by The Rev. Marek Zabriskie
Jeremiah chastises Israel for fabricating false gods and being unfaithful. He praises those who trust God in an ode reminiscent of Psalm 1, saying, “But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream.”
A key to flourishing like this is to keep the Sabbath. Jeremiah notes, “keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers.” He then offers one of the great images of God found in the Bible, comparing God to a potter shaping Israel like a piece of clay.
After watching a potter at work, Jeremiah notes, “the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.” The Hebrew word for “marred” is the same word that is translated as “ruined” in Jeremiah 13:7 referring to the priest’s linen belt which rotted. God clearly can only do so much with clay that is marred or a priest’s ruined belt. God’s imperfect followers must allow God to form them into righteousness.
The Psalmist builds on this image of a thriving plant describing the righteous man as being like “an olive tree flourishing in the house of the Lord.” An olive tree can survive for several thousand years. These sturdy trees are reminders that those who root themselves in God’s teaching build upon a sure foundation.
The author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 saying, “The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.” God’s laws will serve as inner principles to guide God’s followers and enable them to delight in following God’s will. Their sins will be forgiven forever. “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts,” says Jeremiah.
How good are you at keeping the Sabbath? Do you worship every Sunday and do you allow the Sabbath to be a time where God can recreate you and restore your soul?
Most Merciful God, we have been like hard clay that resists being shaped in your loving hands. Help us to maintain the Sabbath and root our lives in worship so that we might be like trees planted by streams of living water and have leaves that do not whither and bear fruit in all seasons. Amen.
The Rev. Marek Zabriskie is the rector of St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh in Pennsylvania