From A Rod To A Sword


Ezekiel 21




P  Does God still use the ‘sword’ today?

P  When does God choose to use the ‘sword’ against his people?

P  What is the difference between the ‘rod’ and the ‘sword’?


The fall of 1976 was the first semester I attended Bible College. I received the following letter from the Dean of Students after completing my first year of college. Dear Jerry: I have just had the sad and disappointing experience of looking over your academic record of two semesters. You are making great progress in the wrong direction. In view of your probationary status and the poor record you had this semester it would be appropriate to dismiss you from the college for academic reasons. However, it is my hope that with one more semester to redeem yourself you would take advantage of the opportunity, recognize God’s leading and put everything together in a way that would honor Him. I am recommending that you be permitted one more semester with a maximum of nine hours. Sincerely, Chester L Halstead.

Dr. Halstead was using his rod to warn me of my need to learn a lesson before it was too late. Instead of using his power to deliver the full consequences I deserved he used his authority to motivate me to change.

The Lord claims to have done the same thing with His people, Israel. He says so in vs 10 & 13. ‘Rod’ may refer here to the chastisement God had used to try to curb Israel’s sin and bring her back to Himself. A rod was often used for discipline (Prov 10:13; 13:24; 23:13) and God used ‘the rod’ to discipline His own ( 2 Sam 7:14; Job 9:34; 21:9). Israel had despised God’s earlier attempts to use the rod to correct her. God does the same thing today with His people (Heb 12:6). As a loving parent uses the rod for temporary discomfort to spare the child from long-range disaster of an undisciplined life so our Father disciplines us so we might avoid the full consequences that path is leading us too. God has planned the use of pain and opposition in our lives as a means of curtailing our natural inclination to pursue our autonomy since the garden. God will bring into your life that measure of pain He deems necessary to conform you into the image of His Son (Rom 8:29). So our worldly comfort here will always be negotiable to our Father as He does His work in you. But what if we refuse to correct ourselves? What happens when the ‘rod’ of discipline does not motivate us to change? When God’s people rejected His advice and chastisement all they could expect now was the sword. All that is left is judgment. When someone refuses to learn from discipline they are often only left living with the full consequences of their rebellion. God is personified as a person unsheathing His sword to bring judgment upon His people.


The first 5 verses reveal the extent of the coming judgment. Toward Jerusalem, the land of Israel, Righteous and wicked, from south to north. Noone in the land is going to escape the consequences. It affected those who were in open idolatry as well as those claiming to be followers of God. Even tho they had refused to acknowledge Ezekiels ministry and message they would have to when this judgment happens vs 5. Ezekiel is then told to act out the grief the people would experience when their city fell to the sword vs 6-7. I watched a special program that videotaped a husband negotiating with an undercover hitman in a hotel room to kill his wife. Before he left the room the hitman asked him if this is really what he wanted to do. He sat for a moment, pondered and finally tilted his head with a smile saying yes. As he began to exit the room the police entered, grabbed him, handcuffed him and then on the tape you see this man wailing, falling to his knees, screaming that the policemen kill him. So overwhelmed with humiliation and shame he cried and wailed like a baby pleading for mercy with nowhere to escape. God said that is what IT IS going to be like when the sword finally reaches the city.


This section is divided into 3 stanzas. The first in vs 8-10 tells us that this sword is being scoured to remove all rust and give the blade a gleam for battle. The second stanza in vs 11-13 reveals the victims against whom the sword will strike. Not only the people but the princes of Israel, the leaders who had spurned God’s discipline. The third stanza stresses the work of the sword. Both the prophet and God would strike their hands as the sword moved swiftly striking again and again seeming to come from every side relentlessly pursuing the people. It would stop only when the judgment was complete.


The sword is identified as King Neb of Babylon. God directs Ezekiel to symbolize God’s supernaturally guiding Neb to Jerusalem to overthrow that city. Ezekiel was to mark out two roads for the sword, King Neb, to take. Jerusalem’s present rebellion coincided with two other nations, Tyre and Ammon. When Neb reached this fork he had to decide which nation he would attack first. He used three means to determine his course of action by casting lots with arrows similar to drawing straws, by using idols possibly by attempting to contact departed spirits and examining the liver of a sacrificed animal by reading the shape and markings studied by soothsayers. By themselves these practices could do nothing but God worked thru them to point Neb toward Jerusalem. Since the leaders had violated their solemn oath to Neb by rebelling against him, they would now remember this moment as they are forcibly torn from it and the ones surviving dragged in chains to Babylon. The removal of the turban represents the priests of Judah and the crown represents the kings of Judah vs 26. Both will be no more. The repetition of ruin indicates the land and throne will be absolutely desolate. There will be no valid claim until Christ rides into Jerusalem to claim it (Zech 9:9; Matt 21:1-11) and ultimately sits on it yet in the future.


The Ammonites thot they had escaped judgment. They had even organized a coup killing Neb’s governor over them but they too would be judged. God would also hand them over to Neb for punishment. Form a Rod to a Sword. That is all that is left when we refuse God’s discipline in our lives.  I returned to college the following semester with the hope that the rod would motivate me to correct myself. Unfortunately, I received this letter during the Xmas break between semesters ‘This is not the type of letter I enjoy writing but it is necessary for me to inform you that you have not improved your academic record during the fall semester. This necessitates dismissal from college. There may be a time in the future when you will be ready to approach college again with some new goals and renewed purpose.’

1. God’s rod is always loving and for your greater good.

2. God chastises us patiently just as He did with Israel.

3. Gods purpose is to correct us from a sinful direction toward Christlikeness.

4. God’s discipline unheeded leaves us only His judgment.

5. Judgment ultimately at the seat/throne.