The Lord spoke a “lamentation for the princes of Israel.” Who were these leaders mentioned in Ezekiel 19? They were the descendants of David from the tribe of Judah who were in line to be rulers in Judah after the death of Josiah. Three sons and one grandson all had an opportunity to reign in Jerusalem, but none of them followed the Word of the Lord.
Ezekiel referred to the tribe of kings as “a lioness” who had very powerful offspring. In Genesis 49:8-12, Jacob blessed Judah using the imagery of lions and “the ruler’s staff.” By the time of Ezekiel, the line of kings had brought forth two very brutal “cubs.” One was taken “with hooks to the land of Egypt.” The other was sent to the east. “They put him in a cage and brought him to the king of Babylon.” Both of these leaders were great disappointments. They “devoured men and seized their widows,” and were eventually overwhelmed by far more impressive imperial powers.
According to Ezekiel’s parable, the “mother” of these two lions had once been “like a vine in a vineyard.” She had plenty of water and was therefore “fruitful and full of branches.” In fact the “stems” of this great vine had been so strong that they “became rulers’ scepters” just as Jacob had prophesied in Genesis 49. Yet eventually this impressive plant was “plucked up in fury” and “the east wind dried up its fruit,” a reference to the Babylonians who came from that direction to conquer the people of the Lord.
What would become of Judah? “Now it is planted in the wilderness,” another reference to Babylon, “a dry and thirsty land.” What had once been an impressive expression of the Lord’s kingdom on earth would now have “no scepter for ruling.” Ezekiel concludes, “This is a lamentation and has become a lamentation.”
Judah’s exile was very disappointing, yet God’s plan for His people would not end with the immediate descendants of Josiah. The Lord had made earlier promises regarding the line of David that were yet to be fulfilled. As Paul would later write in Romans 11:29, “The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Paul would cite Isaiah to readers who understood that the perfect Son of David had indeed come to establish an eternal kingdom. “The root of Jesse will come, even He who arises to rule the Gentiles; in Him will the Gentiles hope.” With that confidence and with the evidence we have in our day of the worldwide proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we boldly receive this good benediction from the apostle: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:12-13)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, we mourn regarding the leaders of Your church. They should be under-shepherds for the Lord Jesus Christ. Will they devour men and seize their widows? Is this an acceptable pattern of love for people who proclaim the power of the cross of Christ? Draw us back again to Yourself in love. Please grant us faithful pastors who will love You and will feed Your flock according to the directives of that one great Shepherd of the sheep.