So where was I….? As noted in an earlier post, today’s gospel includes the Markan version of the parable of the mustard seed: 30 He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. 32 But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
I wondered if there were any OT references to birds taking shelter in the shade of a plant or a tree. Two came to mind.
On the mountain height of Israel, I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Every small bird will nest under it, all kinds of winged birds will dwell in the shade of its branches. Every tree of the field will know that I am the LORD. I bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the dry tree bloom. As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do! (Ezekiel 17:23-24)
The passage from Ezekiel refers to the restoration of Israel after the exile in Babylon. It holds up the vision of nations restored to it prominence on Mount Zion but planted with a mission to make known the Lord God to all the nations. The “trees of the field” refers to all the other nations indicating that there will be a reversal of fortunes for once too proud and mighty.
The imagery of a tree as other nations that were not God-fearing and often threatened Israel, can be seen in the writing of the prophet Daniel. In the following verses he is speaking to the King of Babylon about one of the dreams experienced by the king.
The tree that you saw, large and strong, its top touching the heavens, that could be seen by the whole earth, its leaves beautiful, its fruit abundant, providing food for all, under which the wild beasts lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air dwelt – you are that tree, O king, large and strong! Your majesty has become so great as to touch the heavens, and your rule reaches to the ends of the earth. (Dan 4:17-19)
In the verses that follow, Daniel describes how the tree will be cut down to the stump.
This was all added to my musings about this parable. I wonder if says that the nature of the Kingdom of God is that it will always be there, in each place starting as the smallest of seeds. While it will always be surrounded by the tall, spectacular trees of the powerful and mighty, housing the powerful and mighty birds of the sky, it will always be there. A place where all are welcomed, but one must come down from the high lofty perches of life, humble one’s self, and come to find shade with others who would humble themselves before God.
The great thing about Scripture is that there is always possibilities for pondering parables.