Ezekiel 17

The Great Tree Is Made Small and the Small Tree Great

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, make a riddle for the house of Israel. Tell them a story. Say, ‘God, the Master, says:

“‘A great eagle
    with a huge wingspan and long feathers,
In full plumage and bright colors,
    came to Lebanon
And took the top off a cedar,
    broke off the top branch,
Took it to a land of traders,
    and set it down in a city of shopkeepers.
Then he took a cutting from the land
    and planted it in good, well-watered soil,
    like a willow on a riverbank.
It sprouted into a flourishing vine,
    low to the ground.
Its branches grew toward the eagle
    and the roots became established—
A vine putting out shoots,
    developing branches.

“‘There was another great eagle
    with a huge wingspan and thickly feathered.
This vine sent out its roots toward him
    from the place where it was planted.
Its branches reached out to him
    so he could water it
    from a long distance.
It had been planted
    in good, well-watered soil,
And it put out branches and bore fruit,
    and became a noble vine.

“‘God, the Master, says,
    Will it thrive?
Won’t he just pull it up by the roots
    and leave the grapes to rot
And the branches to shrivel up,
    a withered, dead vine?
It won’t take much strength
    or many hands to pull it up.
Even if it’s transplanted,
    will it thrive?
When the hot east wind strikes it,
    won’t it shrivel up?
Won’t it dry up and blow away
    from the place where it was planted?’”

God’s Message came to me: “Tell this house of rebels, ‘Do you get it? Do you know what this means?’

“Tell them, ‘The king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and took its king and its leaders back to Babylon. He took one of the royal family and made a covenant with him, making him swear his loyalty. The king of Babylon took all the top leaders into exile to make sure that this kingdom stayed weak—didn’t get any big ideas of itself—and kept the covenant with him so that it would have a future.

“‘But he rebelled and sent emissaries to Egypt to recruit horses and a big army. Do you think that’s going to work? Are they going to get by with this? Does anyone break a covenant and get off scot-free?

“‘As sure as I am the living God, this king who broke his pledge of loyalty and his covenant will die in that country, in Babylon. Pharaoh with his big army—all those soldiers!—won’t lift a finger to fight for him when Babylon sets siege to the city and kills everyone inside. Because he broke his word and broke the covenant, even though he gave his solemn promise, because he went ahead and did all these things anyway, he won’t escape.

“‘Therefore, God, the Master, says, As sure as I am the living God, because the king despised my oath and broke my covenant, I’ll bring the consequences crashing down on his head. I’ll send out a search party and catch him. I’ll take him to Babylon and have him brought to trial because of his total disregard for me. All his elite soldiers, along with the rest of the army, will be killed in battle, and whoever is left will be scattered to the four winds. Then you’ll realize that I, God, have spoken.

“‘God, the Master, says, I personally will take a shoot from the top of the towering cedar, a cutting from the crown of the tree, and plant it on a high and towering mountain, on the high mountain of Israel. It will grow, putting out branches and fruit—a majestic cedar. Birds of every sort and kind will live under it. They’ll build nests in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will recognize that I, God, made the great tree small and the small tree great, made the green tree turn dry and the dry tree sprout green branches. I, God, said it—and I did it.’”

Read More of Ezekiel 17

Ezekiel 18

Judged According to the Way You Live

God’s Message to me: “What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying,

The parents ate green apples,
The children got the stomachache?

“As sure as I’m the living God, you’re not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. Every soul—man, woman, child—belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another’s.

“Imagine a person who lives well, treating others fairly, keeping good relationships—

    doesn’t eat at the pagan shrines,
    doesn’t worship the idols so popular in Israel,
    doesn’t seduce a neighbor’s spouse,
    doesn’t indulge in casual sex,
    doesn’t bully anyone,
    doesn’t pile up bad debts,
    doesn’t steal,
    doesn’t refuse food to the hungry,
    doesn’t refuse clothing to the ill-clad,
    doesn’t exploit the poor,
    doesn’t live by impulse and greed,
    doesn’t treat one person better than another,
But lives by my statutes and faithfully
    honors and obeys my laws.
This person who lives upright and well
    shall live a full and true life.
        Decree of God, the Master.

“But if this person has a child who turns violent and murders and goes off and does any of these things, even though the parent has done none of them—

eats at the pagan shrines,
seduces his neighbor’s spouse,
bullies the weak,
steals,
piles up bad debts,
admires idols,
commits outrageous obscenities,
exploits the poor

“—do you think this person, the child, will live? Not a chance! Because he’s done all these vile things, he’ll die. And his death will be his own fault.

“Now look: Suppose that this child has a child who sees all the sins done by his parent. The child sees them, but doesn’t follow in the parent’s footsteps—

    doesn’t eat at the pagan shrines,
    doesn’t worship the popular idols of Israel,
    doesn’t seduce his neighbor’s spouse,
    doesn’t bully anyone,
    doesn’t refuse to loan money,
    doesn’t steal,
    doesn’t refuse food to the hungry,
    doesn’t refuse to give clothes to the ill-clad,
    doesn’t live by impulse and greed,
    doesn’t exploit the poor.
He does what I say;
    he performs my laws and lives by my statutes.

“This person will not die for the sins of the parent; he will live truly and well. But the parent will die for what the parent did, for the sins of—

oppressing the weak,
robbing brothers and sisters,
doing what is dead wrong in the community.

“Do you need to ask, ‘So why does the child not share the guilt of the parent?’

“Isn’t it plain? It’s because the child did what is fair and right. Since the child was careful to do what is lawful and right, the child will live truly and well. The soul that sins is the soul that dies. The child does not share the guilt of the parent, nor the parent the guilt of the child. If you live upright and well, you get the credit; if you live a wicked life, you’re guilty as charged.

“But a wicked person who turns his back on that life of sin and keeps all my statutes, living a just and righteous life, he’ll live, really live. He won’t die. I won’t keep a list of all the things he did wrong. He will live. Do you think I take any pleasure in the death of wicked men and women? Isn’t it my pleasure that they turn around, no longer living wrong but living right—really living?

“The same thing goes for a good person who turns his back on an upright life and starts sinning, plunging into the same vile obscenities that the wicked person practices. Will this person live? I don’t keep a list of all the things this person did right, like money in the bank he can draw on. Because of his defection, because he accumulates sin, he’ll die.

“Do I hear you saying, ‘That’s not fair! God’s not fair!’?

“Listen, Israel. I’m not fair? You’re the ones who aren’t fair! If a good person turns away from his good life and takes up sinning, he’ll die for it. He’ll die for his own sin. Likewise, if a bad person turns away from his bad life and starts living a good life, a fair life, he will save his life. Because he faces up to all the wrongs he’s committed and puts them behind him, he will live, really live. He won’t die.

“And yet Israel keeps on whining, ‘That’s not fair! God’s not fair.’

“I’m not fair, Israel? You’re the ones who aren’t fair.

“The upshot is this, Israel: I’ll judge each of you according to the way you live. So turn around! Turn your backs on your rebellious living so that sin won’t drag you down. Clean house. No more rebellions, please. Get a new heart! Get a new spirit! Why would you choose to die, Israel? I take no pleasure in anyone’s death. Decree of God, the Master.

“Make a clean break! Live!”

Read More of Ezekiel 18