A reflection on Jeremiah 17:5-10 & Psalm 1 for the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, February 13, 2022.
Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.
Jeremiah 17:5-10 (NRSVA)
Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgement,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
Psalm 1 (NRSVA)
The fruitful tree ‘by streams of water’ is a powerful metaphor. So evocative that both the prophet Jeremiah and the psalmist make use of it as a pointer to the one who is ‘Happy’ and ‘Blessed’.
Both also make contrast. Jeremiah looks to a shrub in the desert. The psalmist to the chaff sifted and scattered by the wind. Dead. Dry.
Here we have a parable of abundance – a story of enough. ‘Trust in the Lord’ and delighting in the ‘law of the Lord’ is the path to prosperity.
Of course, we are prone to define what it looks like to ‘prosper’ in ways quite different to these writers. There is no mention here of financial wealth or worldly success. Rather, this loaded term sits within the parable as a description of joy. It points to God as the deepest source of fulfilment.
Jeremiah in particular insists that growing beside the abundant springs of God does not eliminate times of ‘drought’, ‘heat’ or anxiety. Streams do not add up to some hyper-spiritual removal of the challenges of life. This is so important. How prone we are to surprise when we follow God and experience the lows of life.
We follow, however, a God who embraced these very lows when he was incarnate among us. Jesus knew poverty, loss, tears, rejection and mourning. Yet this is not evidence that he lacked faith or did not mull over the teachings of the scriptures.
What it does tell us is that Jesus was really one of us. He went through the challenges of loving in an unloving world.
And yet, we would have to say that the Spirit that alighted upon him at his baptism was enough. The Spirit guided and strengthened – even in the desert of temptation.
A life well watered.
What are the ways you experience the abundance of God? How do you express trust and delight in God?