5 This is what the Lord says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the Lord. 6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert, with no hope for the future. They will live in the barren wilderness, in an uninhabited salty land. 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. 8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah was called by God to pronounce God’s judgment on the southern kingdom of Judah for their sins of idolatry. Jeremiah starts by reminding us that he is just a mouth piece for God and that this is what the Lord says so we would be wise to listen. Through Jeremiah the Lord reminds us that the beginning of this sin of idolatry is found where Jesus said all sin begins, in the heart. The people of Israel had turned their hearts away from the Lord into idolatry which is not limited to just idols of wood and stone. Idolatry comes in many forms; the children of Israel had become confident and comfortable with their own accomplishments.
Jeremiah had told them that destruction was going to come from the north but the people ignored him because their kings since the time of Solomon had made political alliances with these nations. Their confidence and trust was in themselves and what they had accomplished, so instead of relying on God they tried to secure their own safety through trusting in their own works. At this time their idolatry focused on a political alliance with Egypt which they were trusting in to be their protector from Babylon. In Jeremiah 2:18, 36 God asks them “Now why go to Egypt to drink water from the Nile and why go to Assyria to drink water from the Euphrates? Why do you go about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria” Judah’s attempt to enlist the help of Egypt was just one more example of their trust and confidence in others to fix their problems instead of God’s promise. How about us are we focused on our problems and how we can fix them or are we focused on His promise? Will we rely and rest in God’s promise? Psalm 50:15 “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me”. Are we really any different from Israel, sinning against God in the idolatry of our self-sufficiency, trying to be the masters of our own fate. How many times do we shake a defiant fist in God’s face telling Him we know better than He does? How long will we blatantly disregard His word because it does not fit with our way of thinking or our plan?
When God speaks to us through His Word will we be like Samuel and say, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” Not if we are lost in the sinfulness of our flesh, deceived through our misplaced trust and confidence. No, when our trust is not in God instead we will say, “Listen God, your servant is speaking!” Don’t miss the grace of God here, He was still willing to send His servant Jeremiah to warn them of the consequences of turning their hearts away from Him and trusting in themselves. The results of self sufficiency are always the same, isolation, deprivation and condemnation, it’s the best we can hope for. We say a picture paints a thousand words and its true God paints them a painful and pitiful picture of self-trust. A small bush in the desert, its growth stunted because it is cut off from the life giving rains. Without God and His Word, the well of living water, we also will become like the dry lifeless bush trying to survive in a parched wasteland. Yet this is not the only picture, when we trust in God for all things, we experience a very different picture. After the revealed picture of rebellion, we are shown the real picture of relying on God, and in every way it is the exact opposite of a barren wasteland. Jeremiah writes, “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
The incredible grace is that even though they had sinned against God and turned away from Him, those who repented and turned back to the Lord would find peace, security, and life. The contrast between plants is the difference between a shrub and a tree, brown and green, withered and fruitful but what is it that creates such a difference? It is where they are growing, the ground they are rooted in, self or the Savior. So, where is your trust and confidence placed? Is it in the sinful flesh, which brings harsh desert living or the Lord, who brings life? God’s grace to us is that He not only recorded this for us so we wouldn’t have to live in the desert of self-reliance but that He also sent Jesus to save us. Yet still today we turn away from fully trusting in Jesus. We want His salvation so that we can live with Him in eternity but we want self-reliance so we can live for ourselves in the present. How deep is your trust, where are you really planted? How deep is the soil that your roots are relying on? Is it time to trust fully to go deeper to wait on the refreshing rains of God’s promises, to experience the water of His word? Put another way, what kind of plant do you want to be, a shriveled shrub or a fruitful tree?