Ezekiel — Lesson 11
Ezekiel 17 & 18
1. The Parables of the Eagles. Chapter 17.
1. The parable of the eagles and the vine/willow. 17:1-10.
1. The great eagle and the cedar. 17:1-4.
1. Why a riddle? (The historical background for this riddle is found in 2 Kings 24:6-20, 2 Chron. 36:8-16, and Jeremiah 37; 52:1-7.)
1. Riddles can sometimes convict the heart even before it realizes what has happened, e.g., David and Nathan. 2 Samuel 12.
2. Riddles can make the truth more vivid, making the truth easier to grasp and remember.
2. The Babylonian eagle came to Lebanon (Israel, Jer. 22:23); the cedar represents all that was left of Israel -- Judah.
3. The tallest part of the cedar is the royal house, from which the eagle cropped the topmost young twig (Jehoiachin) and carried it into the land of traffic (Babylon).
2. The great eagle and the willow tree. 17:5-6.
1. The eagle then took the seed of the land (Zedekiah, one of the royal family, v. 13) and planted it in a fruitful soil beside many waters. (Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah as king and placed him in conditions conducive to his prospering.
2. Though set as a willow tree (bowing, not regal as a cedar), it became a vine that spread under the eagle that planted it; it was to act gratefully toward the kingdom that gave it sustenance; it was dependant upon and flourished under Nebuchadnezzar.
3. The second eagle and the conniving vine. 17:7-8.
1. The second eagle appeared (Egypt under Hophra); though not as glorious as the first eagle, the vine turned toward the second eagle. (Read Jeremiah 21, 37, 39, and 52 for background to this section.)
2. Verse 8 makes it clear that the conduct of Zedekiah was wholly unnecessary; he had been treated well by Babylon and was in great shape, yet he appealed to Egypt.
4. The threat of uprooting. 17:9-10.
1. Like many today, the Jews were smarter than God.
2. Since no alliance with Egypt had ever saved them before, why had they not learned that they could not depend on this alliance with Egypt?
3. These verses make it clear that Judah had done it again -- they had "politicked" themselves into another hole.
4. Zedekiah had listened to the Egyptian party in Jerusalem instead of to Jeremiah, thus, the willow/vine would be uprooted after having been withered by a hot east wind from the desert.
2. The explanation (straightforward and clear) and the indictment. 17:11-21.
1. The exile of Jehoiachin. 17:11-12.
1. Nebuchadnezzar will come and take away Jehoiachin, and with him the princes and nobles.
2. This would leave Judah with no one to lead in a rebellion.
3. Some leader, however, must be left behind so that the kingdom could function.
2. The covenant with Zedekiah. 17:13-14.
1. The "seed of the land" is identified as Zedekiah (uncle of Jehoiachin and youngest son of Josiah).
2. Nebuchadnezzar made a covenant with Zedekiah and made him swear by the name of Jehovah. 2 Chron. 36:13.
3. He left Zedekiah with little help so that the kingdom might not become independent or ambitious (v. 14).
4. Nebuchadnezzar clearly intended for Judah to proper under this rule because that suited his purpose.
3. The treachery of Zedekiah. 17:15.
1. But Zedekiah rebelled.
2. As early as the fourth year of his reign he seems to have been discontent.
3. He finally cast his lot with Pharaoh, which led to the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel that assured Judah of coming total captivity.
4. Judgment coming for faithless use of God's name. 17:16-21.
1. V. 16 plainly says that the king of Judah -- one of David's seed -- would enter and die in Babylon.
2. Zedekiah had despised the covenant he made with Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar would rather destroy Judah than have it as an ally with Egypt if war with Egypt came.
3. Jeremiah tells us (Jer. 37:5-15) that when the Egyptians came in support of Jerusalem, the Babylonians terminated the siege of Jerusalem long enough to take care of the Egyptians, and then returned to destroy Jerusalem.
4. Zedekiah had sworn an oath to Nebuchadnezzar in the name of Jehovah.
1. In despising this oath Zedekiah demonstrated that Jehovah didn't mean much to him.
2. Nebuchadnezzar was led to think little of Jehovah, for clearly, anyone who swore in Jehovah's name and then despised the covenant didn't think that his God was very important.
