Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel, his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and all the house of Israel his companions: and join them one to another, into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of Israel, thy people, shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? say unto them, Thus saith the Lord Jehovih; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick; and they shall be one in Mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shalt be in thine hand before their eyes.
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord jehovih : Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms, any more, at all: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be My people, and I will be their God. EZEKIEL xxxvii. 16-23.
IN the regenerate mind, celestial and spiritual principles are conjoined, in their interior life, and in their exterior action; and thus they form one church of the Lord, living in the protection of His universal providence.
THE LITERAL SENSE.
In the literal sense of our text, the prophet Ezekiel is commanded to perform a certain representative ceremony, as a prophecy of what the Lord would do for the Israelites, in the future. And a Divine promise seems to be given, that the scattered tribes of Israel shall be gathered together, and restored to their fomer home, under one king, and under the Divine protection. But, as a matter of fact, in literal history, no such general restoration has taken place: and it is not at all probable that it ever will occur. But it is certain that the ancient Jews, themselves, expected such a literal restoration. And, in fact, the same hope for the future still comforts many of the modern Jews. But the Christian Church knows that the history of Israel, as narrated in the literal sense of the Bible, is representative and symbolic, typifying our regeneration. The prophecies of the Scriptures are fulfilled primarily in human minds, And they were given for the purpose of helping men in spiritual progress. Many of these prophecies have been fulfilled literally, also, because the literal conditions were the direct outcome of the corresponding spiritual conditions. But the literal part has generally been of very secondary importance.
But, in very many of the Scripture prophecies, the conditions were not possible to fulfil, literally. And they were clearly intended to be understood figuratively, representatively, symbolically, and correspondentially. The application of the Scripture prophecies to the ancient Israelites, and to the other ancient nations, is a matter of past history; but their spiritual application is for all time, and for all men; and it is of the greatest importance, to us, to-day.
In his representative action, the prophet Ezekiel was commanded to write upon one stick the name of Judah, and on another stick, the names of Joseph and Ephraim, The custom of writing names upon sticks, or staves, to represent persons, is very ancient. Examples of such writing are mentioned, nine hundred years before the time of our text, in the book of Numbers, XVII. 1-4: ” And Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of everyone of them a rod, according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes, according to the house of their fathers, twelve rods: write thou every man’s name upon his rod. And thou shalt write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation, before the testimony, where I will meet with you.”
In our text the prophet was to join the two sticks, either by fastening them together, or by holding them in such way that they should extend from the two sides of his hands, as if he held one long stick, only. The language of the text does not require us to suppose that these sticks were actually made one, by a miracle; but only that they should be brought together as one, to represent the prophecy that the tribes named on the sticks should be brought together under one king, as one people. But, even in such case, the tribes would still retain their distinct tribal organization and characteristics, as the States of our American Union still retain their individual statehood, while also bound together as one country. The sticks named in our text interest us, because of what they represent, in our own life.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
These two sticks were named for Judah and Joseph, two of the tribes of Israel, descendants of two of the sons of Jacob. The twelve sons of Jacob, and the twelve tribes of Israel, represent all the good and true principles of the church, in the aggregate. Judah represents the celestial principle, the love-principle, which is especially seen in love to the Lord, and in the love of goodness, in principle and in the life, in which good is done, because it is good. And Joseph represents the spiritual principle, the truth-principle, seen in the love of truth, and in doing good because the truth so teaches. And Ephraim, the son of Joseph, represents the understanding of spiritual truths. Thus, in one sense, Judah represents celestial good. And the companions of Judah represent celestial truths, which are always the companions of their kind of good. And, in the same aspect, Joseph represents spiritual good; and his companions represent spiritual truths.
The names of Judah, Joseph, and Ephraim were written on two sticks of wood. Wood represents natural goodness, in the practical daily life. And writing the name on the stick represents making known the quality, or character, belonging to the person, and for which he is named. For, originally, names were given to persons to indicate their personal characteristics. And thus names represent the quality, or character, of the person, or thing, named, And this is the basis of naming persons and things, in the Scriptures. For instance, before the birth of Jesus Christ, it was revealed to Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, because He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew i. 21.) And the word Jesus means a Savior. And when we read that, in asking for blessings, we must ask ” in the name of the Lord,” the meaning is that we must ask in the love of those qualities for which the name of God stands.
JOINING THE TWO STICKS.
These two sticks, on which the names of Judah and Joseph and his son were written, thus represent, literally, these two tribes of Israel; or, in a more general way, Judah and Israel. But, spiritually, they represent the celestial and spiritual principles, the love-principle and the truth-principle, or love and wisdom, or goodness and truth. Love flows into a man’s will, or heart, and fills him with a perception of goodness. But truth flows into a man’s understanding, or intellect, and gives him a recognition of truth.
But a man may know many truths, while he does not love goodness, and does not apply the truth to his own practical conduct of life. But when he loves goodness and knows truth, and lives according to these principles, the Lord unites goodness and truth, in the man’s mind, and in his life. And this uniting of goodness and truth is represented by joining the two sticks, in the hand of the prophet, and at the command of the Lord. And thus the two sticks became as one stick, for the purpose of the representation.
This agreement, or union, of good in the heart with truth in the understanding, is the heavenly marriage in the regenerate mind, which is effected by the vital union of goodness and truth, in which love flows into wisdom, and gives it motive-power, while wisdom enlightens love. And this spiritual marriage can occur only when goodness of heart and wisdom of intellect are joined in practical goodness of conduct. The actual good life of daily conduct is the ground on which our good and true principles meet, and in which they unite, in regenerate goodness. And these things are represented by the names being written on sticks of wood, because such wood represents practical goodness.
