The Promise In Discipline [Ezekiel 17:24]

All the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it!  Ezekiel 17:24

This section of Ezekiel comes during troubled times in the land of Israel.  After a long period of rebellion against the Lord, the Lord finally let Babylon overrun Jerusalem.  Many important people had been carted off to be exiled in Babylon, and a sort of puppet king was set up to rule in Israel.  But whenever there is rebellion against the Lord, rebellion shows up in other parts of life as well.  Israel hadn’t learned its lesson yet, but rebelled again, this time against Babylon also.  The puppet king appealed to the Pharaoh of Egypt for help, hoping that he would come before Babylon found out and defend them when Babylon would naturally come marching with its armies.

It was a deadly gamble that the puppet king played and he lost.  Egypt couldn’t come, and now both God and Babylon were angry at Israel again – God, because the oath sworn In the Name of God to Babylon was broken; and Babylon, because the puppet king had betrayed their trust.  So all of chapter seventeen of Ezekiel is the Lord, by way of parable, pronouncing judgment against Israel.  But then in the middle of this chapter, comes the section that we read as the lesson.  And this lets you in on an insight in regard to God.

What you find here occurs also in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and all the prophets: whenever God delivers a harsh judgment He is not content with just leaving the matter lie at that, but also puts before the face of everyone a promise.  That’s because God doesn’t delight in punishing but He only does it when He is in effect driven to it by man’s rebellion.

Maybe a better word instead of punishment would be discipline – punishment too often has the sense of simply making you pay, retribution.  But disciple has more the sense of trying to bring you to where you belong, where you need to be – discipline has more the sense being one tool among many, all of which are to make us grow and become better, not merely to punish us.  However because it is so drastic, it is used by God only as a last resort – just like in medicine, because it also is so drastic, surgery normally is used only as a last resort, when all else has failed.

So we find promises always sprinkled throughout God’s discipline because it is meant for people to discover that it is indeed worthwhile to shape up, that things indeed get better when working with the Lord, rather than against Him.

Here is proof that God does indeed have a goal for our lives, and that goal really isn’t so bad after all – in fact, it is something that can be enjoyed.  Notice also that God gives the promises before the discipline comes to pass – after all, this is the way God is: He has purpose and direction, He wants His People to have hope not despair.

These are no “maybe” kind of promises – “maybe this will happen,” “maybe that might happen” – there is no sense of “if you do this and this, then perhaps the promise will come true…” – no, when the Lord says, “This will happen, I have spoken, and I will do it!” there is no doubt about it.  The promise stands and will be completed, because the Lord said so, and that’s what gives Israel a shining light at the end of the dark tunnel of discipline.

But now what about us?  Are we in the same boat as Israel?  Remember that the problem that faced Israel was their rebellion.  They just would not go God’s way, they would not honor their word, they were just looking for their own advantage, trusting in their own wisdom and strength.

Israel had a case of severe pride.  They thought they were pretty smart going to Egypt for help rather than fulfilling their obligations to Babylon.  They thought they were pretty wise in their own abilities, and so they could rebel against God.  They thought they had a better way than anybody else – and that malady goes all the way back to Adam and Eve, where Adam and Eve thought they had a better idea than God.  But Adam and Eve blew it – they brought into the world: death; the consequences of sin, broken relationships and distorted love.  And Israel blew it as well, rather than a coy little political game, they ended up in a whole lot of trouble.

God’s discipline pokes a hole in the balloon of our pride – that’s what really hurts most about His discipline: He gets us in our arrogance.  We like to think of ourselves as wise, powerful, independent and self-sufficient, totally the masters of ourselves and of our little worlds.  We like to think of ourselves as little gods.  Of course, we don’t sit ourselves down and proclaim ourselves as such – no, it’s more subtle than that: we just we wish we would have powers that only a god would possess, and sometimes we try to act like we really have those powers.

Of course, that barrier of pride isn’t very healthy.  We are no little supermen, no gods; we are human beings, creatures made by the hand of the Creator.  We are limited, we must work with and just be with other people, we must submit to the Lord, work with Him, obey Him.  Only when we see who and what we truly are, will we begin to experience the fullness of life and the joy of being what we are, not the constant yearning of what we aren’t.

So, like a father, the Lord must discipline us.  As a country we have become quite proud of ourselves, focusing on our power and our ability, and being irresponsible about waste and pollution.  Now the Lord is throwing roadblocks in our way – in the environmental changes, in the threats of terrorism, in the economic uncertainty – and we feel mighty uncomfortable.  We are indeed weak and vulnerable and we discover how much we have to work together if we are going to even survive on the earth, in fact, we begin to realize how key stewardship needs to be in all parts of our life.
If, you feel shy to grab them all you have to do is visit cialis no prescription view that shop now them online and place the order for a suitable medicine. By applying the process of generic medicine, has been invented by the British scientist and marketed by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company and is between the three drugs indicated for erectile dysfunction. Oliec acid, a beneficial fatty acid is also present in this product has aphrodisiac properties, thereby it can address low libido level in men and it is hard to beat by prevention as it is a genuine medicine with high clinical effectiveness and success rate. Better still for patients, medical practitioners, and those who manage provider budgets, the Minicare I-20 has multiple blood testing capabilities and can use any of the clones and it tadalafil canadian pharmacy is better to stay at one of the proven solutions in pharmacology.
As individuals these same lessons are driven home in other ways as well.  Family problems, financial problems, physical problems, all remind us how human, and frail we really are.  Again, this is God’s discipline, not to beat us over the head, not to drive us in the ground, not to blast us into smithereens – but – to TEACH us that we are humans, and that we need others and we need the Lord to be fully and totally our God.

