Speaking Of Life 3029 | The Cutting Takes Root
If you’ve ever done any gardening, you know it can be frustrating. You have to strike the right balance between caring for something and leaving it alone so it will grow and not be smothered.
One technique for growing that takes quite a bit of care and attention at first, but can really be successful, is growing from a cutting. With a tree, you cut off a green branch and carefully plant it in rich, fertile soil so that it forms roots and grows into a new tree.
The prophet Ezekiel talks about this as a metaphor for God replanting Israel after exile:
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.
This parable follows a discussion of Israel’s efforts to ally with its pagan neighbors. Their disobedience brought them into exile and despair. But God gives them this very tender image of himself as the gardener who gently takes a cutting from what’s there and grows in the familiar soil of back home. The image would have been comforting to an exiled Israel.
God’s plan for Israel was not to destroy or start over, but to build from what was already growing. He took Israel in his hands, even after all their efforts to make their own way failed. They were frail and completely dependent, but he saw the mighty strength in their future that would bless all nations – “birds of every kind will nest in it.”
Jesus no doubt drew on this image in Mark 4, when he told the story of the tiny mustard seed that grows larger than all the garden plants.
God, the divine gardener, took a cutting every time the great tree of humanity fell and he replanted it. From Adam and Eve to Abraham, from Abraham to Isaac, then Jacob, then Moses, then the people of Israel. Finally, from all this imagery, all of this promise of growth in the future, God’s plan comes together in one person, born of the lineage of the kings and priests. From Jesus grew the mighty family of faith that keeps growing through the centuries despite its own mistakes and the devastating winds of time.
God’s plan is connected throughout. Nowhere in it did God change his mind or start over again or make up for some mistake. Redemption and restoration, yes, but the same consistent story always moving forward. The story, like the tree, grows and keeps on growing just from the tiny beginning until it crescendos into the all-encompassing Kingdom of God. You and I are part of that replanting, part of that story.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.