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What Happens When God Plants a Tiny Tree

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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The LORD God proclaims: I myself will take one of the top branches from the tall cedar. I will pluck a tender shoot from its crown, and I myself will plant it on a very high and lofty mountain. On Israel’s mountainous highlands I will plant it, and it will send out branches and bear fruit. It will grow into a mighty cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it and find shelter in the shade of its boughs.

Ezekiel 17:22

In Ezekiel 17, the Lord uses the image of a cedar tree both to rebuke the Israelites and to encourage them with a promise. In the first verses of the chapter, we see a great eagle that plants a seed from a cedar tree, which grows expansively in the directoin of the eagle. But, when another great eagle comes along, the vine turns to grow toward the newcomer. The first eagle responds by destroying the vine so that it withers away (17:1-10).

The following section of Ezekiel 17 interprets this story in light of the behavior of Jerusalem and its king. The first eagle is Babylon; the second is Egypt. The Jews, at first living under the sovereignty of Babylon, sought deliverance by turning to Egypt. The result, according to Ezekiel, will be the final victory of Babylon over the Jews, with their being scattered all over the world (17:11-21).

The chapter ends on a surprising note of hope, however. Still using the image of the cedar tree, the Lord says, "I myself will take one of the top branches from the tall cedar. I will pluck a tender shoot from its crown, and I myself will plant it on a very high and lofty mountain. On Israel’s mountainous highlands I will plant it, and it will send out branches and bear fruit. It will grow into a mighty cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it and find shelter in the shade of its boughs" (17:22-23). In time, God will plant his people again. They will grow into a great tree, even though they come from such humble beginnings.

Jesus uses similar imagery when he speaks of the kingdom of God: "What’s a good image for God’s kingdom? What parable can I use to explain it? Consider a mustard seed. When scattered on the ground, it’s the smallest of all the seeds on the earth; but when it’s planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all vegetable plants. It produces such large branches that the birds in the sky are able to nest in its shade" (Mark 4:30-32). The kingdom of God, proclaimed and inaugurated by Jesus, fulfills the promise of God through Ezekiel. From something very small and insignificant, in this case a mustard seed rather than a cedar twig, a large plant will grow to the extent that birds will be able to make their nests in it.

Today, we are witnessing the growth of the kingdom of God. This is a work of God in which we get to participate. When we proclaim the kingdom through our words and live it out through our deeds, God grows his kingdom in our segment of creation. Moreover, when we live in the community of God's kingdom people, we find security and a home, like the birds nesting in the cedar tree or mustard plant.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How are you participating in God's work of growing his kingdom? At work? At school? In your neighborhood? In your church? Through your giving? Through your relationships?

PRAYER: O Lord, you have indeed planted the mustard seed of your kingdom. From an insignificant beginning, your kingdom has now spread across the world. Yet there is more growth yet to happen.

Help me, Lord, to participate in your kingdom work on earth. Use me to extend your kingdom into new places. Wherever I am, may I be a channel of your truth, grace, and love. Amen.

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