|Adjectives abound when you study the book of Ezekiel. Bizarre. Strange. Peculiar. Complex. Striking. Mystical. Scholars and Bible study participants have read the prophet’s words innumerable times.
There are moments of clarity.
Preachers, for example, love sermons on Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones. It’s a hermeneutical homerun. Other visions, though, still baffle us.
There’s a sense even the prophet’s first hearers struggled to understand. In chapter 17, Ezekiel’s vision is a riddle and allegory. There are two eagles. One has planted a seed in fertile soil. As a result, a vine grew. Notice how active this eagle is. It flies, of course, but it also breaks, carries and plants. The second eagle isn’t nearly as busy. This eagle transplants the vine the first eagle grew.
God’s question is, Will the vine now prosper after its replanting? Also, Will it thrive? The answer is the same to both questions: No! In fact, it won’t take much for it to wither and fade. It doesn’t stand a chance now against the elements.
The Lord goes on to explain the parable. That tells us many would have heard it and not understood its significance. Add a few thousand years and biblical illiteracy and the uncertainty grows.
A textual study would offer several ideas about who the eagles represent. You would hear of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Egypt, too. And, of course, God. That’s all useful information.
We also need to put more focus on the vine. Doing so helps us interpret Ezekiel’s eagle riddle better. And we can better appreciate what God might be speaking to us today.
The vine grew from the first eagle’s efforts. It had fertile soil and developed strong roots and foliage. All it had to do was grow. But the vine stretched out to the second eagle. What is this eagle doing at this point? Nothing. The vine wants what it thinks the eagle can offer. It’s only after the vine reaches out that the second eagle begins its transplant.
Ezekiel’s riddle is still relevant. The eagles may change, but how we reach out to them hasn’t.
God has blessed us with abundant life. We have experienced the reality of God’s kingdom in Christ. And yet we are so often willing to trade what God has given us. Our second eagles don’t need to hard sell us anything. Their influence is already strong. Chances are what they offer look as good or even better than what God has given us.
We can ask the same questions God asked of the transplanted vine. Will we prosper as God’s people if we’re reaching for other eagles? Will we thrive? We can ask the same questions and we should get the same answer.
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