I'm back - and though this is still a work in progress (some parts need quite a bit more development) - here is the Gospel proclaimed to the saints here through God's Old Testament Word . . .
The Second Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 6B)
Sunday, June 14, 2009
St. John Lutheran Church
Rev. Wade R. Mattsfield
Ezekiel 17:22-24 ~ 22 Thus days the Lord Yahweh, "I myself will take from the treetop of the high cedar and I will place it. From the head, a tender young plaint I will pluck off and I myself will plant upon a high and exalted mountain. 23 In the high mountain of Israel, I will plant it and it will lift up branches and it will make fruit and it will be for a majestic cedar and al the bird, all the winged ones will dwell under it and they will dwell in the shadow of its branches. 24 And all the trees of the field will know that I, Yahweh, have made low the high tree and I have lifted up the low tree. I make wither the fresh tree and I cause the dry tree to bud. I Yahweh, speak and I do.
Theme: Our Lord restores us through Jesus Christ.
In Nomine Jesu
Introduction: In Lebanon, the countryside was once full of majestic cedar trees.
A. In fact, in ancient times, Lebanon was known for its cedar trees.
1. In those days, people would come from every nation in the world to obtain products from these magnificent cedars.
2. And in Jerusalem, God had allowed Solomon to use the wood from these cedar trees to build hi temple.
B. The cedar trees played a large role in a parable God told in Chapter 17.
1. God tells the story of a great eagle with great wings
a. This eagle came to Lebanon and took the top of the cedar.
b. This eagle broke off the topmost of its young twigs and carried it to a foreign land.
c. Then he took of the seed of the land and planted it in fertile soil, beside abundant waters.
i. It sprouted and its branches turned toward the eagle, while its roots remained where it stood.
ii. So it became a vine and produced branches and put out boughs.
2. But there was another great eagle with great wings.
a. The vine planted by the first eagle bent its roots toward the new one and shot forth its branches toward him.
b. Though it had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, it reached to the new eagle, that he might water it.
3. Them God asks, “Will that plant thrive?”
a. In other words, how will that first eagle, who planted the tree in the first place, respond?
i. Obviously, that first eagle won’t be happy.
ii. Will he not pull up its roots and cut off its fruit
b. Will it not utterly wither away on the bed where it sprouted?"
I. This parable gives us a picture of what was going on with history in Ezekiel’s time.
A. Ezekiel was speaking to real life situations.
1. This wasn’t just a nice story with vague spiritual truths.
2. Real things were going to happen and they would have real consequences on God’s people.
B. Really, it was a parable about sin and its consequences.
1. The cedar in this parable stood for Jerusalem.
a. The heart of the city, the temple, had been built with cedars from Lebanon, and the city was built on Mt. Zion.
b. And along with the city of Jerusalem went the monarchy.
i. These were the kings from the line of David.
ii. And God promised David that one of His descendants would sit on the throne forever.
2. But God’s people’s sin was great and so was its consequences.
a. They had abandoned God.
i. On one level, they had become decadent and self-satisfied.
ii. On another, they had fallen into idolatry.
b. And the consequences had come down like a hammer, and still they persisted.
i. As an instrument of God’s discipline, Babylon had come like a great eagle and conquered them.
(a) And with their conquest, they had taken all the leaders of the people of Jerusalem.
(b) That included the King, the descendant of David – who was plucked from Jerusalem and planted in Babylon as a captive.
(c) And then, the King of Babylon took the king’s uncle, Zedekiah, and placed him in Jerusalem as a puppet king.
ii. But Zedekiah was not as good puppet.
(a) At the first opportunity, Zedekiah turned to another great eagle – Egypt.
(b) And at Egypt’s urging, Zedekiah rebelled against Babylon – and against God.
3. And so, there would be more devastation to come.
a. Babylon would come back, crush Egypt and tear Jerusalem, including the temple, to the ground.
b. And the king, the descendant of the house of David would be killed, with all his family members.
c. God’s people’s sin was great and so was its consequences.
C The same is true for us – our sin is great and so are the consequences.
1. We often turn our backs on our God as well.
a. We want to go our own way.
b. And we make ourselves out to be God.
2. The hurt and pain that our sin causes is all very real.
a. Selfish thoughts and words and deeds hurt our neighbors – both outside of the church and inside.
b. And the guilt we feel for what we know we have done just builds and builds.
3. If we were to have any hope, any more than God’s Old Testament people did, we need restoration.
II. But our God is gracious and He promises restoration
A. God promised restoration to Israel.
1. I, myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, and I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain
b. It [will] bear branches and produce fruit and in the shade of its branches birds of every sort will nest.
2. That restoration would happen in 70 years.
a. After 70 years in exile, God’s people would be set free.
b. They wold be allowed to return to their homeland and rebuild their city and God’s temple.
c. Still, there was no king from the Line of David.
B. But the ultimate restoration would start where no one would expect it.
1. A lowly shoot was planted in a manger in Bethlehem, the city of David..
a. He was from the house and family of David.
b. Though He grew in wisdom and stature, he grew up in a humble family, in Nazareth, in back-water Galilee.
2. But He would be cut down Himself.
a. You see, our sins – our hurts and our pains - were placed on his shoulders.
b. He was lifted up on the cross, where His very life was cut down.
3. Yet, even as He was cut down, He would be raised up.
a. Though He would be laid in a tomb, death would not have the final word.
III. Indeed, we are restored through Christ.
A. Jesus has become that noble cedar for us, as well.
1. Jesus life, suffering and death mean something to us in our lives as well.
2. When He tells us that our sins are forgiven, then all the hurts and pains, all the guilt we are struggling with are healed.
B. In Him, we who were dried up in our sins, will flourish for eternal life.