Ezekiel 17:22-24 ” ‘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. 23 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. 24 All the trees of the field 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.’ ”
Earlier in Ezekiel chapter 17 the Lord used a cedar tree to picture the nation of Judah. An eagle plucked off its top and carried away to be planted in another country. There it thrived. The Lord was promising prosperity for the Jews who were living in exile in Babylon. He urged them to accept their lot. Exile and subjection to the Babylonians were the Lord’s will. He was disciplining them for their sin. They should not rebel against it.
At the end of the chapter the Lord goes back to that picture of a cedar tree. This time he takes a sprig off the top of it himself. He plants it and it grows into a great tree that produces fruit and provides shelter. This is a picture of the Messiah, whose birth we are preparing to celebrate this Advent.
Then the Lord makes this application: “All the trees of the field 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.” The God we worship takes those who think they are above the rest–the rich, the powerful, the intellectual–and he humbles them. He did it to the corrupt leaders of his own people. Soon he would do it to the Babylonians who had conquered them. Every world power that followed met the same fate–especially when they got in the way of his saving plans.
This way of working is not limited to ancient history. The last hundred years have seen the rise of godless Nazis in Germany, and the atheistic communists in Russia. But the Lord brings down the tall tree and dries up the green tree. Those powers have fallen. The gospel of Christ is still being read and preached in both places.
The other side of God’s promise also proves true. He takes those who have nothing going for them– the weak, the poor, the simple–and he lifts them up. He takes an unknown, unmarried teenage girl, living in the backwoods of an insignificant little country, and makes her the mother of the world’s Savior. He takes uneducated fishermen and turns them into leaders of the world’s greatest religion, the only true faith. He took you and me. He adopted us as his own sons and daughters by faith so that we could be called the children of God.
God is as good as his Word. Do his people still trust his promises thousands of years later? Because so much time has passed, maybe there is doubt. Somewhere in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books the author describes what happens to people’s memories about important things after long passages of time. “History became legend. Legend became myth. And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.” Peter says something similar about those who scoff at Christ’s return: “They will say, ‘When is this coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ But they deliberately forget…”
It’s not just the scoffers. On a hundred smaller daily promises God has made, we suffer doubts when we don’t see the evidence right away: “You give them their food at the proper time;” “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you are able to bear;” “The Lord will keep you from all harm.” Our doubts erode our faith and accuse God of lying when he says, “I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”
But these words are intended for our confidence. Maybe we have experienced hunger, struggled with temptation, or suffered harm. These, too, have been promised in God’s word. “In this world you will have much trouble.” “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” If nothing ever brings us low, then how can we be the low tree that the Lord makes tall? The Apostle Peter promises, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast.” If it doesn’t happen sooner, it will happen on the day he lifts our souls all the way out of this world to himself in heaven.
How can we be sure? The Lord spoke all these promises about a Savior’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. And then he did it, just like he said. He is as good as his word.