5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
who draws strength from mere flesh
and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
in a salt land where no one lives.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him.
8 They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17:5-8 NIV)
In the last two passages we studied, we saw the contrast between backslidden Judah who was supposed to be living for the Lord and the faithless pagan nations who would one day know God by name.
In today’s text, we see the Lord contrast two persons (vv. 5-6 vs. vv. 7-8). And what is the basis of comparison? Where they placed their faith.
Notice that today’s passage does not contain any references to nationality, location, creed, or race. This passage is two world views clearly stated: Trust in God vs. trust in self (humanity).
The first contrast is from the Lord’s perspective: either being cursed or blessed, depending on where the person places their faith.
The first person’s strength and confidence comes from within themselves, while the second person’s strength and confidence comes from their trust in the Lord.
Notice the two objects used to make the comparison: a desert bush vs. a tree. The bush represents survival, while the tree represents their expansion and giving (fruitfulness).
Notice the contrast between the environments for the bush vs. the tree: a parched salt land that fights the bush for every drop of water versus good soil with access to fresh water which allows the tree to grow, survive drought conditions, and always bear fruit.
Also, notice the absence of community for those whose strength is in themselves (“in a salt land where no one lives”) vs. the implied community for those whose faith is in the Lord (“and never fails to bear fruit”). The fruit is for the benefit and enjoyment of others in the community, not for the benefit of the tree.
Verses 7 – 8 are very similar to Psalm 1, where the psalmist compares and contrasts godly people with wicked people.
Jesus restated this dependence on the Lord when He talked about the relationship between the vine and the branches:
15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
(John 15:1-8 NIV, Jesus speaking)
May we choose wisely, to put our trust in the Lord and not in ourselves or others.
And in so doing, may we not merely seek to survive, but to thrive and bear spiritual fruit for the glory of God and the benefit of others.