Jeremiah 17:5-8 contrasts a stunted shrub in the desert with a flourishing tree planted by the water—with a caution not to trust mortal man. I used that idea for a parable in one of my published books. Since it is so relevant to our present COVID-19 crisis, I'm encoring it below from my book FABLES OF GOD'S KINGDOM FOR GROWN-UPS.
I don't think you need help in understanding my parable, but in case: “Mortal Man” might stand for the rightfully lauded efforts of our government and medical community to rescue us from the present public health menace; “Green Tree” hopefully represents ourselves motivated to reach out to help our “Parched Shrub” confreres who are vulnerable and thirsty. To “Go Green” means to do what we can to bring Living Water (obvious analogy to the Good News of the Gospel) wherever we find opportunity.
GREEN TREE AND PARCHED SHRUB
"Whew! It's so hot and dry!" Green Tree shook the dust from his leaves with a swish and a shudder. "Time for the pause that refreshes." He stretched his roots imperceptibly deeper under the arid desert toward Water. They immersed with a splash. "Ahhhh!"
Parched Shrub, drooping nearby, tried to shake his brittle branch stubs but they just crackled. He glared up at Green Tree whose leaves were verdant and healthy. "You think you're somebody special, don't you?” he wheezed. “If you were down here close to the blistering sand you wouldn't act so high and mighty."
"We're in this together, good buddy," replied Green Tree, surprised. "I'm rooted in the same sun-baked desert. Besides, I'm up here closer to the sun and it's even hotter."
"Well, I'm waiting for Mortal Man to water me. He promised to come when I needed him. He’ll probably arrive by Prosperity Bus anytime now," mumbled Parched Shrub. “I'm expecting a hefty relief package to be delivered at the same time.”
“Just how late is the bus?”
"Oh—a few months—give or take a few weeks."
"We live in Uninhabited Salt Land," reminded Green Tree. "Did you forget? Prosperity Bus only services the Goodtimes route now."
Parched Shrub shrugged his bony branch shoulders and remained silent for a long while. Only his wheezing breath broke the stillness of the desert. Finally, "How do you get along so well through this awful drought? I even see fruit developing up there in your dense foliage."
"My hope is in Lord God," replied Green Tree. "He told us when He planted us that we shouldn't trust in Mortal Man. He promised that He would look after us Himself and never forsake us. He...."
"There you go being preachy again," interrupted Parched Shrub with a wheeze. "You Green Trees are all alike. You think you're better than everyone else—some kind of special apples in God's eye."
"That's not true. Lord God doesn't play favorites or keep secrets. He told all of us Greenery where to send our roots to reach Water—you included."
"Aw, I just don't trust 'im. I gave up that God stuff when I was little."
You're still little," observed Green Tree with a smile, not intending offense. "I was as small as you are when Lord God planted me. You too can...."
"Don’t rub it in!" Parched Shrub interrupted again, pretending to be angry. However, one hot tear betrayed him. It trickled down his bare branch, splashed on the sand, and rapidly soaked in.
Green Tree was moved with compassion. He bent his chlorophyll-laden leafy branches low over Parched Shrub creating cool shade. "Come under my shadow, buddy. I'll shelter you from the blazing sun. It's really not far to stretch your own roots under the desert to The Divine Aquifer. You can do it! I know you can!"
Parched Shrub snuggled under Green Tree's abundant foliage. "You'd be willing to help me? Even after I’ve made fun of you and turned away from Lord God so many times?"
"Absolutely! We share common chlorophyll and we are both Lord God's creation."
“Do you think there's enough Water for both of us?"
"Lord God said that Rivers of Living Water, cool and pure, flow abundantly in a deep Divine Aquifer right under our roots. There's more than enough for all the Greenery in the desert—even our prickly cactus cousins.”
“How much does The Water cost?"
“It did cost a lot. More than any of us could pay. But it's free for the asking now. Lord God's Son already paid for it and offers it to everyone!"
"Oh! I'm dying of thirst!"
"Let's get going then, buddy. I'll show you The Way to The Waters."
Parched Shrub's prickly stubs tingled with new hope as his roots shuddered with anticipation under the arid desert. "I can hardly wait to Go Green! Stay with me, okay?"
From THE RESOURCE BOOK
Jeremiah 17:5-8 combined from various translations and versions of Scripture. Also reflective of Psalm 1:1-6; Revelation 22:17; Isaiah 55:1
"Thus says the Lord, cursed is the strong man who trusts in mankind, in frail, mortal man, and makes weak, human flesh his strength, and whose heart and mind turns away from the Lord. For he will be like a bush or stunted shrub in the desert, like a person naked and destitute, with no hope for the future. He will not see when prosperity comes and good times pass him by forever. But he will live in stony wastes, in parched places in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitants.
“But most blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose hope and confidence are in the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, along a riverbank, that extends its roots by a stream, and will not be bothered when heat comes, nor anxious in a year of drought, but goes right on producing luscious fruit.”
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