22 June 2020

“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 the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit”

(Jeremiah 17:5-8).

This is a situation which contrasts the one who trusts in man and the one who trusts in God – it is picturesquely displayed in a way we can clearly see the truth that is intended to be communicated.The context in Jeremiah is the impending serious judgement on Israel for her sins and idolatry – ‘But first I will doubly repay their iniquity and their sin, because they have polluted my land with the carcasses of their detestable idols and have filled my inheritance with their abominations’ said the Lord God.

“They shall die of deadly diseases. They shall not be lamented, nor shall they be buried….Both great and small shall die in the land…(16:4,6).

Our current viral pandemic does reflect verses 4 and 6. The number of those down with the virus and those who died is almost half a million worldwide and the virus does not respect age, gender, status or race. Does this outbreak come about because of the warning from God regarding the terrible sins of the world? Is it a test for believers to evaluate the genuineness and steadfastness of their faith? Whatever it may be, it is certainly a time of dire circumstance.

In the light of what would happen, God spoke in verses 5 to 8 in Jeremiah.
Notice the contrast in the ‘picture’: The man who trusts in man rather than God -in such a dire situation is pictured as a shrub in the desert, drying up without water in a salt land. Imagine drinking some water that may remain but it is in fact salt water – it does not quench the thirst and may cause delirium and end up in death.

The man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the LORD is like a tree planted by water, with its roots by the stream – its leaves remain green and it continues to be fruitful. Such a man does not fear when the heat comes; he is not anxious in drought – water is continually available to battle the heat and the drought. This is a wonderful picture of faithfulness and fruitfulness even in the midst of dire circumstances pictured by the heat and the drought.

It reminds us of John 15 when the Lord Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me” (John 15:4). The Lord is telling us to remain in Him if we wish to be fruitful; it implies a continual union with Him and connection with Him such that we can receive ‘nutrition’ and life from HIm without which we, like the branch, will dry up and ‘die’. It is like the tree in Jeremiah planted by water, with its roots in the stream which remains fruitful with its leaves always green – a picture of fruitfulness and thriving. Even in very difficult circumstances, if we remain in Christ and commune with HIm, we can remain fruitful and faithful. The branch needs not struggle to bear fruit; it just has to remain in the vine.

It does not mean that it is going to be ‘easy’ without ‘pain’ and ‘suffering’ during dire situations.

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again” (2 Cor. 1:8-10).

Here Paul shared that believers are not exempt from affliction, burdens and despair. Situation can be so precarious and demanding that we cannot cope to the point that we feel under the “sentence of death”. Yet in such difficult situations, we are not to depend on ourselves but on God in whom we trust. Paul continued to trust God, knowing God had delivered from such a peril before and he was confident that He would deliver them from their current situation and also deliver them again in future in such dangerous situations.

That is what it means to trust God and that our trust is God. That is what it means to draw our ‘life’ and ‘confidence’ from the ‘vine’ and as a branch, we can continue to bear fruit even in the midst of ‘heat’ and ‘drought’.