Zechariah was a prophet to the remnant who returned to their land after the seventy year captivity. Through Zechariah’s eight visions of the night God discloses how Israel’s foes will be destroyed, her idols removed, her city and Temple restored, and her Messiah revealed. Haggai and Zechariah labored together as prophets in the rebuilding of the temple, and tradition tells us they were buried in the same grave. In the first four chapters of Zechariah four different trees are mentioned. The first tree mentioned is the Myrtle tree (1:10-11). It is one of the prophetic pictures of God’s promised blessings.
There are many unique patterns that form in the grain of the myrtle. Myrtle trees grow slowly, and the struggle or stress during the growth of the tree causes the patterns and its unique figurations. When seen on a hill or in a pasture the mature myrtle is so symmetrical it would seem to be a carefully pruned, cultivated tree.
In Scripture, the myrtle tree is seen and pictured in a few different “patterns” as well.
1). It is a sign of the kingdom’s blessing for Israel. The branches of the myrtle tree were used in the construction of the booths during the Feast of Tabernacles, which was a feast looking forward to the Kingdom (Neh. 8:15). While speaking of this future kingdom Isaiah prophesied, “…instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree…” (Is. 55:13).
2). Balfour says, “The tree is used by the prophets to indicate a change on the face of the earth, when ‘the knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.’ Thus Isaiah, when speaking of that blessed epoch, says, ‘Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isa. 55:13). Again, the Lord says by the prophet, ‘I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree’ (Isa. 41:19).”1
3). Finally, the myrtle was used as a symbol of prosperity. Most likely this is why Esther was known among her people as Hadassah (the Hebrew word for “myrtle.”
I have never had the opportunity to visit Israel and therefore I have never had the opportunity to see, touch, or smell this amazing tree. But I have had the privilege over the past twenty-two years of ministry to sit with many men and women, who like Ester, I would call a Hadassah. Myrtles — no not the ones named Myrtle — those who display a unique Christ-like beauty that only comes through trials and difficulties.
I am talking specifically about seasoned missionaries. Missionaries God has carefully allowed growth through the painstaking trials of service. Men and women who have lost or given everything for the sake of the gospel. Parents who have buried their children in a foreign field. Those who have been interrogated, kicked out of their country, or put in prison. Men who have looked me in the eye over coffee and wept to ask if they should come off the field due to their unworthiness in service (men whom in my opinion the world is not worthy). These men and women display a beauty for all to see. They are like the myrtle that “even though cut, their branches remain upright, fresh and fragrant.”
As a believer, you will face many struggles and encounter many long days that will seem as though God is silent. God is never absent, inactive, or not at work. His “silence” means He is working in ways that cannot be seen in or around you. Like the myrtle, the final product will be one of maturity and beauty. All believers who remain faithful, while enduring hardships, have a Christ-likeness that those who were not chosen worthy to suffer do not possess.
No matter how one uses the myrtle in Scripture the end result of blessing took many years and difficulties to produce. Don’t lose hope, God is allowing you to grow as a branch that will be known of many for its beautiful fragrance and display of His glory.