The cedar tree is the prince of the trees in the alpine forest and everyone who has seen these noble trees recognises their majestic imagery in the prophets. The Hebrew word ‘erez’ is derived from the idea of being ‘firm’—a reference to the tenacity of its root system. Hosea refers to this feature of the tree when he says that Israel will “cast forth his roots as Lebanon” (14:5).

The cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) are stately, evergreen trees growing to heights of 35 metres or more at elevations of 2000 metres or higher. They have wide spreading branches which cast an influential shadow over the land, so much so that in Psalm 80:10 we read that “its boughs are cedars of God”. Yet for all its towering strength it provides a refuge for the smallest of birds (Psa 104:16-17).

Gesenius’ Lexicon states: “Its wood is odoriferous, without knots, and not liable to decay; used therefore for building and adorning the temple and royal palaces”. Hence it was used by Solomon and by Zerubbabel for the house of God (2 Chron 2:8; Ezra 3:7).

The righteous are just like the cedar. They are firmly rooted in love (Eph 3:17); they grow slowly but surely in the highest places (Col 3:1-2); they provide the best material for a strong ecclesial house; they are planted by God and despite their grandeur and strength, they are prepared to provide a refuge for the humble and frail.