One Stick or Two?

The word of the LORD came to me: “Son of man, take a stick of wood and write on it, ‘Belonging to Judah and the Israelites associated with him.’ Then take another stick of wood, and write on it, ‘Ephraim’s stick, belonging to Joseph and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ Join them together into one stick so that they will become one in your hand.

“When your countrymen ask you, ‘Won’t you tell us what you mean by this?’ say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph—which is in Ephraim’s hand—and of the Israelite tribes associated with him, and join it to Judah’s stick, making them a single stick of wood, and they will become one in my hand.’ Hold before their eyes the sticks you have written on and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them back into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. There will be one king over all of them and they will never again be two nations or be divided into two kingdoms. (Ezekiel 37:15-22)

Only God can put Humpty Dumpty together again. More than three hundred years before Ezekiel was born, the northern tribes of Israel had rebelled against the son of Solomon and established a separate nation, with a different king. For all those years, they had maintained their independence—until the day the Assyrians arrived, destroyed their capital, and took nearly thirty thousand of them away to Nineveh. When Ezekiel prophesied, that northern kingdom had been in Assyrian captivity for over a hundred years. The southern kingdom, ruled over by a descendent of Solomon, was then in the process of being destroyed and taken into their own captivity in Babylon, where they were destined to remain for seventy years.

In the midst of this division and destruction, God announced that both the captivity in foreign lands, and the divisions between the people of Israel were ending. The shattered Israelites, both northerner and southerner, would together rebuild the desolate cities and find rest under a single king.

God’s words to Ezekiel began to come true when Cyrus, the Persian king, issued his decree permitting all the captives to go back home. They became fully true when the Holy Spirit united all believers everywhere into one body in Christ.

God did not ever intend for his people to be estranged. He intends to restore harmony to wherever it has gone missing.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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