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Many of the Bible’s rich metaphors are used by several authors in both New and Old Testaments. Think, for instance, of the many ways imagery related to sheep and shepherding is played out across Scripture.
In the case of Psalm 1, Jeremiah 17:7-8 uses almost the same words as the psalmist:
‘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.’
Significantly, as in Psalm 1, there is no easy ‘prosperity’ theology here: ‘heat comes’, but ‘it does not fear’; there may be ‘a year of drought’, but ‘it has no worries’ and ‘never fails to bear fruit’. In the Psalm too, the tree is well located, well planted, and well-watered. Because of that, it thrives, and bears fruit ‘in season’. This might suggest there are times when it doesn’t bear fruit; even so, it does not wither.
Planting and growing trees is a long-term project. Those the Lord plants need many seasons to mature – even when growing in good soil with well-watered roots. In John 15, Jesus spoke of his Father as the gardener, himself as the vine, and his disciples as the branches. In order to be fruitful, he said, pruning is sometimes necessary. Bearing fruit entails abiding in the vine, obeying Jesus’ commands, loving each other.
To be rooted in abundant fresh water is a necessary provision for trees, particularly in a hot and drought-prone land. And for us? ‘The water I give,’ said Jesus, ‘will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life’ (John 4:14).
The disciple rooted in Jesus’ living water bears fruit in season. As we mature in him, the Holy Spirit works with us and in us to bring forth the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of Christian character, the fruit of service and neighbour love – like a tree whose leaves do not wither, and is not anxious in the year of drought.