obeys my commands. He will not die because of his father’s sins, but he will certainly live. 18His father, on the other hand, cheated and robbed and always did evil to everyone. And so he died because of the sins he himself had committed.19“But you ask, ‘Why shouldn’t the son suffer because of his father’s sins?’ The answer is that the son did what was right and good. He kept my laws and followed them carefully, and so he will certainly live. 20 It is the one who sins who will die. A son is not to suffer because of his father’s sins, nor a father because of the sins of his son. Good people will be rewarded for doing good, and evil people will suffer for the evil they do.21“If someone evil stops sinning and keeps my laws, if he does what is right and good, he will not die; he will certainly live. 22All his sins will be forgiven, and he will live, because he did what is right. 23Do you think I enjoy seeing evil people die?” asks the Sovereign Lord. “No, I would rather see them repent and live.24“But if a righteous person stops doing good and starts doing all the evil, disgusting things that evil people do, will he go on living? No! None of the good he did will be remembered. He will die because of his unfaithfulness and his sins.25“But you say, ‘What the Lord does isn’t right.’ Listen to me, you Israelites. Do you think my way of doing things isn’t right? It is your way that isn’t right. 26When a righteous person stops doing good and starts doing evil and then dies, he dies because of the evil he has done. 27When someone evil stops sinning and does what is right and good, he saves his life. 28He realizes what he is doing and stops sinning, so he will certainly not die, but go on living. 29And you Israelites say, ‘What the Lord does isn’t right.’ You think my way isn’t right, do you? It is your way that isn’t right.30“Now I, the Sovereign Lord, am telling you Israelites that I will judge each of you by what you have done. Turn away from all the evil you are doing, and don’t let your sin destroy you. 31Give up all the evil you have been doing, and get yourselves new minds and hearts. Why do you Israelites want to die? 32 I do not want anyone to die,” says the Sovereign Lord. “Turn away from your sins and live.”–from Ezekiel 18
A Song of Sorrow1The Lord told me to sing this song of sorrow for two princes of Israel: 2What a lioness your mother was! She raised her cubs among the fierce male lions. 3She raised a cub and taught him to hunt; he learned to eat people. 4The nations heard about him and trapped him in a pit. With hooks they dragged him off to Egypt. 5She waited until she saw all hope was gone. Then she raised another of her cubs, and he grew into a fierce lion. 6When he was full-grown, he prowled with the other lions. He too learned to hunt and eat people. 7He wrecked forts, he ruined towns. The people of the land were terrified every time he roared. 8The nations gathered to fight him; people came from everywhere. They spread their hunting nets and caught him in their trap. 9They put him in a cage and took him to the king of Babylonia. They kept him under guard, so that his roar would never be heard again on the hills of Israel. 10Your mother was like a grapevine planted near a stream. Because there was plenty of water, the vine was covered with leaves and fruit. 11Its branches were strong and grew to be royal scepters. The vine grew tall enough to reach the clouds; everyone saw how leafy and tall it was. 12But angry hands pulled it up by the roots and threw it to the ground. The east wind dried up its fruit. Its branches were broken off; they dried up and were burned. 13Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and waterless land. 14The stem of the vine caught fire; fire burned up its branches and fruit. The branches will never again be strong, will never be royal scepters. This is a song of sorrow; it has been sung again and again.–from Ezekiel 19
The Lord’s Will and Human Defiance1It was the tenth day of the fifth month of the seventh year of our exile. Some of the leaders of the Israelite community came to consult me about the Lord’s will, and they sat down in front of me. 2Then the Lord spoke to me. 3“Mortal man,” he said, “speak to these leaders and tell them that the Sovereign Lord is saying: You have come to ask my will, have you? As surely as I am the living God, I will not let you ask me anything. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken.4“Are you ready to pass sentence on them, mortal man? Then do so. Remind them of the disgusting things their ancestors did. 5 Tell them what I am saying. When I chose Israel, I made them a promise. I revealed myself to them in Egypt and told them: I am the Lord your God. 6It was then that I promised to take them out of Egypt and lead them to a land I had chosen for them, a rich and fertile land, the finest land of all. 7I told them to throw away the disgusting idols they loved and not to make themselves unclean with the false gods of Egypt, because I am the Lord their God. 8But they defied me and refused to listen. They did not throw away their disgusting idols or give up the Egyptian gods. I was ready to let them feel the full force of my anger there in Egypt. 