by Lois Tverberg
“Happy is the man who has not followed the counsel of the wicked, or taken the path of sinners, or joined the company of the insolent; rather, the teaching of the LORD is his delight, and he studies that teaching day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in season, whose foliage never fades, and whatever it produces thrives. ” Psalm 1:1-3, JPS Tanakh
Jewish readers of the scriptures over the centuries have enjoyed examining the images of scriptures, and how they can speak to our lives today. In reading the above passage about the one who studies God’s word as being a tree by water, they have meditated on God’s word as “pure water” or “living water”. From this they have found a remarkable number of lessons: (1)
- Just as rain water comes down in drops and forms rivers, so with the scriptures: one studies a bit today and some more tomorrow, until in time the understanding becomes like a flowing stream.
- Just as water has little attraction unless one is thirsty, so too, God’s word is best appreciated when one has great yearning for it.
- Just as water leaves a high place and flows to a low one, so too, God’s voice speaking through the Scriptures goes past one whose spirit is proud and remains with one whose spirit is humble.
- Water is a great equalizer — no matter your station or class, all can drink water. So, too — a scholar should not be ashamed to say to a simpler fellow, ‘Teach me a chapter, a verse or a letter’.
- Just as water is a source of life for the world, as it says, A fountain of gardens, a well of living waters (Song of Songs 4:15), so God’s word is a source of life for the world.
- Just as water is cleansing, the words of the Scriptures are purifying.
We can see how God’s Spirit enlivens the Scriptures, and when we study them, it flows into us like life-giving water. The Spirit is like that in not just one way, but many. We only need to get a taste to see that this is the thirst that we have at the root of our very souls.
(1) From a Jewish commentary from about 900 AD, Song of Songs Midrash Rabbah, quoted at the following site: http://www.saratogachabad.com/mainpages/water.htm
Photo: Dimitar Krstevski