Ezekiel was a prophet to Judah during the time when the people of Judah were deported to Babylon. 2 Kings 24 gives the details of the defeat of Judah, the deportation and the plunder. When a country was defeated in Old Testament times, not only did it mean that your army was weak, but that your god was also weaker than the victorious army’s. This prophecy of Ezekiel reassures God’s people in spite of their defeat.
- The passage is written in the form of an allegory. The lofty cedar represents the Davidic line of the kings of Judah. In 2 Samuel 7:13-16, Nathan tells David that his line would last forever. With the defeat of Judah, it was feared that the Davidic line would come to an end.
- God himself with “take a cutting” from this “lofty cedar”, and cause it to grow and flourish. (vv. 22-23)
- More importantly, all the “trees” of the field will know that Yahweh is Lord. In other words, other kingdoms will realize that the god of Judah is the one and only God. (v. 24a)
- God summarizes by stating that he is in control. He makes nations flourish or wither. He has the power to do this. (v. 24b)
Even in today’s world, with constant power struggles between China, Russia, North Korea, and the USA, it is difficult to comprehend that God is in control. But this is exactly what He tells us through Ezekiel. The proof of the pudding is that Judah survives 60 years of exile, and is allowed to return home as promised.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
In this prophecy, we hear that God’s kingdom grows like a large tree, providing shelter and comfort for “every kind of bird”. God’s kingdom has indeed spread worldwide, through the work of his son Jesus. As his children, we not only work for the growth of his kingdom, we find shelter and comfort within its branches.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:6-10, 14-17
Paul is under attach for his preaching to the people of Corinth. In today’s and next week’s lesson, we get to hear his side of why he does what he does.
- In verses 6-9, Paul talks about being “at home” and “away”. He is talking about his physical versus his spiritual being. Since he is living, he is “at home in the body”. Paul would, apparently, much rather be finished with the body, and be spiritually in God’s presence (“away”). But since he is here, he has a job to do—preach the Gospel.
- We are now reminded that Jesus will indeed sit on his judgement seat, and judge each one of us. We will be held accountable. This should encourage all of us to be good disciples! (v. 10)
- But accountability is not the main motivational factor, it is Jesus’ love that drives us onward. After all, he died for us, and was raised for us! (vv. 14-15)
- Since we have all died with Jesus in our baptism, and are reborn, we are new creations. We must look at everyone and everything through this perspective. (vv. 16-17)
It is sometimes difficult to look at everyone through the eyes of Jesus, but that is indeed what we are to do. We must love everyone, sharing the good news of Jesus with everyone.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
What do you think about appearing before Jesus’ judgement seat? What do you think will happen? In my working days, I would receive an annual performance review from my manager. We would sit down, and review the goals I had set, and the corporation’s expectations of my performance to them. Sometimes I achieved my goals, sometimes I fell short. I like to think that my appearance before Jesus will be a bit like this review. Jesus has expectations for all of us. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we do not. In the end, we will lay all our failures at His feet, knowing that we are forgiven by His blood.
This reading follows last week’s. Jesus tells two parables about God’s kingdom. Let me say something about this “Kingdom of God” subject. The people of Jesus’ day were yearning for the Messiah to come, roust out the Romans, and re-establish Judah, just like the old Kingdom of David days. When Jesus starts a parable with “the kingdom of God is like…” all would have been eagerly waiting for him to give the details of the battle plan. I’m sure there was a lot of head scratching after he taught them these parables.
- The first parable is about someone who plants seed, and waits for it to grow. An important phrase in this paragraph is “…he does not know how…” it grows. He knows that the seeds will grow; he just doesn’t know how that happens. But once the grain is ripe, he harvests his crop. (vv. 26-29)
- The second parable is similar, but has a different point. A small seed is sown, and grows into a very large bush. Just like our passage from Ezekiel, many birds find shelter in its branches. (vv. 30-32)
- Then we learn that he always taught the crowds in parables, but explained them all to his disciples in private. (vv.33-34)
This isn’t exactly a lesson in politics and revolution, is it? Do you think his listeners were a little confused?
So, what exactly is the kingdom of God? One thing for sure, it is definitely not a country with borders, a ruler, and an army. I believe that Jesus is telling us the same thing that Ezekiel told us. That it is God’s desire for everyone, regardless of nationality or race, to be one great community of believers. It is a community that finds shelter and comfort within the kingdom. Sometimes this comfort comes directly from God. Other times it comes from the community around us. But we find shelter and grow within this community.