June 20, 2021

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 92

Gospel Lesson; Mark 4:26-34                             

Sermon Text; Ezekiel 17:22-24


Before we get in to our text for today, I want to share with you a long historical introduction.  I want to go back eight hundred years, before our text, to the time when the Children of Israel were getting ready to enter into the land God had promised to them.  As they were getting ready to enter into the land God had promised to them, God shared two things with them.  In its essence it was this. 

-You will be blessed, if you follow my Word. 

-However, you will be cursed, if you don't follow my Word. 

Here is what God told His people that day.

“If you fully obey the LORD your God, and carefully follow all of His commands that I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.  All these blessings will come upon you, and accompany you, if you obey the LORD, your God.” 

Blessings, if you obey.

“However, if you do not obey the LORD your God, and do not carefully follow all of His commands and decrees that I am giving you today, then all of these curses will come upon you, and they will overtake you.”

Well, those blessings, and those curses played themselves out, so that as we come close to the time of our text, the northern kingdom of Israel had already been carried off in to captivity, never to return.  That happened in the year 722 BC.  The people were cursed, because they did not listen to The Word of the LORD God.

Now, God calls up Ezekiel to be a prophet.  When God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, he was a prisoner of war.  He had been carried off in to captivity in Babylon.  But, for seven years he was going to be really portraying a message of judgment on Judah.  “This is what is going to happen to you, because you have disobeyed the Word of the LORD.”

Now, I am going to say this.  Most of the book of Ezekiel is pretty depressing.  It is pretty depressing, because it is talking about judgment that is coming upon God's people, and the nations surrounding, because they have disobeyed God.  That judgment was not just coming on Judah, but it was coming on the surrounding nations, as well.  I have map I want to show you. 


Follow the red line, clockwise. 

-Judgment was going to come on Judah. 

-Judgment was going to come on Ammon. 

-Judgment was going to come on Moab, Edom, the Philistines, Tyre and Sidon. 

All because Judah, and the surrounding nations, did not follow the Word of the LORD God. 

It is a prophesy of judgment.  The LORD is not there.  Actually, I am going to clarify that statement.  The LORD is there, but it is like the LORD has taken a step back.  He is allowing the Babylonians to come in.  And, the Babylonians are going to come in, and they are going to take the nation of Judah off in to captivity.  Curses would come upon the people, because they did not obey the Word of the LORD.

So, here is what King Nebuchadnezzar did.  He came in to Judah with his powerful forces.  He deposed the king.  The king's name was Jehoiachin.  He carried him off in to captivity.  He set up his own person, who was a descendent of David, as king, Zedekiah.  But, Zedekiah did not like listening to the commands of Nebuchadnezzar.  So, secretly, here is what Zedekiah did.  He formed a secret alliance with the Egyptians in the hope that they would be able to overcome the Babylonians, who were the world super power of the time.  Well, Nebuchadnezzar heard about that, and here is what Nebuchadnezzar did.  These are not my words.  They are scripture's words.  It gets a little graphic.  But, here is what Nebuchadnezzar did.  He killed the sons of Zedekiah before his very eyes.  Then, he put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him in bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.  He set fire to the temple of the LORD.  He broke down the walls of Jerusalem.  And, in 586 BC the nation of Judah no longer existed.  It was wiped off of the map. 

We might be thinking to ourselves, but what about the covenant God made with Abraham?  What about the covenant God made with Isaac, Jacob, and King David?  When God makes a covenant, He keeps His covenant, right?  And yet, it appears as if the situation is hopeless.  Who would be left to save God's people?

Again, most of the book of Ezekiel is pretty depressing.  But, there are glimmers of hope.  Our text for today is one of those glimmers of hope in which, when God makes a promise, He keeps His promise.

This is what the LORD said, which is our text for today, from Ezekiel, chapter seventeen, verses twenty-two through twenty-four.


This is what the LORD God says.  I, myself will take part of the tip of the cedar and plant it.  From the topmost of its shoots I will pluck off a tender sprig, and I, myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain.  On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it.  It will produce branches, bear fruit, and become a magnificent cedar.  Flying birds of every kind will live under it.  In the shelter of its branches they will nest.  Then all the trees in the countryside will know that I, the LORD, bring down the high tree and raise up the low tree, that I make the green tree dry up, and I make the dried-up tree blossom.  I, the LORD, have spoken, and I will carry it out.


