Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the LORD. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the LORD have spoken; I will accomplish it. Ezekiel 17:22-24
At the time of our reading in Ezekiel, the Davidic king has been defeated and dragged off to Babylon and the temple and the city of Jerusalem is razed to the ground. There would appear to be no hope. The people had endured great pain and sorrow. All that they had hope in was destroyed, taken, or killed. How can we worship God without the temple? Does the God of Judah even exist? In this hopeless situation the people strained to hear the words of the good news. In the midst of this political, social, and theological turmoil of the waning days of the Judahite kingdom, Ezekiel proclaimed God’s soaring promise of salvation. In verses 22-24, Ezekiel declares that God will take another clipping from that mighty and noble cedar tree and will plant it in a safe place high on Mount Zion.
This newly planted Judah will not seek its own abundance, nor will it be consumed with anxious thoughts of self-defense: instead, it will flourish as a safe and nurturing place for “every kind of bird” (all people) that might alight in its aromatic branches. Ezekiel depicts God’s grace as generative and life-giving to all the earth. This verse echoes with the great promise of Genesis 12:3: namely, that all the nations in the world will be blessed through the family of the promise. All the trees of the forest will know that the LORD is the sovereign source and author of all that lives. The LORD has divine power to give and to take life, to build up and to tear down. In other words, Ezekiel proclaims that God’s power can be seen in the shocking reversals and upheavals that upend all of our expectations and our assumptions about power and prestige. In the midst of hopelessness God’s mighty cedar grows.