3. If the servant of that God didn't think him important, why should the stranger?
3. The parable of the tender twig. 17:22-24.
1. The Lord, the cedar, and the strange planting. 17:22.
1. This section is messianic.
2. God has no intention of violating the covenant that he made with David (Ps. 89; 2 Sam. 7:11ff).
3. God will take a tender twig (see Isa. 53:2) and plant it on a high mountain (Mt. Zion, high in regard to its importance).
4. Planting it where it seems to make the least sense, God once more makes human wisdom to be foolish and apparent foolishness to be wisdom. 1 Cor. 1:18-31.
2. The successful planting of the Lord. 17:23-24.
1. The royal family under the direction of God will prosper and grow.
1. Isa. 9:6-7 also tells us of the success of this Davidic king.
2. The House of David will rise again and glory will return to that family in the Messiah. Amos 9:14.
2. The God who could bring his people down and overthrow the throne of David could also restore it; he was completely in control of things.
1. While Babylon wanted to sustain Judah, God wanted to bring it down and down it came.
2. Later, when God wanted the House of David back up again, back up it came.
1. It takes no genius to predict success for strong and rising kingdoms or the fall of small and declining ones; God was predicting the downfall of the strong and the rise of the fallen, and it happened. Isa. 33:23.
2. Such a God is to be trusted.
3. To turn from such a God is spiritual lunacy.
2. Sour Grapes -- God and the Individual. Chapter 18.
1. A proverb denounced. 18:1-4.
1. The parable stated. 18:1-2.
1. An apt parable -- the ungodly are not without their good talkers with a quick turn of speech.
2. The fathers were wicked and the children are being punished for it.
2. The parable rejected. 18:3-4.
1. God addresses himself to the parable by stating the governing principles: all souls are mine and the soul that sinneth it shall die.
2. Israel knew this principle (Deut. 24:16), they just didn't believe it.
3. There are those today who still don't believe this principle assert that God does punish people for the sins of another and insist that it is heresy to deny that he does.
4. To put it differently, they believe that God brings condemnation on people for the sin of Adam.
1. God says that all souls are his, implying that he cares for all.
2. If he cares for all, he would mistreat none.
3. If all souls are his, he cares just as much for the sons as he does for the fathers, and vice versa, and he declares that punishment is not administered on a generational basis -- the soul that sinneth, it shall die.
2. God's cause stated in three illustrations. 18:5-20.
1. The righteous man (1st generation) assured. 18:5-9.
1. Here God outlines the character of a righteous man (not one who is called righteous, but one whom God regards as righteous.
2. If he is just and does what is right he shall live.
1. He is a man of high moral conduct who refuses to get involved in the garbage of life.
2. He is not an idolater; he doesn't run around with other men's wives; he doesn't extort or abuse his debtors.
3. He feeds the poor, executes justice between a man and his neighbor, and he reverences the word of God as a light to his search for doing truly.
4. God doesn't make us guess.
2. The wicked man (2nd generation) warned. 18:10-13.
1. The righteous man has a son who becomes wicked; he does everything his father wouldn't do and refuses to do what his father did.
2. V. 13 -- he will come under condemnation and die in his sin.
3. It makes no difference how good his father was; he will die in his sin and his blood will be upon himself.
4. There is no argument here -- God flatly asserts it.
1. What about Prov. 22:6?
2. Some regard it as a general rule; some regard it as misunderstood.
3. One thing is for sure, this very passage makes it clear that a man may be righteous before God (and surely God would not call him righteous and just and true if he made no attempt to bring up his child in the way of the Lord) and have a child who is an abomination.
4. We can't forever cast suspicion on Godly parents of wicked children and inwardly hold them responsible.
5. After all, Adam had the best of fathers!
3. The righteous man (third generation) assured. 18:14-18.
1. Here is the third generation -- his grandfather was a lovely man, his father was a villain, how will he turn out?
2. He is not held accountable for his father's deeds or attitudes (assuming he did not encourage or approve of them).
3. Not suggesting that environment is not important, but there are folks who have taken all that their environment could throw at them and they have more than conquered it.
4. V. 14 says it is fear (ASV) that helps him avoid the pitfalls into which his father wandered.
1. "Fear" and "seeth" are from the same Hebrew word. The repetition is used to intensify the thought. It is variously translated "considereth" and "fear."
2. There is nothing wrong with the right kind of fear; I would be afraid to not fear the things that God says I should fear.
