If you’ve ever walked in a forest, particularly a rain forest (like the one on the Olympic Peninsula), you might see a fallen and dead tree. On that dead tree, or from even its stump, there is a new tree or trees growing. While the “big one” is gone, new life comes.
The cedar tree represented the David line. By taking “a tender sprig”, the main (or empowered/enthroned) family line (Jehoiachin) would be ultimately replaced by the line of David that God chose. There seems to be a Messianic tone to this passage, implying that the Messiah may not come from “the main branch” of the Davidic line.
Depending on how one reads it, “birds of every kind” may represent the nations and peoples of the world. This Messianic tree would shade and nourish the birds, with the implication also being one of the birds raising their young (the next generation) under the protection and in the company of the Messiah.
You might have noticed the green tree and the dry tree. Neither is set “in stone”. The green tree may wither away and the dry tree may bloom. In the realm of faith, this means that we must always continue to pursue God (green tree), and that even the dry tree (unbeliever, former believer, etc.) can go from withered and almost dead to fully alive.
We often find ourselves in places where we are green. We also find ourselves, too often, in places where we are dry and withered. Part of the underlying joy, grace, and hope of Paul’s words to the Corinthians was that God was not done with them. We all are made new and being made new daily. Just as the green tree can wither and die when not fed by water, so will we when we do not pursue the Water of Life. Then there is the parable of the mustard seed. It starts very small. It then grows beyond and becomes the plant in the garden that is the resting place of birds.
Did you catch the parallel to the passage in Ezekiel? We often talk about the mustard seed of faith. If we think of the Messiah as the mustard seed, then the tree grows in the garden of Israel, and the birds (the nations) again rest in its shade.
Lord, trees surround us. They give us shade. Many give us food. All provide places of refuge for the birds, and the trees even lose themselves to be the wood that forms our daily shelter. While the trees had no say in their end, you still chose to walk the road to die on the cross—a dead tree—to bring me new life. Thank you for what you have created for and what you have given to us. Amen.