Reply to Brother B. Bundy, on Ezekiel 17:22-24: - “Thus saith the Lord God, I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar, and will set it; I will crop off from the top of his young twigs a tender one, and will plant it upon a high mountain and eminent; in the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it; and it shall bring forth boughs, and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar; and under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches shall they dwell. And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree to flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.”
In this chapter the prophet was instructed to put forth a riddle and speak a parable unto the house of Israel, in which Israel is represented as a high cedar. The king of Israel and his seed, were as the top of the young twigs of its highest branch. The king of Babylon is represented in the riddle as a great eagle, with great and long wings, and full of feathers, coming to Jerusalem and bringing the king of Israel and his seed under tribute to Babylon. And the king of Egypt as another great eagle, with great wings and many feathers, to whom the king of Israel looked for aid, in violation of his covenant and oath; and the interposition of God in frustrating the designs of the perjured king. And in the conclusion of the chapter we have a declaration of what God himself would do, both in frustrating the devices of men, and in accomplishing his own sovereign purpose concerning Israel. This purpose is declared in the text which we are called to explain. In responding to the call of brother Bundy, we can only give him such views as we have on the subject. Without attempting any further explanation of the two great eagles, Babylon and Egypt, than what God has himself given in this chapter, from the twenty-fifth verse, inclusive, we will offer such views as we have on what is declared in the last three verses of the chapter.
First, we call attention to the high authority from which the declaration comes. “Thus saith the Lord God,” the supreme ruler and controller of all events, who doth his pleasure in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; who commands, and it stands fast, who speaks the word, and it is done. God that cannot lie hath spoken it. He says, “I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar and will set it.” Israel is undoubtedly intended by the high cedar, exalted to heaven, as our Lord said of Capernaum, and other cities of Judah. Matthew 11:20-24. The highest branch of Israel was Judah. See Genesis 49:8-12. This branch was set in dominion over all the other tribes of Israel, or branches of this high cedar, according to the prophetic blessing, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” The young twigs of this lofty branch of the high cedar represents the latest productions, or developments of the tribe or branch from which they shoot forth. As in the riddle in the beginning of this chapter, the top twigs cropped off by the great eagle, are explained to mean the king and princes of Israel; so in our text we must understand the royal seed in its latest development. “Thus saith the Lord God, I will also take of the highest branch of the high cedar.” He does not say that he will take the highest branch; but he will take of the highest branch; nor does he say that he would take the young twigs; but he says, “I will crop off from the top of his young twigs, a tender one.” Even as some of these twigs had been taken off by the great Babylonian eagle, so from the top of these young twigs of a still later development, would he crop off a tender one, which he would set, and which he would plant upon a high mountain and eminent.
We think there can be no doubt that this tender one is our Lord Jesus Christ; “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah.” Hebrews 7:14. As David was of the tribe of Judah, “Therefore he being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit upon his throne.” Acts 2:30. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, and The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6,7. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” Isaiah 11:1. “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” Zechariah 6:12,13. Observe that by lineal descent from David, our Lord was entitled to the throne and kingdom of David, to the temporal government, and in this sense he was born king of the Jews. But he had not come into the world to be temporal king, and therefore he must be cropped off, or cut off from the high cedar, and from the top of the young, or latest twigs of that tree, and be planted; and, like a corn of wheat, fall into the earth and die, rising from the dead, grow up out of his place, (his place among the young twigs of the high branch of the cedar, or commonwealth of Israel). Thus when he came in the flesh, he should grow up before the Lord, as a tender plant . Isaiah 53:2. Agreeing with the description in our text, “a tender one,” and yet he should be raised up by the Father, as “a plant of renown.” Ezekiel 34:29. He should be planted on a high mountain and eminent. “In the mountain of the height of Israel will I plant it,” saith the Lord. Of this mountain of the house of the Lord, high and eminent, we are told in prophecy, “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountain, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow into it.” Isaiah 2:2 & Micah 4:1. This house is the church of God, built up of lively stones, fitly framed, and builded for a habitation, in which God has said, Here I dwell forever. I Peter 2:5; Ephesians 2:21,22; Psalm 132:13-17. God says he has laid in Zion for a foundation, a stone. Isaiah 28:16. And the psalmist says, “His foundation is in the holy mountain.” Psalm 87:1. Thus clearly showing that the high mountain of Israel, and eminent, in which he has planted this “tender one,” is none other than his church, which he came to redeem and save.
