The drama of Samuel, Kings, and the Prophets is: How is God going to respond to Israel giving its allegiance to all these false trees of life on these false Edens? And how and when is God going to raise up the new humanity out of which will come the new seed in the true Eden? That’s the drama of the story, and the book of Isaiah is organized around that plotline.
In part one (0:00–11:30), Tim and Jon recap the series. Across the pages of the Bible, we read of sacred trees in high places where humans face a moment of decision about whether they’re going to trust God or choose to live by their own wisdom. This begins with two trees on the first pages of the Bible, the tree of life and the tree of knowing good and bad.
After Adam and Eve’s failure, God promises them that he will bring a promised seed who will suffer their same fate yet overcome the power and consequence of their rebellion. Later in the narrative, key figures face their own tests on high places before trees.
In part two (11:30–25:00), Tim and Jon talk about the role of David and Jerusalem in the theme of trees in the Bible. When David becomes king, the first thing he does is capture a high city on a hill, which he renames Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 5:6-7, 11-12
Now the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, and they said to David, “You shall not come in here, but the blind and lame will turn you away,” thinking, “David cannot enter here.” Nevertheless, David captured the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David….
Then Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David with cedar trees and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a house for David. And David realized that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
David’s new city is on a high place, and he receives a gift of trees. In the next chapter, David brings the ark of the covenant to this new city in a festive parade. David celebrates in a garment similar to one worn by the high priest.
2 Samuel 6:13-15, 17-19
And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet...
So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the multitude of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house.
David acts as a priest, planting a new Eden with God’s presence in a city on a high place. He makes sacrifices to God while pronouncing blessing and sharing Eden-abundance with the people. After this, David requests to build a permanent house for God in Jerusalem, and God refuses, promising instead to build an eternal house through David’s family line.
2 Samuel 7:8-13
“Now therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people Israel. I have been with you wherever you have gone and have cut off all your enemies from before you. I will make you a great name, like the names of the great men who are on the earth. I will also appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may live in their own place and not be disturbed again, nor will the wicked afflict them any more as formerly, even from the day that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and I will give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord also declares to you that the Lord will make a house for you. When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your seed after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
Within the promised land, Jerusalem stands as a symbol of a new Eden that God wants to plant to rule with his people. But Jerusalem is surrounded by false Edens on high places where Israel sacrifices to idols. How is God going to respond to Israel giving their allegiance to these false Edens, and how will God raise up new humanity for the new seed in the true Eden?
The book of Isaiah is organized around the theme of contesting Edens in the future of God’s people.
In part three (25:00–32:00), Tim and Jon spend time looking at tree imagery in the book of Isaiah.
Zion will be redeemed with justice And her repentant ones with righteousness. But transgressors and sinners will be crushed together, And those who forsake the Lord will come to an end. Surely you will be ashamed of the oaks which you have desired, And you will be ashamed at the gardens which you have chosen. For you will be like an oak whose leaf fades away Or as a garden that has no water.
This passage is filled with Eden language, contrasting the true Eden with false Edens created by the people. Jerusalem, which was full of promise, becomes corrupted. The true Eden needs to be rescued from Israel. Tim suggests that a helpful way to process through Isaiah is by taking out highlighters and keeping track of tree, plant, and mountain imagery.
In part four (32:00–end), the guys take a quick tour of the theme of trees, plants, and mountains in Isaiah.
In Isaiah 5:1-7, Isaiah uses Eden imagery to accuse Israel of their failure to spread the Eden blessing to the people. Then in the next chapter, Isaiah wakes up in a vision, finding himself in the heavenly temple. He recognizes his corruption and fears for his life when an angel brings a coal from the heavenly altar to touch his lips. Then he hears his sin is atoned for, and Isaiah is consumed by the fire and burned clean. Then Isaiah is told by God to tell Jerusalem of its similar fate.
Then I said, “Lord, how long?” And he answered, “Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate, The Lord has removed men far away, And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. Yet there will be a tenth portion in it, And it will again be subject to burning, Like a terebinth or an oak Whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump.”
Isaiah announces that Yahweh is going to purge Israel to recreate a new, holy remnant. They will be like a small growth emerging from a stump. This image is carried forward in chapter 10, where God is depicted as the one chopping down Jerusalem.
Isaiah 10:33–11:1-2, 6-8
Behold, the Lord, the God of hosts, will lop off the boughs with a terrible crash; Those also who are tall in stature will be cut down And those who are lofty will be abased. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe, And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One.
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord….
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them. Also the cow and the bear will graze, Their young will lie down together, And the lion will eat straw like the ox. The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra, And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
The promise of a new humanity is already established in the first parts of Isaiah. Later, in Isaiah 53, we see this promise echoed again.
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to him.
Tim mentions many other passages that show the imagery of the new humanity. Below are two examples. Other examples include Isaiah 37:30-32, Isaiah 44:3-5, Isaiah 60:21, Isaiah 61:1-4, Isaiah 61:11, and Isaiah 35:1-2.
In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout, And they will fill the whole world with fruit.
The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress, That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
God is going to grow a new Eden for a new humanity, which is a new Jerusalem and a new temple. This is the new seed that God promised David he would plant. The seed who will accomplish God’s plan is the suffering servant who, like Moses, offers his life for the people. Isaiah brings these themes together in significant ways.
The Gospel authors later tap into this imagery in their depiction of Jesus, the seed who will be the new David and new Adam, who will bring about a new people through sacrificing his life on their behalf.
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Show produced by Dan Gummel.
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