Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Ezekiel 17:22-24: The eagles and the cedar
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the field will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 17:22-24 NIV)

As in today’s world, at the time of the great prophets of the Bible the political situation was complex and often bewildering. The tiny nation of Israel, forced to make its way amidst the great powers of this world, was constantly beset by the temptation to make alliances with those powers, hoping in that way to defend themselves by pitting one against the other. The prophets, for their part, emphasized trust in God, the true Lord of history. It is easy to understand that for the “realists”, such an attitude was not even worth taking seriously.

But where is true realism found? Here, the prophet Ezekiel criticizes the attempt of the leaders of his people to find salvation by this game of alliances. He describes Babylon and Egypt as two great eagles fighting over a cedar, then a grapevine, which at the end is reduced to nothing. For Ezekiel it is obvious that all attempts to find a way out by making deals with the powerful of this world is doomed to failure from the start.

In the midst of this confusion, a different hope arises. Unexpectedly, God himself will take things in hand. God will take a small remnant of the nation (“a tender sprig”) and bring it back to its homeland, where it will take root. This tiny twig will turn into a magnificent tree, with the result that all the birds in the sky come to nest in its branches. In this way people will realize that God, and God alone, holds in his hands the keys to human history, that he is able to do wonders starting from almost nothing, whereas human power and greatness are often nothing but empty appearance.

This allegory of Ezekiel’s contains in a nutshell the divine logic that will manifest itself fully at the coming of Christ. And Jesus will use similar examples to explain the coming of God’s Reign in his person (see Mark 4:30-32).

- Can I think of examples where God brings to nothing that plans of the powerful of this world?

- What does it mean to be realistic? Is the conviction that God is hidden behind the course of world events justified?

- What consequences would this conviction have for my way of living and acting?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 December 2022