January 9, 2018

08: Do you want to be Shrub in the Desert

The Biblical theologian and prophet Jeremiah, makes a strong contrast in Jeremiah 17:5-8,

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”


This contrast is like comparing night and day. Jeremiah is telling himself as well as the people of Israel that there are two people in life with whom you can put your trust. You either put your trust in man or you put your trust in the Lord.

The imagery is so profound and stark you cannot miss his point. The man who puts his trust in man, meaning other men or himself is destined to be like a shrub in the desert, that does not see any good come, and dwells in an uninhabitable land. This man is cursed.

The man who trusts in the Lord is destined for just the opposite. This man is rooted and has no need to be fearful or anxious because the Lord is his strength. The man who trusts in the Lord will live a fruitful life. This man is blessed.

God uses contrasts in the Bible for many purposes but here are three:

1. God wants us to see His Superiority.

God is so superior to everything else in all creation and we need to be constantly reminded of this. Because God is a Spirit, we don’t always have His glory in the front of our mind. We tend to see what is literally before us and often forget that what is before us is governed by a great and loving God.

When we put our trust in man or in our own deceitful desires of our hearts, we are wasting our time and effort. The world and all that it offers cannot possibly satisfy us, nor is it intended to. Comparing the superiority of the Lord with man is like asking, “Would you like to eat some dry gravel, or would you like a juicy steak?” Or if you were thirsty, would you rather have a warm glass of vinegar or an ice cold glass of spring water?

2. God wants to be brutally honest with us.

Do you ever have trouble telling someone the truth? You know they need to hear it, but you don’t want to offend them or come off judgmental. God uses His Word to tell us the truth, and it’s not always easy to hear. What if your doctor was afraid to tell you the truth that you had a life-threatening disease? You would be pretty upset if you found out later and it was too late.

God doesn’t beat around the bush so to speak. He gets right to the truth, the brutal, honest truth about who we are and what we need. He intentionally and clearly tells us what life is going to look like if we choose not to follow Him. And in this passage, it leads to our lives being compared to a shrub in the desert. I don’t think any of us want this to be the commentary on our lives.

3. God wants us to know how much He loves and cares for us.

The contrast here is between a life trusting in man, which is cursed or a life trusting in the Lord, which leads to blessing. The Lord wants you to be blessed. He wants you to live a rooted, fruitful life. The only way this is going to happen is if we put our trust in the Lord and forsake everything else.

God shows us His love and care for us through Jesus who came to redeem our hearts that had turned away from Him. Without Jesus, we live in the desert, always feeling parched and thirsty. But when we trust in Jesus, then our thirst is quenched by His living water, by His Spirit that enlivens our dead hearts, draws us to Himself and feeds us continuously like a tree planted by a stream.

Today is the day to turn away from trusting in anything else than the Lord. Respond to the call of Jesus by believing in Him, by embracing his mercy, by listening to his voice, by following his lead, by allowing Him to satisfy your deepest longings. This is the good news of the gospel, we once were blind, but now we see the goodness of God through Jesus. The Lord will not disappoint you because His gospel changes everything!

All for Jesus,