3. The right kind of fear keeps our children safe and seeks a cure for cancer.
4. The scripture doesn't teach that we should grovel in slavish fear before God, but neither does it teach that he is our cosmic buddy.
5. V. 18 tells us that the father can't cash in on the righteousness of the son.
4. The summary. 18:19-20.
1. God asserts it one more time to be sure that have an opportunity to understand -- the soul that sinneth it shall die.
2. Every tub shall sit on its own bottom.
3. The blessing and curse of a change of mind. 18:21-29.
1. The fruit of a righteous change. 18:21-23.
1. Bad habits can be overcome -- a wicked man can become righteous.
2. The reality of human living is that it is rarely (if ever) a straight line from beginning to end.
3. Have you ever wondered if you can overcome sin that clings like a vine, sinking its suckers into your very heart.
4. This verse encourages us never to give up; we can become free from both the power and penalty of sin. Rom. 6.
5. Good news -- none of his transgressions shall be remembered against him.
1. All filthy talk forgotten; all selfish ambition forgotten; all impure thought forgotten; all bitter speech forgotten; all the indolence and indifference forgotten: ALL -- FORGOTTEN!
2. It Is Well With My Soul, stanza 2.
6. This is what God wants -- I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked -- I don't want you to die unforgiven.
1. John Calvin believed and clearly taught that it was God's good pleasure to create some men unto eternal condemnation and some to eternal life without reference to their will in the matter. Institutes, Book III, Chapter XXI, section 5.
2. If this is true, then God does indeed have pleasure in the death of the wicked; their death and damnation is the fulfillment of His eternal decree which Calvin says was made according to the good pleasure of God.
1. From this text it is clear that God wants the wicked to turn from his ways, but if Calvin be correct the wicked can no more turn that a computer can get up and do a song and dance routine.
2. These sinners were born totally depraved because of the sin of Adam; they were incapable according to God's eternal decree to choose to do right.
3. They stand before God utterly incapable of choosing to do good without a direct intervention of God.
4. What a hypocrite God is if if Calvin is correct to here claim that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked when in fact it is all going exactly as he planned.
2. The curse of a wicked change. 18:24.
1. But when the righteous turns away from his righteousness, he none of his righteous deeds will be remembered, not the Bible classes he taught, not the good influence on the young.
2. He will die in his sin.
3. Can a righteous man so sin as to be eternally lost: Ezekiel thought so.
1. There are those who tell us that it is impossible.
2. Who can believe it in light of this passage?
3. But was the man really righteous: God said that he was.
3. God's right ways and Israel's perversion. 18:25-29.
1. The wonder of these verses is that God bothers to justify himself.
2. Here is the ungodly man calling God to account, accusing Him of acting immorally.
3. God responds by repeating in different words -- the soul that sinneth it shall die.
4. The problem lies with Israel; they want the guilty to go free, not the penitent.
5. They want their sins overlooked and they don't wish to repent and turn.
4. The call to repentance and life. 18:30-32.
1. Avoid ruinous sin. 18:30.
1. I will judge you -- every one of you -- according to your ways.
2. The stress on the individual is brought home.
2. Adopt a changed heart. 18:31.
1. He doesn't want sin to be their ruin.
2. He wants them to acknowledge and repudiate sin because it is ruinous.
3. God's lack of vindictiveness. 18:32.
1. Why will ye die? They died because the wouldn't (not couldn't) come to him.
2. Christ spoke similar language. Mt. 23:37.
3. Some generations suffer the results of guilty acts by others, but no man suffers punishment because of the sins of others.
1. It is certainly true that a father's sin can have sorry consequences for his children.
2. It is not true that God hold's people responsible for the actions of others.
4. Just as these exiles needed to understand personal responsibility before they would turn from their sins, so too do we.
5. "Liberty means responsibility," George Bernard Shaw wrote in his Maxims for Revolutionists. He continued, "That is why most men dread it."
1. We may perceive the prison we are in and long for liberty, but deep down it is easier for us to remain there, cherishing the illusion that we are prisoners through no fault of our own.
2. To recognize responsibility may necessitate the recognition of fault, and that in turn may require courage followed by repentance.
3. Yet we can never be fully free unless we are willing to shoulder the responsibility for our actions.
4. Still, responsibility for all our actions may become too heavy a burden to bear.
5. It remains possible throughout life only with the knowledge of the divine forgiveness which lies at the heart of the gospel.
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)