We join with you and with all the heavenly host to glorify your name our God.
We live in hope that your word and direction will live within us.
We acknowledge that only you can free us from the chains of captivity.
Be with us in our waiting.
We ask this in your son’s name; our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord is upright: He is our Rock, and in him there is no wrong.
His kingdom is not a matter of talk but of power.
As we acknowledge our sin in silence before God, we ask for the Spirit of God to renew us by God’s power:
Forgive, Lord, our lack of faith
Forgive, Lord, our unwillingness to see
Forgive, Lord, our lack of courage to work with you:
Forgive, empower and enliven us, Lord.
A prayer of praise based on Psalm 92
It is good to give you thanks, O Lord,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
and your faithfulness in the night-time.
You make us glad by your work;
We sing for joy at all that you have made.
Please read Ezekiel chapter 17 and pay close attention to verses 22-24.
The Hebrew prophet Ezekiel makes great use of stories: allegory, metaphor and parable. He lived during the Babylonian captivity which took place around 597-581 (scripture is ambiguous about the dates and about the numbers of battles resulting in destruction of Jerusalem). Many people (especially the high-ranking classes) were taken prisoner and lived in exile in Babylon. They had been taken from a relatively green and fertile land to a desert, one where no trees grew.
I’m guessing that many of us haven’t really read much Ezekiel other than the tales of dem bones and his chariots of fire. And yet it offers a glimpse of how life was: the troubles, the fears, the deprivations and the longing to be released back to Israel. Eventually the people were released (538 BC) as a whole load of prophets had promised.
Chapter 17 of Ezekiel consists of:
- a nature fable (verses 1-10) – remember, the people are missing their trees and greenery!
- which is explained allegorically in political terms (verses 11-18)
- then a theological interpretation of the political explanation (verses 19-21)
- and finally the second nature fable that I’ve asked you to pay close attention to (verses 22-24)
The first fable identified Jehoiachin, the Jewish king taken into exile in Babylon in 597, with a sprig of cedar broken off and transplanted. His uncle Zedekiah, the puppet king put in his place, is a little vine. Zedekiah makes overtures to the Egyptian pharaoh; in breach of the agreement he had made with Nebuchadnezzar and before God. The vine, it is implied, will not long survive replanting.
The second cedar sprig will be planted directly by God. Only with the messianic king, who will acknowledge his complete dependence on the Lord, will little Israel flourish, so greatly indeed that all the nations (symbolised by the beasts and birds), will turn to her for protection.
If you want another angle on this then read Ezekiel chapter 31 for a different telling.
All this background politics and history sets the scene for what Ezekiel wants to tell us: it is the Lord alone who gives growth. Without God there is no need for any of us to be here. God alone provides and God alone enables us to make his kingdom here on earth. It is to Jesus we must turn with the guidance of the Spirit. Amen.
A reflective prayer (© Roots)
Lord, may my heart be as a spacious barn;
a place where the swallows of your peace and gentleness may nest
and lay their young;
a place where the crops and fruits
of your word may be stored,
to be brought out and shared in due season;
a place where bales of the hay of your comfort and compassion and love
are piled high,
ready for the winter of loss and discouragement and hardship;
a place where prayer soars as an owl
and returns blessed by your grace and spirit.
a place that is as your kingdom in the midst of us,
ever constant, ever changing, ever open, ever inclusive,
ever a place of life and love and daring.
Go now, trusting in God’s promises.
Seek the presence of the Lord and abandon yourself to prayer.
Follow those who are faithful to God, stand firm against evil and seek healing for all.
And may God be your saving light and fortress;
May Christ Jesus gather you into the safe wings of mercy;
And may the Holy Spirit make you citizens of heaven.
We go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Put you hand in the hand (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhjNZ4s0VHo)
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFT9KwrfZVY)
Love Divine All Loves Excelling ()