“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
The Bible comes from a land of deserts that differs very much from the culture in which American Christians like myself live in today. This causes us to distort our image of the Bible and not take into account the region and the geography of the book. I've made it a personal and academic hobby of mine to study the Bible in it's context and the results are astounding for both my knowledge of the book and the reshaping of my beliefs that I draw from it.
When most Westerners picture the tree in Jeremiah we like to picture an oak tree but the acacia tree is most likely the tree discussed in Jeremiah 17. This image of a tree out in the middle of the desert surviving on very little water contradicts what most people would like to picture. This is the key to interpreting the verse. Instead of the verse sounding like a cheap way for God to say that people who do not practice evil will be rewarded we are given an image of a person that will once in a while receive from God. The gifts that are received are then meant to be used to help others.
There are two things that are very uncommon to find out in Israel; water and trees. Water is a very rare natural resource that can be found in two different ways standing and moving. Standing water or water collected in cisterns or pools is not often safe to drink. The very hot environment makes it very difficult to keep water like this for long. Water that flows from springs is called living water. Water is not the point of this entry. ( More on it later; on to trees) The region is so dry that there are no large trees that grow there. Wood has to be shipped in for large projects just like how Solomon received wood for the temple. The trees that do grow there are short, wide, bush like and very good at managing their water supply. This image is something more when we apply it to ourselves.
G-d calls us to be like this tree because we can give back to the community like it does with all it's parts but the shape and nature of the tree is also something for us to replicate. The acacia tree is used by desert dwellers to build tents, create medicine, start fires and so many other things in their daily lives. The trees of Israel are short and wide because they do not waste the energy it would take to grow tall and mighty. They are wide so that they can catch as much of G-d's sun as possible. They manage the small gifts of water that are given to them so that they can continue on being what they were meant to be. The roots of acacia's do not run deep to support themselves but spread out near the surface to collect as much nutrients as possible. Acacias gather to store up not to anchor themselves in this world so that they can stretch to the heavens. The shape is a scraggly mess of branches much like most of our lives and like us they were made like that by our creator. He did not design us to be straight tall trees. Jesus wants people who will be dependent on him not individuals who are caught up in their own image and believe they can do everything themselves. So what will you be for G-d; a Redwood or an Acacia tree?
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