By Russ Ramsey
Will it thrive?
That question comes up in today’s text from Ezekiel, and it helps us make sense of the parable told in chapter 17. It also helps us wrestle with the passage’s deeper question: What does it mean to respond to the sovereignty of God in a tough situation?
First, here’s a quick overview of the parable. There are two eagles—a great eagle and a lesser eagle. The great eagle is Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar. The twig he carries off, and plants in his city of merchants is the king of Judah, Jehoiachin. The seed is Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah. The twig takes root and grows. Then a lesser eagle, Egypt, comes along and diverts the twig’s growth his way. But the conditions into which he directs its growth are harsh and unsustainable. This lesser eagle comes along because Zedekiah makes a pact with the king of Egypt, Hophra. But the Lord warns Judah that hoping in Egypt to deliver them from their plight in Babylon will only lead to greater ruin.
Judah’s exile was not merely the result of a Babylonian invasion. The Lord tells His people this is His disciplining hand against them. If they want to try to flee from their oppression, there is only one proper place to flee to—God Himself. Zedekiah wanted to flee to Egypt, but that would only hurt them more.
Where is God disciplining you right now? Where are you struggling, looking for some sort of reprieve? Will you thrive if, in seeking to find that reprieve, you turn to a more difficult solution? Or a less godly one?
This passage takes a turn at the end when the Lord looks past their current political reality into a future hope. We read it in verse 22: “‘This is what the Lord God says: I will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and plant it. I will pluck a tender sprig from its topmost shoots, and I will plant it on a high towering mountain.” The Lord says the time will come when He Himself will take a twig from the top of the cedar—Judah—and will transplant it Himself. And He will tend to it and cause it to grow and thrive.
Judah wanted to try to make a tough situation better by turning to another broken savior. But that would not help. Their time in Babylon was due to God’s disciplining hand, which is a loving hand. To flee Babylon for Egypt was not to try to flee Babylon but to flee from God Himself. Judah’s only real route out of Babylon did not lead to Egypt but to restoration with God. And that’s what God promises to do. That’s the point of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.
If you run from one bad situation to another, will you thrive? No.
Flee to God.