9But I did not, since that would have brought dishonor to my name, for in the presence of the people among whom they were living I had announced to Israel that I was going to lead them out of Egypt.10“And so I led them out of Egypt into the desert. 11 I gave them my commands and taught them my laws, which bring life to anyone who obeys them. 12 I made the keeping of the Sabbath a sign of the agreement between us, to remind them that I, the Lord, make them holy. 13But even in the desert they defied me. They broke my laws and rejected my commands, which bring life to anyone who obeys them. They completely profaned the Sabbath. I was ready to let them feel the force of my anger there in the desert and to destroy them. 14But I did not, since that would have brought dishonor to my name among the nations which had seen me lead Israel out of Egypt. 15 So I made a vow in the desert that I would not take them to the land I had given them, a rich and fertile land, the finest land of all. 16I made the vow because they had rejected my commands, broken my laws, and profaned the Sabbath—they preferred to worship their idols.17“But then I took pity on them. I decided not to kill them there in the desert. 18Instead, I warned the young people among them: Do not keep the laws your ancestors made; do not follow their customs or defile yourselves with their idols. 19I am the Lord your God. Obey my laws and my commands. 20Make the Sabbath a holy day, so that it will be a sign of the covenant we made, and will remind you that I am the Lord your God.21“But that generation also defied me. They broke my laws and did not keep my commands, which bring life to anyone who obeys them. They profaned the Sabbath. I was ready to let them feel the force of my anger there in the desert and to kill them all. 22But I did not, since that would have brought dishonor to my name among the nations which had seen me bring Israel out of Egypt. 23 So I made another vow in the desert. I vowed that I would scatter them all over the world. 24I did this because they had rejected my commands, broken my laws, profaned the Sabbath, and worshiped the same idols their ancestors had served.25“Then I gave them laws that are not good and commands that do not bring life. 26I let them defile themselves with their own offerings, and I let them sacrifice their first-born sons. This was to punish them and show them that I am the Lord.27“Now then, mortal man, tell the Israelites what I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to them. This is another way their ancestors insulted me by their unfaithfulness. 28I brought them to the land I had promised to give them. When they saw the high hills and green trees, they offered sacrifices at all of them. They made me angry by the sacrifices they burned and by the wine they brought as offerings. 29I asked them: What are these high places where you go? So they have been called ‘High Places’ ever since. 30Now tell the Israelites what I am saying: Why must you commit the same sins your ancestors did and go running after their idols? 31Even today you offer the same gifts and defile yourselves with the same idols by sacrificing your children to them in the fire. And then you Israelites still come to ask what my will is! As surely as I, the Sovereign Lord, am the living God, I will not let you ask me anything. 32You have made up your minds that you want to be like the other nations, like the people who live in other countries and worship trees and rocks. But that will never be.
God Punishes and Forgives33“As surely as I, the Sovereign Lord, am the living God, I warn you that in my anger I will rule over you with a strong hand, with all my power. 34I will show you my power and my anger when I gather you together and bring you back from all the countries where you have been scattered. 35I will bring you into the ‘Desert of the Nations,’ and there I will condemn you to your face. 36I will now condemn you just as I condemned your ancestors in the Sinai Desert,” says the Sovereign Lord.37“I will take firm control of you and make you obey my covenant. 38I will take away from among you those who are rebellious and sinful. I will take them out of the lands where they are living now, but I will not let them return to the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”39The Sovereign Lord says, “And now, all you Israelites, suit yourselves! Go on and serve your idols! But I warn you that after this you will have to obey me and stop dishonoring my holy name by offering gifts to your idols. 40There in the land, on my holy mountain, the high mountain of Israel, all you people of Israel will worship me. I will be pleased with you and will expect you to bring me your sacrifices, your best offerings, and your holy gifts. 41After I bring you out of the countries where you have been scattered and gather you together, I will accept the sacrifices that you burn, and the nations will see that I am holy. 42When I bring you back to Israel, the land that I promised I would give to your ancestors, then you will know that I am the Lord. 43Then you will remember all the disgraceful things you did and how you defiled yourselves. You will be disgusted with yourselves because of all the evil things you did. 44When I act to protect my honor, you Israelites will know that I am the Lord, because I do not deal with you as your wicked, evil actions deserve.” The Sovereign Lord has spoken.
