23. 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 willing; in the shadow of the branches thereof shall they dwell.
When God announces that the twig which he will plant shall become a lofty cedar, he shows by lofty words that the increase of Christ's kingdom shall be so wonderful, that it shall surpass the common rule of nature; which indeed was shadowed forth in the person of Zerubbabel, who was chosen to bring back the people from their sad and disgraceful captivity. (Ezra 2:2; Haggai 1:14.) For it does not naturally happen that a twig increases in a short time to a lofty cedar, for we know how slowly cedars grow, and hence we see the Spirit's intention in saying that a tree should spring from a very small twig. And this prophecy answers to one of Isaiah's, where he says, (Isaiah 11:1,) A branch shall spring from the root of Jesse: for the house of Jesse was cut off, and he names the house of an obscure and private man as if the remembrance of David were utterly lost. The house of Jesse then was cut off like a tree: that twig, says he, shall spring from its root. Now the Prophet signifies the same thing, and almost under the same similitude. I leave the rest for the next lecture.
Grant, Almighty God, since you have deigned to enter into a perpetual and inviolable covenant with us which you have sanctioned by the blood of your only-begotten Son, that we may faithfully stand to it: and may we be so obedient to thee unto the end, that we may experience thee a propitious Father to us, until we enjoy that eternal inheritance which you have prepared for us in heaven, through the same Christ our Lord.-Amen.
In the last lecture we began to explain that passage of the Prophet in which God. promises that he would take from the boughs of the lofty cedar a tender branch, which should soon grow into a tall tree. We said that the restoration of the people was the foretaste of this grace, since God already showed that he cared for his people whom he seemed utterly to reject when he suffered them to be dragged into exile. We said also, that although Zerubbabel was a captive and an exile, yet that he was the twig plucked from the tall tree, as he was of the royal stock whence Christ would at length spring forth. But at the same time we added that this prophet was not complete until the kingdom of Christ of which it was the beginning, when he was manifest in the flesh, and thence it made daily progress until the end of the world. Thus then we see that the twig was plucked from the cedar, and from a tall or lofty one, and it was planted upon a mountain. The mountain on which the branch was to be planted was called sublime and lofty, and there is no doubt that God meant Mount Zion: it is indeed a small hill, but Isaiah shows us the reason why it was called lofty, because it excelled in dignity and eminence all the heights of the world. (Isaiah 2:2, 3.) It is there said, I will make Mount Zion conspicuous above all lofty mountains: that eminence indeed was not perceptible by the eye, but the Prophet at the same time declares what he means, since a law should go forth from Zion and God's word from Jerusalem. We see, therefore, that Mount Zion, although low among hills, was eminent and conspicuous among the highest mountains, since God's glory shone forth from it, and it was rendered conspicuous to even the ends of the earth. Hence the Prophet repeats a second time, On a, lofty mountain of Israel will I plant it, namely, the twig, and it shall raise or bear a bough, and produce fruit, and it shall be a magnificent or elegant cedar, as we said, and every bird, that is, all birds, shall dwell under it, every winged thing, or flying thing, shall dwell under the shadow of its branches or boughs. The repetition shows that something rare is here denoted, and what would scarcely be comprehended in an ordinary sense, when God speaks of a high and elevated mountain. So that it confirms what we said, that this place thought to be understood of Mount Zion, which was supernaturally elevated when Christ's scepter went forth from it, by which he reduced the whole world under his yoke. He now adds, that it should be a magnificent cedar, so that the birds of the air should nestle in it and rest under its shadow. This simile is used by Daniel when treating of the sway of Nebuchadnezzar, (Daniel 4:8, 9, 17-19,) it is common to all kingdoms to protect men under their shadow, as birds find their dwelling-place only in trees, and repair and collect themselves there. But meanwhile the Prophet shortly states that the kingdom of which he is would be for the common safety and advantage of the whole people. For as kings usually think the human race created for their sakes, they are taken up with their own private reasoning, and do not consult the interests of the wretched people whom they are divinely appointed to cherish under their wings. The Prophet therefore shows that the kingdom which God had determined to set up in his chosen people would be useful to all, when he says, under its shadow there would be safety for all birds. It now follows --
1 Or, "magnificent;" it is the same word of which we spoke yesterday. -- Calvin.
2 Under that branch or cedar." -- Calvin.
3 That is, "birds of all kinds." -- Calvin.
4 Or, "flying thing." -- Calvin.
5 Or, "boughs." -- Calvin.
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