Ez. 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 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 is a prophecy of the coming of Messiah. He is truly the highest Branch. The Branch that God plants is of the tribe of Judah. The high mountain is the holy hill of God. The tender twig mentioned is Jesus.
This is speaking of Jesus, King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus was born in a manger in obscurity, but grew to be King of the Jews at His crucifixion, and King of all at His second coming. The “boughs” and the fruit speak of His followers. We are safe in the shadow of His Branch. He is our protector and very present help. Christianity began with Jesus, then His apostles, and now has spread into the millions.
The “high tree” is the physical house of Israel. The “low tree” represents the Spiritual house of Israel. The green tree was physical Israel in their prosperous times. The dry tree is the world which knew not God, until Jesus brought salvation to them. It is God who brings down the lofty and elevates the lowly. This prophecy which began by pronouncing the disaster in Judah, now springs forth with hope for all mankind. Salvation in Jesus Christ is offered to all mankind. Jesus is the Tree of Life. He is the Branch, and we are the vine.
All this is great for Bible study. It helps us to understand a prophecy which most Jews at that time did not understand. Now Bible study is good, in fact it is great—but sermons have a different purpose.
This I found on a Lutheran site. After giving the history of preaching it came to this conclusion: “Preaching, therefore, is not just instruction or entertainment. Preaching is a means of grace. It is sacramental. A good sermon is not just a message that you find interesting and educational, but one in which God’s word of Law convicts you of your sin and His word of Gospel comforts you and strengthens your faith, delivered by the man God has sent to you as His spokesman.”
I would add that preaching ought to give some idea of direction. In other words, what am I supposed to do now, that I have been preached to? Certainly, as the site said, to feel sorry for our sins and to feel good about God’s pardon in the Gospel. Though we are poor miserable sinners, God loves us, wants us to be His own, so in His justice Jesus paid the wages of our sins. Now comes our response, not to earn God’s favor—because we already have it—but to do as Luther said, “thank and praise Him, serve and obey Him” out of gratitude!
Two weeks ago, a fellow pastor and I with our wives went to one of our churches. The pastor said from the beginning he was a teacher. And teach he did. And it was straight out of the Bible and gave us a lot of direction. But when it was over my friend said, “Did you hear anything about Jesus?”
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. I can’t help but think of the tiny Baby Jesus, a “shoot” who eventually gets “planted” on Mt. Calvary! “It will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar.”
First the twelve apostles were His fruit. Then the hundreds, if not thousand who listened to Him and believed. Even those who took off their robes and threw them on the ground on Palm Sunday and shouted their Hosannas!
Then the 3,000 who came forward on the Day of Pentecost, and then the scattering of the Church unto the uttermost parts o the world. First in those areas near Israel. Then Europe. That includes our forefathers who left Saxony and migrated to Missouri and established our Church.
I will include those pastors who baptized, confirmed, married, and buried your grandparents and parents. It includes us here this evening… except we have not yet been buried!
“Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.” Gone is the exclusivity of the Jews and now open to all and for all. To all and for all, yet remember Jesus said, ‘No one comes to the Father but by Me.” Yes, God’s still loves the Jews. He loves the Muslims and the Hindus and the Buddhists. He loves the Atheists and the Agnostics. But unless they respond to His love, they, just like fallen away Christians, will be lost.
And this is where the “So what I am supposed to do about it?” comes in! Let me introduce this section of the sermon with this children’s hymn:
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Which is what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
And then this verse:
Hide it under a bushel? No! I am gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I am going to let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel ? No! I am going to let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, all the time!
All the time because as the Bible says, “In Him we live and breathe and have our being.” Our very life from the moment we wake up until the next morning when we wake up again. As the Psalmist said, “You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue You, LORD, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and You lay Your Hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your Hand will guide me, Your right Hand will hold me fast. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You. Indeed! In Him we do live and breathe and have our being!
So—another hymn! “Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee, take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise!”
There are those people you know who are without Christ. Some will not admit it, those who are exceedingly self-righteous and those who don’t care or don’t know. So, another verse of Scripture. “You shall be My witnesses.” And still another, “For as many as are led by the Spirit, these shall be called the children of God!”
Now comes that part of the sermon—what am I supposed to do? #1. Let your light shine, in other words, live a life worthy of a Christian. It will set the stage, it will be—in part—your testimony.
#2. Be a verbal witness. You know people who are not Christians, or weak Christians who have fallen away. Lead the conversation. There are any number of ways to set the stage. “God has given us a wonderful place to live.” “What wonderful weather God has blessed us with.” Or on the other hand, “I was so blessed in church last Sunday!” “We sang my favorite hymn.” “The sermon really spoke to me!” Door Openers!
These and any number of other things we can say that will introduce religion into the subject. So! That neighbor, friend, club member, especially that relative needs to hear your witness but when? The Bible says, “Behold now is the acceptable time. Today is the day of salvation.” Amen!
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