This is God's Word.


Recently I was talking with a friend of mine.  He was sharing with me, “Do you know why individuals struggle?  Do you know why nations struggle?”
Before I could answer the question, he answered it himself, when he said, “It is because they have forgotten about God.”
Nations that step away from God's Word, and individuals who step away from God's Word struggle, such as the cases we see in our text for today.  God promised, “You will be blessed if you obey my Word.  You will be cursed, if you do not obey my Word.”
Right after our text, Ezekiel says this.  He does not just say it once, but he says it twice.  It is a very simple sentence, when he says,

“The soul who sins,

is the one who will die.”
“The soul who sins, is the one who will die.”

That is a proof passage that is used in our Catechism for this question.  The question is this:

What does God threaten to do to those who sin against Him?
Here is the answer our Catechism gives.

In His righteous jealously, God threatens to punish, both for time and in eternity, those who sin against Him.

Then, Ezekiel gives three examples.  He talks about a grandfather, and a son, and a grandson.  I will talk about two of those examples.  He uses the grandfather as an example of one who is righteous, who keeps God's Law, who does what God's Law says.  Here is how Ezekiel puts it. 

“Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.  He does not eat at the mountain shrines, or look to the idols of the house of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor's wife, or lie with a woman.  He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took on a pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery.  He gives his food to the hungry, and provides clothing for the naked.  He does not lend usury, or take excessive interest.  He withholds his hand from doing wrong, and judges fairly between man and man.  He follows my decrees, and faithfully keeps my laws.  That man is righteous, and will surely live.”

Ezekiel holds that up as an example of somebody who follows The Word of the Lord.

But then, Ezekiel goes on to say this about the son of that man, the grandfather's son. 

“However, supposed his son is a violent man, who sheds blood, and does any of these other things.  He eats at the mountain shrines.  He defiles his neighbor's wife.  He oppresses the poor and needy.  He commits robbery.  He does not return what he took in pledge.  He looks to idols.  He does detestable things.  He lends a usury, and takes excessive interest.  Will that man live?  Certainly he will not.”

Ezekiel is using that as an example of somebody who does not keep the Will, or Word of the Lord.

Now, certainly this is in keeping with what the rest of scripture says.  The 10:00 am Bible Study group right now is going through the book of James.  We have not gotten to this passage, yet, but we will in a couple of weeks.  God in His Word says,

“God opposes the proud,

but He shows favor to those who are humble.”

Thinking of Jesus' words, when He was teaching here on earth, Jesus said,

“Whoever exalts himself will be humbled,

but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

For the nation of Judah, the situation seemed hopeless.  It seemed entirely hopeless.  The nation had been carried off in to captivity.  There was nobody who was left.  Who would have guessed that God would take a shoot from the top of a cedar tree, and He would plant it? 

He would take the shoot from the top of the cedar tree, and He would plant it in the ground, and it would grow.  Now, as we hear these words from Ezekiel, they may not be very familiar to us.  I am going to share another one from the book of Isaiah that is more familiar to you.  Here is what Isaiah says, using this same analogy. 

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse,

and from his root a branch will bear fruit.”

You guys know I love Christmas.  You guys know I love singing Christmas hymns!  I was this close to singing a Christmas hymn this morning.  I was really close, for us as a congregation.  But, we are about as far away from Christmas, as you can possibly be, so I didn't think it would be appropriate.  There is a familiar Christmas hymn that talks about what our text is referring to.  It talks about what Isaiah is referring to.  It is the familiar Christmas hymn, Behold a Branch is Growing.  Just the first two lines:

Behold a branch is growing,

of loveliest form and grace.

As prophets sang foreknowing,

It springs from Jesse's race.

And so, what Ezekiel is talking about (in this mostly depressing book about prophesy of judgment), there are glimmers of hope.  In our text for today is a Messianic prophesy.  The prophets sang foreknowing.  It springs from Jesse's race.

Now, I did not have a separate Children's Sermon (and we are going to be bringing that back, soon), but inside of my sermon, I have a little Children's Sermon.  So, children, I am going to talk to you right now.  I need some answers from you.  Here is what our Gospel Lesson for today is talking about.

