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 in the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is in 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,” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NKJV)
As I was reading in Jeremiah the other morning, I was struck by 17:6, which describes the life of the man “who trusts in man…whose heart departs from the LORD”: “A shrub,” “the desert,” “shall not see when good comes,” “parched places,” “wilderness,” “salt land,” “not inhabited.”
Not a very appealing picture, is it?
This is especially true when we compare it with verse 7, which describes the blessing of “the man who trusts in the LORD”: “a tree,” “planted by the waters,” “spreads out its roots,” “by the river,” “will not fear…heat,” “its leaf will be green,” “will not be anxious in…drought,” “nor…cease from yielding fruit.”
As I was thinking these verses over, it seemed to me that they presented “Two Extremes.” That was the original title for this post. But the verses don’t really propose two extreme ways of living; they describe one or the other of the only two ways of living there are: trusting in man, being self-confident and trusting to our own wisdom, or, trusting in the LORD because we can’t really see the next year or day or minute or second. Last year, for example, I doubt anyone foresaw COVID-19. And, yes, there are conspiracy theories about it all, but that’s not my purpose here. Nobody knows when it will end or what it will ultimately do to our nation and culture – and the nations and cultures of the world. No one can absolutely see and be sure of what will happen next – in anything.
At the same time, even though we can’t see tomorrow, there are things we’re to do today; we’re not just to sit around. If a farmer expects a harvest, for example, he has to get out and do some hard work. Crops don’t just appear magically. They take several months of attention. Houses don’t build themselves. Meals don’t cook themselves. The parts of a car don’t assemble themselves. Life may go on, but so must we. At the same time, it is the Lord gives us the intelligence, the strength and even the life to be able to “go on”. When we do, though, we just don’t always know how things will turn out. Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, In the morning sow your seed, And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper, Either this or that, Or whether both alike will be good, emphasis added.
Jeremiah 17:7 has been a favorite of mine for a long time: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD.” The thing is, you can’t separate it from verse 6. As I wrote above, these verses describe the only two possible ways to live: self-confident, or, if I may coin a word, Lord-confident. There is no middle road here; it’s either one or the other.
Verse 6 describes a man “whose heart departs from the LORD,” and tells us what the result of that is. Verse 9, which we didn’t quote at the beginning, tells us why the “heart” is not to be trusted. The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked: Who can know it? Obviously, “the heart” isn’t referring to the physical organ which pumps blood throughout our body, and is a truly wonderful creation.
No, no, the “heart” here is the inner man, so to speak, the one we can’t see, our thoughts, motivations, desires, impulses, our “operating system,” as it were. Our human nature. They – it – may tell us that some thing, some action, some thought, some viewpoint, is all right and to go for it, even though God’s Word says otherwise. Our human natures, corrupted by the Fall, simply cannot be trusted.
Man says there are many roads to heaven.
Man says he can take it (religion) or leave it.
Or that one religion is as good as another.
Or, as some seem to think, “no religion” at all is even better.
But Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” John 14:6, emphasis added.
But, having succeeded at it in the beginning, the Devil continues to say, “Has God really said…,” Genesis 3:1, paraphrased. So wickedness has pretty much become the law of the land and this once great nation may be on its way to the trash heap of history. I can hardly believe the deterioration in just the last few years.
I’m afraid this nation has pretty much gone to the devil.
But that’s ultimately the choice for each and every one of us:
Christ or the devil.
Heaven or hell.
One or the other.