“…Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?” Ezekiel 17:15
Sometimes we get the idea that if things change, our promises are annulled. Maybe if something better comes along, our “old” covenants and commitments are no longer valid. If my feelings change, or a better situation comes, I’m not held to my word anymore. My feelings, my wants, my desires, my whatever is held in higher regard than my word, or what is that really called, my integrity.
But it’s not just about integrity here in Ezekiel today. I think it starts deeper. I think it goes to the roots and it begins at who we honor most. I think it goes back to the roots of who really is my authority and whether I really submit to Him or not. It goes back to what it really means to honor God. I’ll be the first to admit that honoring You, God, is not easy. Sometimes it means me making the most difficult decisions of my life. It could mean me choosing to do the thing that no one will understand. It could mean me holding on when I’d rather take the easy way out and let go. It could mean me choosing a right attitude in the midst of pain instead of snapping at people. It could mean me saying “No” when in my heart I want to say “Yes.” But what about today’s word n Ezekiel?
So Ezekiel is to talk for God to Israel again. Now, we know that God had chosen to send Nebuchadnezzar to conquer the land and rise up over it. He’s probably this first eagle with great wings and long pinions. And he takes the top of the cedar, the monarchy of Judah, and plants Zedekiah as king in Jeconiah’s place over Judah. So although Judah was under judgment, God’s appointed authority, Nebuchadnezzar had established a covenant to allow Zedekiah to reign in Judah under him and thus they would prosper under Nebuchadnezzar.
But what happened? Zedekiah would not honor his covenant with God’s appointed man for the time. He leaned toward the “eagle” of Egypt’s strength to find his own deliverance, his own way. But Egypt was not only not as strong, but not God’s way. If Zedekiah had remained under Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, which was under God’s authority, his kingdom would have had prosperity and born fruit. What God had planned for good, Zedekiah was choosing a different route that would lead to easy and irretrievable ruin instead.
The question posed is, “Shall it prosper?” Will any of our attempts to break covenant with the Lord and do things our own way prosper? Will any form of rebellion against God lead to fruitfulness? In truth, Nebuchadnezzar had weakened Judah by carrying off all it’s strength of people. It’s only strength could be found in her covenant with him. How can it prosper when we violate faith, a promise, vow, or allegiance? How can treachery profit? Webster calls this “a violation of faith or trust in friendship, in agency and office, in allegiance, in connubial engagements, and in the transactions of kings.” After all, the prophets tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was reigning by God’s right. “Render unto God what is God’s and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” right? If David knew how to submit under God’s appointed man, shouldn’t Zedekiah understand? And what about me? Do I know how to submit under God’s appointed authorities?
Zedekiah was trusting in the strength of Egypt instead of trusting in God. Zedekiah was missing the point that his rebellion was not only sin against Nebuchadnezzar as the vicegerent of God, but it was a sin against God Himself. Zedekiah was not the deliverer. God was going to bring a deliverer for Israel in His time and His way, the highest, most tender, and most slender branch of all and He would be planted forever. And this Branch (Jesus) that honors God in every way will God plant on the mountain heights of Israel, “that it may bear branches and produce fruit and become a noble cedar. And under it will dwell every kind of bird; in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest. And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17:23,24)
Speaking of trees, that brings me to Jesus’ own words, because it seems that this type of submission, this amount of trust, this kind of obedience and commitment to relationship and covenant has been God’s plan for us all along. Unfortunately, we blew it in the garden just as Zedekiah was blowing it here again. but this is what the kingdom of God is supposed to be like. “It’s like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” (Mark 4:31,32) Do you get the idea that this is God’s plan all along? That maybe this is what I’m to be surrendering to?
What if I’m not the one planting myself? Because how can a seed plant itself? How do I have anything, any strength, and knowledge, anything without God doing the planting and making something of me? Should I fight how He wants to plant me or where He plants me or how deep or how long or how hard it is? Should I fight who He plants around me? When was the last time I planted a garden and the tomatoes or the green peppers or the lettuce fought back or argued with me? Ridiculous, huh? But it’s not ridiculous for me to argue with God?
Did Zedekiah not realize that You “know the plans I have for you…plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”? (Jeremiah 29:11) Did he forget or did he knowingly choose his own way? Isn’t that what rebellion is? Is it knowing and choosing? What about me? Where has God placed me? Am I fighting against it? How am I handling my health circumstances? Am I angry at God and at people around me? What about all this waiting? Is God wrong? What about what’s going on with my parents or my spouse? Am I handling it my own way, so I’m in charge, or am I submitting to handling it God’s way?
When people look at me and my responses to life, do they know, I mean KNOW that God is LORD? Or am I just getting them to look at me? Am I bearing the fruit of submission and obedience to God like Jesus? Or am I bearing some foreign fruit? Am I a puffed up tree, high on myself and my feelings and my rights? Those are the trees God lays low. Or am I a tree that realizes its total dependency on God for everything I am and wherever I am in life? Or am I in between those two trees somewhere, still coming to grips with the reality that I am a tree at all? Am I full of my own strength and acting in it like the green tree, forgetting that the sap that is my life blood comes from the One who planted me and sustains me. Or am I dry in myself and in desperate need of His life source to flow through me. After all, if God can cause dry bones to live, certainly He can give life to a dry tree.
Lord, teach me to guard myself against me. Continually remind me that You are in control always, no matter the situation, and give me a heart to submit under those authorities You place over me like Jesus did, and Daniel, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, or even like Ezekiel. May I honor all those who You have given positions of authority, even mutual positions of authority, around me, that I may honor You. So let me draw so close to You that I think like You think more than I think like me so that I can act like You act more than I act like me.