 “Children, do you see the hand on the TV screen in front of you?  Do you see that?  Do you see what is on the tip of the finger of that person's hand?  Help me.  Is that thing on the person's finger big, or is it small?”


“You are right, it is small.  It is small.  There is just a little, tiny thing on the tip of that person's finger.  Do you know what that really small thing is?  It is a mustard seed that our Gospel Lesson for today is talking about.

“It is one of the smallest things.  And yet, look at what that seed does, when you plant it in the ground!

“Now I have another question for you.  As you see the tree, and you can see the man standing in front of the tree, is the tree small, or is the tree big?”


“It is big.  You are right.”

So, from the smallest of seeds, to the largest of trees.  It seems like the situation was impossible. 

The nation of Judah had been carried off in to captivity.  There was nobody left.  Who would save God's people?  And yet, when God makes a promise, He keeps His promise. 

The situation seemed hopeless.

-A baby born in a Bethlehem barn.  It seems insignificant, and yet it is everything. 

-A Son growing up in His dad’s carpentry shop in the city of Nazareth, far away from the limelight of the capitol city of Jerusalem.  It seems insignificant, and yet it is everything.

-A Man riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey.  Not a steed, or a stallion.  It seems insignificant, and it seems humble, and yet it is everything.

-A Man dying on a cross between two thieves.  How does it even make the pages of history?  It seems insignificant, and yet it is EVERYTHING.

God in His Word says this. 

“God chose the foolish things of the world

to shame the wise. 

God chose the weak things of the world

to shame the strong. 

He chose the lowly things of this world

and the disposed things

and the things that are not,

to nullify the things that are

so that no one may boast before Him.”

When God makes a promise, He keeps His promise.  Here is where I want you to focus on the three things I have highlighted and underlined before you.  Go to that last phrase.  I the LORD have spoken, and I will carry it out.

When God makes a promise to you, He keeps His promise. 

Who is this promise for?
I want you to cling to these two words.  They are for everybody.  And, they are for all.

This Messianic Prophecy that God shares in His Word, through a prisoner of war, a prophet by the name of Ezekiel, is applied to you.  We are part of every.  We are part of all.  The promise God made last week that we looked at, the words God spoke to the devil, apply to you.  God said,

“I will put hostility between you and the woman,

between your seed and her seed. 

He will crush your head,

and you will strike His heal.”

That promise applies to you.  Jesus would go to the cross, and crush the head of the devil.

This prophecy applies to you, as well.  You are a part of all.  You are a part of every. 

“God so loved the world...”

Thanks be to God that what seems foolish, what seems insignificant, is everything. 

-The baby born in a Bethlehem barn, came to be your Savior. 

-The Son growing up in a carpenter's shop in Nazareth, came to be your Savior. 

-The Man riding in to Jerusalem on a donkey in humility came to be your Savior. 

-And the Man nailed to a cross between two thieves, to the world seems insignificant, but came to be your Savior.

Yes, what Ezekiel wrote may have occurred five hundred years before Jesus was born.  And yet, it is a Messianic Prophecy that applies to you and to me, even today, two thousand five hundred years after Ezekiel spoke these words!

I close with this paragraph that kind of ties in everything we have been talking about together, when a commentator says this. 

“The LORD reminds us that no matter how simple we have become, His love in His promises are there.  No matter how much we have left Him out of our lives, He is never far away.  Just the opposite.  His love and His promises remove the sin, and clear away everything that has replaced Him in our lives and hearts.  We are not so unlike the people of two thousand, five hundred years ago.  Like them, we tend to follow our sinful desires.  Human nature does not change.  The good news is God has not changed either.  His love is everlasting.”

God reminds us today,

“I will take a shoot, and I will plant it.” 

That was a Messianic prophecy that was spoken five hundred years before Jesus was born, and died on a cross, to pay for our sin.  Here we are, now, two thousand years removed from Jesus' life, and His death.  That same promise applies to you, and to me.  We are part of all.  We are a part of every. 

“I, the LORD, have spoken,

and I will carry it out.”



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, shall be now, and forevermore.