Jeremiah 17:5-8 | NKJV
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man And makes flesh his strength, Whose heart departs from the Lord.
For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, And shall not see when good comes, But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, In a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
I came to this passage today roundaboutly; I was reviewing the passage in I Samuel 16, where the Lord reminds Samuel that He does not look at outward appearances, that He “beholdeth the heart (GNV)” The word translated beholdeth means to not only see, but to also perceive, to understand. And as I was pondering what it meant for the Lord to behold our hearts, to see and understand them, I went looking for the verse that said, “who can know it?” referring to our hearts. And as I found the verse I was looking for, I was drawn into the passage just above it and so here I am.
I was drawn to the contrasts that God makes here; God often delights in painting contrasting pictures for us. I find that the contrast can be helpful in our understanding.
The first man that we look at here is the one who trusts in the power of man, who does not trust in the Lord, but whose heart departs, not departed, past tense, as if it happened at one time in the past, but it is in a simple present tense which is used in English grammar to represent a habitual action. This man’s heart habitually departs from the Lord. And it is this continuous action of departure and continuous act of trust in his own strength that is his downfall. The picture painted by God through the weeping prophet is that of a shrub, in a dessert, a man who lives in parched places, and in an uninhabitable salt land. High salinity in soil has detrimental effects on plant life, when there is too much salt nothing can grow or live, there is no life, not even the possibility of life. This is indeed a sad state.
But God is a God who loves to magnify and accentuate through contrast. The second man that we look at is the man who trusts in the Lord (again the present tense, showing a habitual trust). His hope is in the Lord! This man is depicted as a tree, planted by waters, a continual source of life for the tree, its roots are by the river and because of this there is no fear for whatever comes its way. It is not only able to live, but it thrives, its leaves are green and it does not cease to yield fruit!
What a contrast there is between the man who trusts in himself and the man who trusts in the Lord!! On one hand you have a shriveled shrub in the dessert, who is parched for water, does not see when good will come, and lives in a dead land without hope for life or growth. Then you have the man whose habitual trust is in the Lord, who places his hope in Him, this man is sturdy, solid, continually being fed, without fear in times of drought and danger, he thrives, he is fruitful.
Take hold of the promises of God, the man who trusts in the Lord is indeed blessed, has no reason for fear or anxiety, despite trials and persecution that will no doubt come. God promises to be a continual source of life so that when trials come there is never danger for harm to this man. And not only this, but he will not cease from yielding fruit even during heat and drought. The man who trusts in the Lord will always yield fruit. Does this not give you confidence? The God who does not change, the God who keeps His promises and covenants to all generations says this of the man who places his hope and trust in Him! There is truly no safer place to be.