September 7, 2021
"Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: ‘Because you (Pharaoh, King of Egypt) are so tall, because he has lifted his head above the leafy boughs..."
“Therefore, this is what the Lord God says: ‘Because you (Pharaoh, King of Egypt) are so tall, because he has lifted his head above the leafy boughs, because he has grown so arrogant about his height, I am handing him over to the mightiest of the nations, who will certainly deal with him as his wickedness deserves; I reject him.” Ezekiel 31:10-11
In today’s chapter, the Lord of history reveals Himself to be in charge of momentous international affairs. In a day when believers in Jesus conveniently confine God to purely personal issues, we need to regain the cosmic perspective of the prophets, as they spoke of the Lord of the universe, intimately involved in the international issues of their day. There is not an item of news that the Lord is not involved in.
Some of my fondest memories involve spending time at my grandparents’ home in Arkansas. Built on a 2-acre lot, their estate contained a fair amount of old-growth trees. Once, a tree trimmer was giving an estimate to my grandfather. As he patted the trunk of the tree in question, the tree expert stated, “You know, this tree is about 100 years old!” “It’s older than that,” my grandfather shot back, “Because I am 100 years old, and it was this big when I showed up!” There is something proud about a majestic old tree, but as you have undoubtedly heard, pride comes before a fall!
This fifth prophecy against Egypt, dated 53 days after the preceding one, is in the style of the funeral dirge. Its subject: Egypt’s past glories. It takes the form of a poem likening Egypt to a “Lebanon cedar.” Generally, these massive trees are impressive, but the cedar Egypt is compared to is a great tree, fallen by the lumberjacks. Just as Assyria had fallen a century earlier at the battle of Carchemish, Egypt’s power will be destroyed.
The poem describes the greatness of the tree, even esteeming it above any tree to be found in Eden. The image portrayed is, of course, Egypt’s self-appraisal, not God’s honest appraisal. Like Assyria before her and all the conquering nations since, the pride of Egypt’s nationalism knew no bounds. The lesson: their pride precedes their fall.
Babylon, the “ruler of the nations,” will cut Egypt down to size with its massive battle-ax, but the actual cause of Egypt’s fall is her wickedness. In a somber passage, Egypt is depicted as Sheol (the grave), lying alongside other trees (nations) who have died because of their prideful opposition to God. The point of the allegory is comparative: If Egypt were to fall, what chance had the tiny nations that depended on her for their survival?
The doom of those who live in habitual sin is to “lie among the uncircumcised” (31:18; 28:10) Un-circumcision is a word used by the prophets to depict uncleanness, defilement, and unworthiness. In short, it is the symbolic distinction between the believer and unbeliever, the Remnant and the fallen, the saved and unsaved. And the sad truth is, the two extremes are separated, not by education, wealth, nationality, or DNA; the object of their faith separates them. The only “tree” we should choose to associate with is the cross of Messiah Jesus.