That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.
Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
“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.”
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”
In reading Jeremiah 17:5-10 and Psalm 1, one might suppose that the theme for today’s readings is trees. Psalm 1 tells us that those who do not follow the advice of the wicked—those whose delight is in the law of the Lord—are like trees that prosper along the banks of a river, gathering up plentiful nutrients from the ground and bearing luscious fruit every season without fail, whereas the wicked are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Similarly, Jeremiah compares those who turn away from God to stunted shrubs in the desert, and says that those who trust in the Lord are like trees growing by a river, with roots reaching into the water, not bothered by drought, staying green and producing fruit all the time (almost the same text!). One could certainly delight in that analogy, and think about the strength, the groundedness, the fruitfulness of the riverside trees.
But I think the real theme is hope—hope for the security, confidence, ability to withstand difficult times, and inner peace that come with trusting in the love of God. The prophet and the psalmist are telling us that without God, we can’t be like the riverside trees, but with God we can. Further along, in verse 13, Jeremiah calls God “the Hope of Israel.”
Luke’s story about the Rich Man and Lazarus ends with father Abraham telling the Rich Man that his brothers have Moses and the prophets and they should listen to them. That goes for us, too: don’t be the chaff that gets thrown to the wind, or a stunted shrub in the desert! Turn to God in every facet of your life. Listen to Moses and the prophets!
Appointed readings for today: Jeremiah 17:5-10, Psalm 1, Luke 16:19-31