Summary: The object lesson of the two sticks pictures the great reunion that will take place at the return of Jesus.
I’ve never been a big fan of reunions. Somehow the idea of getting together with a bunch of people you haven’t seen or even talked to in years so that you can all try to impress each other just isn’t something that I look forward to. And as I get older, the thought of taking part in a high school reunion becomes less and less appealing. Maybe it’s because, as someone once said, “Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald, they don't recognize you.”
Now family reunions are a bit better, because all the other people are related to you so you really don’t have to try to impress them quite as much. But it is still a bit awkward to stand with a blank look on your face while somebody says, “You remember your third cousin’s ex wife’s step brother, Billy Bob, don’t’ you?”
Fortunately for us, Ezekiel describes another kind of reunion, one that all of God’s people can look forward to with great anticipation. So go ahead and turn in your Bibles to Ezekiel 37 and we’ll begin in a moment with verse 15.
Since this passage lends itself to a systematic study, we’ll look at it in sections and we’ll consider how this applies to our own lives within each of those sections rather than leaving all the applications to the end of the message.
You’ll remember that Ezekiel is writing here to the people of Judah who are in exile in Babylon. They have been taken from their land and their city of Jerusalem and their Temple have been destroyed. But in this passage, God, through another object lesson given to Ezekiel, shows His people that there are four specific things that they can look forward to in the future that should give them hope right then and there. Each of the four reunion experiences that God’s people are going to undergo will provide a great reversal of the hopelessness and despair that they are currently facing.
1. God’s people reconciled – from division to unity (vv. 15-22)
Once again, God uses an object lesson to demonstrate to Ezekiel and to His people His future plans for them – plans that Jeremiah described as plans for “a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Let’s read the account of that object lesson beginning in verse 15:
15 The word of the Lord came to me: 16 “Son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him’; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph (the stick of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.’ 17 And join them one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand. 18 And when your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what you mean by these?’ 19 say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, that they may be one in my hand. 20 When the sticks on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, 21 then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. 22 And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be king over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms.
If you were with us during the time that Pastor Dana taught the Old Testament overview a couple of years ago, you may remember that this particular passage is a key to understanding the overall structure of the Bible and the overarching theme of Scripture.
But before we focus on that aspect of this passage, I feel compelled to address briefly one of the ways that this passage has been misused. Normally, I’d much rather focus on what the text means than what it doesn’t mean, but this particular interpretation is so widespread that it is quite likely that we’ll run across it and I want us all to be prepared to deal with this particular false teaching.
The Mormons teach that this passage contains a reference to Joseph Smith and that it confirms the validity of the Book of Mormon as Scripture. In order to do that, they insist that the word translated “stick” in this passage could be translated “scroll” and that therefore in this object lesson Ezekiel is joining together two scrolls. In order to make that claim they have to take a Hebrew word that is derived from a word that means “tree” and is translated “tree”, “timber”, “wood”, “stick” or something similar everywhere else in the Old Testament and somehow translate that same word “scroll” in this text only.