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What Are the Two Sticks Spoken of in Ezekiel?
Family unity. Since the start of creation, that was the ideal. God's son was happily working beside him. Next came the angels, who shouted in applause when construction of the earth was nearing completion. Then came humans, who could freely communicate with God. But then, Satan, the source of division, put a wedge between Eve and God.
It didn't stop there. Cain murdered Abel. Cities started to be built. The people were scattered at the Tower of Babel. Nations were formed. Wars were fought. Even God's own chosen nation, Israel, developed corruption and division. Eventually, Israel was divided into two sections: the northern ten-tribe kingdom and the southern two-tribe kingdom. To illustrate this, God's prophet took a new garment, ripped it into 12 pieces representing the 12 tribes of Israel and gave 10 of them to Jeroboam, who would be their king. Israel was now divided. God had given them an opportunity to play a very special part in the salvation of the world. He promised Abraham that by means of his offspring, everyone would be blessed.
But generations passed by, the Israelites continued in their unfaithfulness, and eventually they were taken captive by the Babylonians. This time, using his prophet Ezekiel, God used another illustration. Instead of taking apart a garment, it was something similar, but opposite. Ezekiel chapter 37, verses 15 and 16:
"The word of Jehovah again came to me, saying: “And you, son of man, take a stick and write on it, ‘For Judah and for the people of Israel who are with him.’ Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Eʹphra·im, and all the house of Israel who are with him.’"
So what does this mean? When it mentions Joseph and Ephraim, it's referring to the ten-tribe kingdom. Why? Well, Joseph was one of Israel's sons, but instead of having his own tribe, each of his sons originated a tribe, just like their uncles. One of those sons was Ephraim, who was also the dominant tribe as well as the tribe from which Jeroboam originated, who was the ten-tribe kingdom's first king. When it mentions Judah, it's referring to the two-tribe kingdom, of which Judah was the primary tribe from which the kings in the line of David descended, eventually leading to the Messiah. So what promise was given in this prophetic illustration? Let's continue in chapter 37, verses 17 through 22:
"Then bring them close to each other so that they become just one stick in your hand. When your people say to you, ‘Will you not tell us what these things mean?’ tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: “I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Eʹphra·im, and the tribes of Israel who are with him, and I will join them to the stick of Judah; and I will make them one stick, and they will become one in my hand.”’ The sticks that you write on should be in your hand for them to see. “Then tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says: “I will take the Israelites from among the nations where they have gone, and I will collect them together from every direction and bring them to their land. I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them, and they will no longer be two nations; nor will they be divided any longer into two kingdoms."
So just like this scripture says, after decades in captivity, people from these dispersed tribes were eventually released and came together, returning home to Jerusalem, rebuilding the temple and resuming the worship of Jehovah as laid out in the Mosaic law. But that doesn't mean things were perfect from here on in. Far from it. No longer was there a true king from the line of David. The high priests were often corrupt. The Israelites developed a form of God's worship that included many man-made beliefs, practices and technicalities, and these usually overshadowed what God's law actually said. And then of course they killed God's Son. So, Jerusalem was destroyed again and Israel was scattered, but this time for good. Yet, look at what the prophecy goes on to say, starting in verse 23.
"They will no longer defile themselves with their disgusting idols and their detestable practices and all their transgressions. I will save them from all their unfaithfulness by which they have sinned, and I will cleanse them. They will be my people, and I myself will be their God."
This verse and the ones that follow it obviously don't apply to what happened with natural Israel as a whole. The Bible later goes on to associate these thoughts with spiritual Israel, for instance when the apostle Paul said in Galatians that "if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring, heirs with reference to a promise." Continuing in Ezekiel, verse 24: "My servant David will be their king," of course David was long dead and this is referring to David's ultimate heir, Jesus, "and they will all have one shepherd", again the shepherd being Jesus, and reminding us of Jesus' own words that he has 'other sheep, and they will all become one flock under one shepherd'. Verse 26 says "And I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an eternal covenant with them. I will establish them and make them many and place my sanctuary among them forever." And I'm sure this next part will remind you of a scripture in Revelation: "My tent will be with them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."
So in paradise unity prevails, everyone brought together again, through Jesus.