Isaiah’s parable of the terebinth tree
I have been prompted by the Holy Spirit 3 times this morning to write about the terebinth tree. I woke up and the first thing the Holy Spirit put in my mind was the terebinth tree and twice since then I have come across the word “terebinth”. That’s how the Holy Spirit gets your attention on something.
The terebinth tree is a tall, spreading tree that grows in the Middle East, generally on its own. It is extremely easy to reproduce, whether by cutting, seed or layering.
It appears at various times throughout the Bible, usually because it stands out and is used as a landmark. There is one interesting reference to the terebinth tree that begs closer attention.
In Isaiah 6 we have Isaiah seeing Jesus on His throne, the host of heaven asking for someone to be sent to an unheeding earth. Then follows destruction, the terebinth tree is cut down but it reshoots from its stump (v13). Isaiah then offers the insight that the stump represents the holy seed.
The meaning of this passage is further revealed by John (ch 12) who cites this passage. This was the time when Jesus was contemplating His death. Jesus had come to the earth from His position of majesty and splendour, people had refused to believe in Him (v38-40) exactly as Isaiah had said after he had seen Jesus in His glory (v41).
In John 18 we have Jesus being struck (v23) and later, crying out “It is finished” at his crucifixion (John 19v30). The terebinth tree had been struck down.
But this wasn’t the end. Jesus was resurrected and the stump began to grow shoots. Just as Jesus had been sent, so Jesus commissioned the disciples to be sent (John 17:18). The Kingdom of God had been given the impetus to burst into life, rather like the phenomenal growth of the mustard seed into a large spreading tree (Luke 13:18-19).
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 shows us the love and generosity He has towards us when He asks the Father, “Glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was (v50) and “Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (v11).
As believers in Jesus, we now form a part of that ever-growing terebinth tree and we know that Jesus continues to intercede for us to grow in joy, love and protection from the Evil One (v13-15). What's more -- nothing can now separate us from that stump: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 NIV).