“C’mon, Jake, hurry it up – Zeke’s here!”
“Oh, is he? Cool!” Jake hurried it up and together the two boys ran to where a large group of men were gathered.
Too short to see over the shoulders of the men, the boys edged first one way and then the other. The crowd was very large. The low growls and mutters of conversation stole from the boy’s ears the words they were straining to hear. At last two men, turning to converse with neighbors on opposite sides, left a small gap into which Jake squeezed, pulling Solly with him. Taking every slight advantage that offered they made their way cautiously to the front of the throng.
The man facing the crowd was sturdy and upright. He held a stick in each hand and he was speaking clearly and forcefully.
“See,” he lifted one stick before the crowd, “Judah, and all the Israelites with him, and” lifting the other stick, “Ephraim, and all the Israelites with him.” His hands fell to his sides. “Israel, a nation divided.”
One hand extended, “Ephraim, taken captive by Assyria.” The other arm stretched out, “Judah, taken by Nebuchadnezzar.”
His eyes traveled slowly across the shifting, murmuring group of men before he continued.
“A divided nation - two different captivities – now all subjects of the Babylonian kingdom. And the Lord God says He will re-unite the tribes – like this!” Holding the ends of the two sticks tight in his fist he lifted it high, displaying them now as one long stick. “This is the word of the Lord.”
“The Lord God says: I am going to take the people of Israel from among the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. … They will never again be two nations; they will not be divided into two kingdoms. … I will save them from all the ways they sin and turn against me, and I will make them clean. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God.”
As he lowered his hand with the two sticks made one, Ezekiel repeated, “This is the word of the Lord God.”
Ezekiel turned away. The crowd broke up and moved off slowly, couples and groups discussing the words of the prophet. Jake and Solly were among them.
“WOW! Sol, wouldn’t it be something if that actually happens?” Jake was enthusiastic.
Solly chewed his lip, frowning. “Ye-es, it sure would, Jake, but can you imagine it ever really happening? And anyway, didn’t that other prophet send our fathers a message that the Lord said they were to settle here, build houses and raise families?”
Jake stopped walking and turned on his friend.
“I prefer Zeke’s message.” He stated angrily. “If the Lord God really is the Lord God of Israel why shouldn’t He take us back to the land He gave us? Even if it is like the time the Fathers left Egypt and the ones who didn’t believe died in the desert, but their sons went into the land God had promised them. So even if you don’t believe, I am going to remember Zeke’s words and I am going to believe that God will make us clean and we will again be His people. It’s the best thing I’ve heard in all my life!”
Solly shrugged. “If you like. But as you know, although the elders and the leaders gather to listen to him, its just like watching a play-actor – he’s a great attraction, and the crowds watching him get bigger and bigger, but they don’t take him seriously. Nor do I.”
He turned on his heel and followed the crowd.
“But as for you, your people are talking about you by the walls and in the doorways of their houses. … They come to you in crowds as if they were really ready to listen. … To your people you are nothing more than a singer who sings love-songs and has a beautiful voice and plays a musical instrument well. They hear your words, but they will not obey them.”
Scriptures taken from The New Century Version. Ezekiel 37:21-23; 33:31-33.
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