The planting and setting up of this tender one, cropped off from the royal twigs of Judah, deserves more than a passing notice. As in the tender twigs of the uttermost branches of the stately cedars are found the seed or germ for propagation, so in Christ, as the Second Adam, was, and is, the life and immortality of all his members. He is the quickening Spirit, from whom all his members are made alive from the dead. For the manifestation of this one, Israel waited till the seed should come, to whom the promise was made. “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” Galatians 3:16. Now of the planting of this seed let us hear what Christ himself has said. “And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” John 12:23,24. As the Son of man he stood connected with the highest branch of the high cedar, being the son of David, and of the tribe of Judah; while as the Son of God, he was David’s Lord. “Concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David, after the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Romans 1:3,4. It appears to us that when our Mediatorial Head was made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, he took on him the seed of Abraham, and was sown in the earth, and embodied in that flesh, was so identified with them that all their sins were laid on him; he was legally the seed of Abraham, and under the law, and as such he was put to death in the flesh, cut off from the high cedar, and by his circumcision, in the putting away the body of the sins of the flesh, was planted in the earth, and in the nature of his elect people died in the earth, was buried by baptism into death, was planted therein, so as to become dead to the law, and the end of the law for righteousness; for, “Know ye not, brethren, [for I speak to them that know the law] how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman that hath a husband is bound by the law of her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.” “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that ye should bring forth fruit unto God.”
Thus when Jesus died in the flesh, he was to be known no more after the flesh, or as a Jew, or twig of that branch of the cedar from which he was cut off. The corn of wheat that fell into the ground died; but in his resurrection, he was quickened and justified in the Spirit. Raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, he passed beyond the precincts of that law and flesh under and in which he had been put to death, and having thus abolished death, brought life and immortality to light. Dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over him. He that went forth weeping, and bearing precious seed, has returned with joy, bearing his sheaves with him; for “The Lord is risen indeed, and has become the first fruits of them that slept.”
Thus was the tender one cropped from the young twigs of the highest branch of Israel, planted, and that relation in which under the law he was known as the son of David after the flesh, and in his resurrection life he comes forth from the dead, from under the curse and dominion of the law, growing up out of his place, in the cedar, or Israel in the flesh, and the tender plant grows up, as the Plant of Renown, in the mountain of the house of the Lord. In the high mountain and eminent of his resurrected, or regenerated church, he is now seen as the “True Vine” of which his Father is the Husbandman. And as the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, he is exalted to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
“The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers took counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed.” Psalm 2:2. But they shall be unseated, and their counsels shall not stand; for he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision. “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” His kingdom shall endure as the days of heaven, of his dominion there shall be no end. “A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our Sanctuary.” Planted upon this mountain, high and eminent. “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is without end.”
“In the mountain of the house of the Lord will I plant it, and it shall bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and be a goodly cedar.” The highest elevation of Israelis that Jerusalem which is above, and is free. Risen with Christ, and established in the mountain of his holiness. With the Lamb standing upon mount Zion; dwelling in God; can there be any higher elevation than this of the spiritual Israel? Here grows the tree of Life, within the Holy City, with spreading branches, bearing twelve manner of fruits; yielding her fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2. Our Redeemer says to his disciples, “I am the Vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit; for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. As the vine is in the branches, the branches being a part of the vine, so the branches are in the vine; and without this vital union and identity no fruit could be borne. So this goodly cedar is in the branches, and the branches are all the goodly cedar, and thus connected, God says it shall bear fruit and be a goodly cedar.
“And under it shall dwell all fowl of every wing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.” This declaration may mean the gathering of the Gentiles, or rather of God’s chosen people from every kindred and tribe of the earth, into the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, that they may dwell under the protection, and be subject to the laws and ordinances of the church of God. Whether this be a correct application of the figure or not, we know that God will gather into his kingdom all his redeemed ones, out of every nation, kindred and tongue under heaven. But as the birds are no part of the tree, it may be designed to represent those nominal professors of Christianity, hypocrites, and imposters, which have in all ages of the church secreted and shielded themselves under a covering of pretended piety, to take away their reproach. Whatever may have been the primary design of this part of the figure, we know that the people of God, of every description as to nationality, grade or condition in nature, shall come to Zion like clouds and as doves to their windows, and shall abide under the shadow and protection of this goodly cedar. And it is also true that birds of every wing, vultures, owls, and every unclean and hateful bird, have annoyed the church of God by lodging in her branches.
“And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree, and have made the dry tree flourish.” All the trees of the field must mean all the nations of the earth. As Israel in her nationality was the stately cedar tree, so the Gentile nations are the trees of the field, or world. And all the nations of the earth shall know the reality of what God hath spoken. “Break forth into joy, and sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem. The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” Isaiah 52:9,10. All the nations of the world know that God has brought down the Jewish nation from the lofty eminence they once held among the nations of the earth, and driven out the carnal Israelites to wander among the Gentile nations. And they shall all know that God has exalted his poor and afflicted people. He has dried up the green tree, there is no sap or vitality any more in their rituals, their ordinances or sacrifices, their types or ceremonies; for the anti-type has come, and their solemn feasts, and vain oblations are abominable in his sight. But the church of God among the Gentiles is exalted, and made green and fruitful, and it shall flourish like the Palm tree, and grow like the cedars of Lebanon.
“I the Lord have spoken, and have done it.” He speaks the word and it stands fast; He commands and it is done. The words which go forth out of his mouth shall not return to him void; they shall accomplish that for which they are sent, or spoken, and shall prosper in that he please.
December 1, 1869.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 7
Pages 516 – 522