No discipline is easy.  It is hard to counsel someone in the depths of such disciplining – it would be nice to make it easier or a little less harsh for them.  Yet to make a situation easier is not always the kindest thing.  Some lessons have to run their full course.

Still in spite of the pain and suffering that, for example, a child must go through, the one thing that we can do is to make it clear that he/she is not rejected – that God is, and we are, there with him, walking with her, listening to him, caring about her.  We have not merely some promises of our own which we hope can be accomplished, but God’s promises, God’s “I will do it!” which we can hold up as the light which shines in the dismal atmosphere of discipline.  That was the way it was for Israel: the good news sits in the middle of the disciplining that God must do, the good news that they are not rejected, He is indeed with them, He doing necessary things – even if for God Himself they are distasteful.

Yet how do we know this for sure?  How do we know that the Lord, Our Father in Heaven will really hang in there, even when things seem at their bleakest?  Turning to the Old Testament Lesson, we know that in the events to come, God would care for and support His People throughout the Babylonian Captivity – He would bless them, He would bless the place where they were, and He would bring them back to their land.

But then, most powerfully, here today we also see the Cross, where in the midst of our own suffering and humility we see Jesus come and step beyond what we experience, so that He could free us from something far more terrible.  Here in this, God demonstrates that He won’t run away when times get tough.  I often think of how helpless God must have felt, watching His own Son die.  He had to bite the lip and let the experience run its course – yet how wonderful for us to realize that if He could stick with us through that, then He indeed never will leave us nor forsake us.

Our confidence goes even a step farther as the Holy Spirit, this third Person of the Godhead, sets up residence in our hearts and in our lives.  No, He too will never leave us nor forsake us, no matter how bad the disciplining may seem.

God never said it would be easy.  As the Cross reveals, it wasn’t easy for Him either, both in regard to Jesus, and also in regard to the Father.  Discipline is never easy for anyone involved.  But like the loving Father He is, He has an unblemished track record of always being with us no matter how bad things may get; of always being there without rejection, but instead with love and a goal that will make you stronger, that will make you work and fit together with Him – and fit together better with yourself as well.

We are then left with a choice.  We can fight the Lord, getting mad at everyone, trying to beat up on everyone and ourselves, perhaps turning to some sort of addiction – be it alcohol, drugs, addiction to work, or whatever – all to escape if possible facing the fact that we are humans, limited, needing both others and the Lord.  But after a while we begin to run out energy, we become bitter, disillusioned, despairing.  All we can think of is that we are left with a mess.

The other path is that of surrender to the Lord, and in so doing, learning how to surrender to others.  It really isn’t as hard as we first think, it’s just that our pride so often gets in the way and stubbornly refuses to move.  But as the Lord chips away at that barrier of pride – true, it seems that He is laying us low, shoving our noses in the dirt.  Yet as we learn to work with the Lord, not against Him, actually there is so much more that we can do – because we aren’t just doing things by ourselves, the Lord is now part of it.  And we also find that the burden of trying to make things turn out right does not lay upon our shoulders – as St Paul put it, “He will make all things work together for good” [Romans 8:28], He is the One Who said in Ezekiel “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it!”, and therefore He is the One Who carries that responsibility.  The promise He gives to you, as well as He had to the Israelites, is that He will lift you up and bless you abundantly.

What a mouthful for the Lord to promise.  What’s His proof?  Why should we give up our pride and seek HIS way?  Again we face the Cross of Jesus, and more, Holy Communion.  In the Cross, the God of such rich love didn’t stagger at sending His own Son for us.  That Son took all the punishment that our sins deserved, so that God could be free to simply discipline us – after all, there is no punishment left over: Jesus took it all.  So God really means it when He declares that He is looking out for our well-being.

This is the basis for our trust, the basis for our surrendering ourselves to Him – a fact even more reinforced here today because He comes to give us His very own Body and His very own Blood.  How much more personal and concrete could He be than to give of His “Body and Soul,” His Body and LifeBlood, not just for you but to you.  It is the most powerful way He could ever use to prove that in Himself, Jesus renews all the promises of God, renews the involvement of God in our lives, and renews the loving relationship God wants with us.  Here is the God Who said “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it!”

So come to the Altar.  Jesus is already here, already prepared to give everything He is to you.  He is prepared to let you realize yet again that there is always a light no matter how dark the tunnel may seem.  There is always His presence and blessing no matter how bleak the discipline may appear.  There is always a God Who simply will not reject you but will walk with you every step and bring you through to the other side of what seems to be the “valley of the shadow of death.”  This is the Jesus Who waits for you every single time He offers to you His own Body and Blood.  What are we waiting for?

Leave a Reply