Fire in the South45The Lord spoke to me. 46“Mortal man,” he said, “look toward the south. Speak against the south and prophesy against the forest of the south. 47Tell the southern forest to hear what the Sovereign Lord is saying: Look! I am starting a fire, and it will burn up every tree in you, whether green or dry. Nothing will be able to put it out. It will spread from south to north, and everyone will feel the heat of the flames. 48They will all see that I, the Lord, set it on fire and that no one can put it out.”49But I protested, “Sovereign Lord, don’t make me do it! Everyone is already complaining that I always speak in riddles.”–from Ezekiel 20
The Lord’s Sword1The Lord spoke to me. 2“Mortal man,” he said, “denounce Jerusalem. Denounce the places where people worship. Warn the land of Israel 3that I, the Lord, am saying: I am your enemy. I will draw my sword and kill all of you, good and evil alike. 4I will use my sword against everyone from south to north. 5Everyone will know that I, the Lord, have drawn my sword and that I will not put it away.6“Mortal man, groan as if your heart is breaking with despair. Groan in sorrow where everyone can watch you. 7When they ask you why you are groaning, tell them it is because of the news that is coming. When it comes, their hearts will be filled with fear, their hands will hang limp, their courage will fail, and their knees will tremble. The time has come; it is here.” The Sovereign Lord has spoken.8The Lord said to me, 9“Mortal man, prophesy. Tell the people what I, the Lord, am saying: A sword, a sword is sharpened and polished. 10It is sharpened to kill, polished to flash like lightning. There can be no rejoicing, for my people have disregarded every warning and unishment. 11The sword is being polished, to make it ready for use. It is sharpened and polished, to be put in the hands of a killer. 12Howl in grief, mortal man; this sword is meant for my people and for all the leaders of Israel. They are going to be killed with all the rest of my people. Beat your breast in despair! 13I am testing my people, and if they refuse to repent, all these things will happen to them.14“Now, mortal man, prophesy. Clap your hands, and the sword will strike again and again. It is a sword that kills, a sword that terrifies and slaughters. 15It makes my people lose courage and stumble. I am threatening their city with a sword that flashes like lightning and is ready to kill. 16Cut to the right and the left, you sharp sword! Cut wherever you turn. 17I also will clap my hands, and my anger will be over. I, the Lord, have spoken.”
The Sword of the King of Babylonia18The Lord spoke to me. 19“Mortal man,” he said, “mark out two roads by which the king of Babylonia can come with his sword. Both of them are to start in the same country. Put up a signpost where the roads fork. 20One will show the king the way to the Ammonite city of Rabbah, and the other the way to Judah, to the fortified city, Jerusalem. 21The king of Babylonia stands by the signpost at the fork of the road. To discover which way to go, he shakes the arrows; he consults his idols; he examines the liver of a sacrificed animal. 22Now! His right hand holds the arrow marked ‘Jerusalem’! It tells him to go and set up battering rams, to shout the battle cry, to place battering rams against the gates, to throw up earthworks, and to dig trenches. 23The people of Jerusalem won’t believe this because of the treaties they have made. But this prediction is to remind them of their sins and to warn them that they will be captured. 24This then is what I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying: Your sins are exposed. Everyone knows how guilty you are. You show your sins in your every action. You stand condemned, and I will hand you over to your enemies.25“You wicked, unholy ruler of Israel, your day, the day of your final punishment, is coming. 26I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken. Take off your crown and your turban. Nothing will be the same again. Raise the poor to power! Bring down those who are ruling! 27Ruin, ruin! Yes, I will make the city a ruin. But this will not happen until the one comes whom I have chosen to punish the city. To him I will give it.
A Sword and the Ammonites28 “Mortal man, prophesy. Announce what I, the Sovereign Lord, am saying to the Ammonites, who are insulting Israel. Say to them: ‘A sword is ready to destroy; It is polished to kill, to flash like lightning. 29The visions that you see are false, and the predictions you make are lies. You are wicked and evil, and your day is coming, the day of your final punishment. The sword is going to fall on your necks.30“‘Put up the sword! I will judge you in the place where you were created, in the land where you were born. 31You will feel my anger when I turn it loose on you like a blazing fire. And I will hand you over to brutal men, experts at destruction. 32You will be destroyed by fire. Your blood will be shed in your own country, and no one will remember you any more.’” The Lord has spoken.–from Ezekiel 21