The word of the Lord came to me: Mortal, take a stick and write on it, “For Judah, and the Israelites associated with it”; then take another stick and write on it, “For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with it”; and join them together into one stick, so that they may become one in your hand. – Ezekiel 37:15-17
Last week I told you that the book of Ezekiel has two primary parts. The first half is “the message of doom” (though I actually prefer “the message of warning”). Most of the second half, then, is “the message of hope.”
Last week’s devotion was a warning. Today’s message is a message of hope.
It’s a message to people who have been scattered because of their persistent rebellion against God. They’ve been overrun by the Babylonians and scattered throughout Nebuchadnezzer’s vast kingdom. Maybe by now a next kingdom – Cyrus and Persian – have defeated the Babylonians, but the fate is still the same for “Judah and the Israelites associated with it.” They are scattered. They are far from home. They are powerless. And it’s been now two or three generations of Exile.
But now, finally, comes a message of hope. Earlier in Ezekiel 37, they’d heard the prophecy of dry bones. It started as an image of war and carnage. Time and vultures and Babylon and Assyria had stripped and scattered the carcasses of Israel. But a new breath – the life and Spirit of God – was reconnecting the scattered remains of the country and bringing their dry bones and dry spirits back to life. Israel would live again!
Then God has Ezekiel talk about placing two scattered, separated, and disassociated sticks into one hand. After the reign of Solomon, Israel divided into two kingdoms – and not for holy reasons! The North – Israel – headquartered around Samaria and had a series of (only) evil kings. In spite of prophetic warnings, they would not repent and were virtually wiped from existence by the Assyrians in 722 BC. The South – Judah – headquartered around Jerusalem had a mix of evil, righteous, and mostly mediocre kings. In spite of their own batch of prophetic warning, Babylon in 588 BC conquered and scattered Judah.
One stick in Ezekiel’s hand represents Judah, the southern kingdom. The second stick, labeled Joseph and Ephraim, represented Israel, the northern kingdom. God, through Ezekiel, is foretelling more than a return of Judah after Exile. He’s foretelling a reunification of all of God’s people.
That happened, first, in 444 BC when Nehemiah was allowed by Cyrus the Persian King to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. Many say, however, that this was a far future prophecy too. God’s people, Israel, were returned again to their land in 1948 AD. All of Israel is reunited again.
In Christ’s Love,
a guy who walks softly
and worships the God
who carries two big sticks
throughout the generations