Monday, January 12, 2015

Jeremiah on the difference between trusting men and trusting God

¶Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.
For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.
For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

I ran across this block of verses recently and I was struck by them and how the imagery so well captures the sense of the principle of what life is like when you trust God versus trusting in man.

The first image is of the heath (or juniper tree) in the wilderness, in a salty land.  Of course, plants can’t survive in a salty land, so the juniper will die pretty quickly.

The second image is of a tree that is planted by a lake or a river, where the water table is high and constantly nourishing the roots without the need for rain (which can be chancy in arid places).  It stands to reason that if the tree always has water, a dry wind coming may wither other plants less advantageously placed, but will not affect this tree, therefore it won’t “see when heat cometh.”  To the tree with plenty of water, heat is not a problem.

What does it mean when it says the heath (or juniper) in the wilderness won’t see when good cometh?  The good in the image probably means rain.  Because of where the juniper is positioned, the rain doesn’t reach it and the runoff doesn’t reach it either, therefore it doesn’t know rain has even been there.  Similarly, those who trust in the arm of the flesh can only consider something good that everybody else around them considers good.  But in general, the things of God are higher than the world’s ways, so the good things of God actually look harsh (hard truths) or impossible to achieve.. or just unimportant to the world, so they don’t gain general acceptance.

How does this help me?  It reminds me how the daily practices of scripture study and prayer connect me to spiritual nourishment from the Lord.  I feel refreshed after studying and praying in a way that is different from anything the world can offer.