The Tender Sprig and the Noble Tree

The Tender Sprig and the Noble Tree

The Tender Sprig and the Noble Tree.

“Thus says Yahweh, the Sovereign Lord… ‘I shall take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I shall pluck a tender shoot from the cedar’s highest branch and plant it on a lofty and prominent mountain. On the high mountain of Israel I shall plant it, that it may bring forth branches and bear fruit and become a noble cedar tree. And birds of every kind will rest under it; they will dwell in the shade of its branches. And all the trees of the field will know that I am Yahweh, the Lord God; I bring down the high tree, I exalt the low tree, I dry up the green tree, and make the withered tree flourish. I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it.”  (Ezekiel 17:22-24).

Our compassionate God tends to offer hope after judgment. Here in Ezekiel the Lord highlights the “king of trees,” the great cedar tree of Israel. Yahweh tells a story of hope after going into detail in His judgment of Israel. And what could be more hopeful than an assurance that the Lord will bring the Messiah to usher in the restoration of Israel? To make this happen, God will do all the heavy work, He will control the action. God promises to take off and set out, to pluck and plant, to humble and exalt, to dry up and to make flourish.

In this fascinating parable, the Lord is looking at the old cedar tree in Israel, the royal line of David that has withered and shown itself to be unfruitful and unworthy. So the Lord plucks a tender twig, a small branch, from the old cedar tree that has no future. He takes that healthy sprig and plants it on the high mountain of Zion, Jerusalem. This little, life-giving shoot from the crown of the old tree is the promised Messiah, and He will grow and flourish, says the Lord. His new tree will develop into a majestic cedar that will spread its influence and presence everywhere. The Messiah will establish God’s kingdom and will provide a nesting ground for birds of every kind, people from around the world. This new cedar tree will restore Israel. This tiny Branch will become the noble tree that restores Israel, bringing salvation and wholeness to the Chosen People of God.

In the story, all the other trees in the forest, all the other nations of the world, will look on this new tree and understand that the Sovereign Lord is truly at work, that only God has the power to make this miracle happen. Only Yahweh is able to bring down the high tree, to humble the tree that has exalted itself. Only the Lord is able to exalt the low tree, to strengthen those who are humble before Him. Only God can dry up the green tree, frustrating the efforts of the rebellious. And only the Lord is able to take a withered tree and make it flourish, to see a dead tree and bring it back to life.

Ezekiel’s story has historically been understood as messianic, clearly fulfilled by Jesus the Messiah. In the story here the messiah was referred to as a shoot and a branch, a twig and a sprig. This is a common title given to the messiah throughout Scripture. He indeed was the Son of David, taken from the old tree of David’s royal line, and the Lord plucked Jesus from that old cedar tree to start a new one, a royal line that will be eternal. “A shoot will sprout from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1). Another translation puts it, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – Yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old roots.” (NLT) Gabriel’s announcement to Mary described it this way, “The Lord God will give Jesus the throne of His Father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will have no end.” (Luke 1:32-33). The Righteous Branch is a common title of the Messiah, and Jesus fit the bill perfectly. He is the Righteous Branch who will be beautiful and glorious (Isaiah 4:2); the Righteous Branch who will rule wisely, do what is just, and enable Israel to dwell securely (Jer. 23:5); the Branch who will execute justice and righteousness (Jer. 33:15). All these passages about the messianic Branch reveal that the Messiah will begin the new kingdom, the new cedar tree, with His presence and ministry on earth, and we don’t have to wait for the final messianic rule. The Messiah’s new cedar tree is alive and well right now, giving us glimpses of the final Kingdom waiting for us.

Jesus is the tender sprig taken from the highest branch of the old cedar tree, planted on Mt. Zion by the Father-Gardener, to grow a new tree that will establish His kingdom. Jesus is the Righteous Branch who will flourish and bear the fruit of restoration and salvation to Israel and to the world.