‘Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water. Its branches were strong, fit for a ruler’s scepter. It towered high above the thick foliage, conspicuous for its height and for its many branches. But it was uprooted in fury and thrown to the ground. The east wind made it shrivel, it was stripped of its fruit; its strong branches withered and fire consumed them. Now it is planted in the desert, in a dry and thirsty land. Fire spread from one of its main branches and consumed its fruit. No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler’s scepter.’ “This is a lament and is to be used as a lament.” – Ezekiel 19:10-14 NIV
I have been off the water for an extended period of time. No really good reason, I just allowed life to overtake my commitment to walk daily “on the water”. I, like my namesake, became too focused on the waves around me and forgot to simply enjoy the journey and all that it has been providing me. As I have reflected on my time off the water I think the thing that I missed the most was the “hidden wells” that God regularly provides along the way. There is a dynamic in this that I am not sure I fully understand, but I am back on the water today and I am going to try my best to get back into the habit of regular readings and reflection.
Today’s passage seems to be linked to the last passage about about “transplants“. The intervening passages have contained some really interesting discussion about repentance that would fit quite well in the new testament. For example, the last chapter (chapter 18) ends with “Repent and live!” The people of Israel were getting this message long before Jesus came to share the same message.
This verse begins by comparing the Israel of the past to a vine planted by the water. It was bearing fruit because of the abundant water it was getting. The passage then provides an allegorical reference to this vine being uprooted, presumably the exile phase. This was largely because the Israel had begun to disconnect themselves from God and they were bearing bad fruit.
The reference to a ruler’s scepter is an interesting detail. Since ruler’s scepters are not “a thing” these days I did a little investigation into what these object meant for this time and people. It seems that it is generally accepted that the ruler’s scepter is a symbol of authority to rule. So if a nation or person possesses this scepter they have been given authority to rule by whomever bestowed the scepter upon them. God bestowed on the people of Israel the right to rule (they possessed the scepter) as a result of their connection to God and His provision of water to make them a strong and worthy vine, fit to be used as a ruler’s scepter.
The implication here is that Israel has become unfit to serve this role, and the uprooting (exile) is a necessary step in the future of Israel. There is “No strong branch is left on it fit for a ruler’s scepter.” This sounds like God is saying there is no one fit to lead, or at least no one that is willing to lead while following God. The result is exile and being “planted in the desert”. Now one could view this as a retribution by God, but one could also view it as a necessary outcome of the choices the rulers of Israel had been making.
The take-home message from this passage for me is that if we are to lead we must be continually connected to our source of water so that we can be worthy “scepter” material when the time comes for us to lead. This a bit of a personal rebuke for me as I have not been well connected to the spring for several months. The reassuring message that was revealed through Jesus is that no matter how many times we choose to be “free of God“, God still believes in us and chooses to love us.
Prayer: God thank you for meeting us where we are no matter how many times we choose to disconnect ourselves from your Living Water.