THE HAND OF THE PROPHET.
And these two sticks were joined in the hand of the prophet. The prophet represented the Word of the Lord, the Divine Truth revealed to men, by the Lord, through the prophets and others. The hand, with which we take hold of anything, and apply it to our use, represents power, the power which our mind exerts, in taking practical hold of any good or true principle, and applying it to the conduct of actual life. As the two sticks became as one, in the hand of the prophet, so, in the power of the Divine Truth drawn from the Lord’s Word, the good loves in our hearts are inwardly united with the truths in our intellect, in the measure and degree in which we apply these principles to all things of our daily life, the formation of our affections, the arrangement of our thoughts, and the government of our action.
This spiritual agreement and union are meant in the words of our Lord, ” If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way: first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew v. 23, 24.) The altar represents our worship of our Lord: and there cannot be any genuine worship except in the degree in which our love and our wisdom are in agreement. If our knowledge of truth rebukes our heart, for not loving the truth that we understand, then, spiritually, one brother, the understanding, has something against the other brother, the heart. And it is vain for us to offer any gift of worship to our Lord, until we determine to reconcile our knowledge of truth and our love of goodness; because the actual quality of our worship depends upon the actual condition of agreement between the different parts of our mind. Theoretical worship of God is not genuine, nor sincere.
THE LORD’S WORK.
You will observe that the Lord declared that He would make the two sticks as one in the hand of the prophet. In this statement it is emphasized that this uniting of goodness and truth in our regenerate life is the work of our Lord. We learn the truth from our Lord’s Word, and we make an effort to open our hearts to our Lord, and to love the things which He calls good; and we compel ourselves to obey our Lord’s commandments, as our laws of life and rules of action. But all the interior and spiritual work of uniting our hearts and our intellects, comes from our Lord, alone, who is the Source of all goodness and truth and life. And so, while we exert ourselves to do our own part of the work of regeneration, we must look to our Lord to do His part, within us.
Historically; there were two Churches, the Celestial Church, in which love to the Lord was the dominant principle; and, later, the Spiritual Church, characterized by love to the neighbor. From the Celestial Church. The celestial heaven was formed; and, from the Spiritual Church; came the spiritual heaven. In a certain sense, these two heavens are separate and distinct, as our will and our understanding are distinct, and as our heart and our lungs are separate. And yet our Lord, Jesus Christ, at His coming on the earth, brought these two heavens into closer union, by means of the redemption and regeneration of men wrought by Him, through His Humanity. In this larger sense, these two Churches are one, and these two heavens are one, as our will and our understanding form one mind, and as our heart and our lungs form one body. And these general conditions represent the particular changes which go on in the mind and life of each regenerating man, on earth and in heaven.
In our text and context, Jehovah promised to gather the Israelites into one nation, and one kingdom, with one king, and one shepherd; and to cleanse them of their evils; and to protect them from the self-defilements of idolatry and other transgressions against the. Divine laws. These promises are spiritual in their nature; and they are made to all persons who are working for regeneration. The tribes of Israel, taken captives by the heathen, and dragged away from their homes and country, and falling into all kinds of defile merits by detestable things, represent our natural minds, fallen into false notions, and into natural tendencies to evil, and into acts of sin ; and thus dragged away from the only true home of the human mind, which is in righteousness and in regeneration. In this disorderly condition, our natural minds are divided in their allegiance to many conflicting notions. There is no one great Divine Truth, accepted as King over our whole mind : and there is no one great Divine Love, adopted as Shepherd over our united mind.
But, in the work of regeneration, our Lord changes these conditions. In the degree and measure in which His Truth is accepted as the one King of our mind, and His Love as our one Shepherd, He draws together all the scattered elements of our life, and brings them into one mental kingdom, and one mental sheepfold. In the measure in which we recognize Him to be our spiritual King and our Shepherd, we see that He is King over all things in our intellect, and Shepherd of all things in our hearts. Gradually, as we open our hearts to Him, more and more, He builds up His church in us, and extends His influence over all things of our life. However disjoined the different elements of our mind and life may have been, He will gradually draw them into one harmonious manhood, one kingdom of truth, and one nation of goodness. Gradually, He will elevate all things of our natural life into close connection with our spiritual life.
And then David shall be the king forever, not historically and literally, but representatively and spiritually, when the Divine Truth which David, as the king, officially represented, shall control our whole and undivided mind and life. For, in our spiritual-minded condition, we shall look to the Divine Truth, not merely as an external authority controlling our actions, but as a Divine principle, clearly seen and understood, and known to be the spiritual law of all our being.
Our Christian God, our Lord, Jesus Christ, is a God of principles, of Love and of Wisdom, in which we can see and feel that we live, and move, and have our being. He is not a God of arbitrary power, who compels fear and obedience, but a God who fills our hearts with love for His goodness; who enlightens our intellect with clear understanding of His principles of truth; and who, by His power, sustains our activities, “in the beauty of holiness,” and in the joy of communion with Him. And then our life will not be a continued struggle against God’s laws and power, but a constant co-operation on our part with God’s laws, to separate ourselves from all our natural tendencies towards evil, falsity; and sin. Knowing our natural tendencies, we shall understand the dangers before us. And, in this Divine instruction. and leading, we shall be protected from the ” defilements,” and “the detestable things,” and the transgressions, which seek to hold our natural mind. And, in our all-pervading love’ for our Lord, while we live in “the beauty of holiness,” we shall hear and understand His gracious promise, “They shall be My people, and I will be their God.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903