Chris Thomas
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Two Trees
Jeremiah 17:5-10
We all want a fruitful and blessed life, but what does that truly mean, and how do we obtain it?
Published June 28th, 2017
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Main point summary
Main point summary
God is vindicated in both his blessings and curses, as only he can truly know the thoughts and intentions of our life.
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Thus says the Lord :
The LORD declares this:
“Cursed is the man
"Let a curse fall on the man
b who trusts in man
who relies on human ingenuity
and makes flesh his strength, 1
and looks to what he can accomplish in his own strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord .
who refuses to direct his affections and trust toward God.
c He is like a shrub in the desert,
That man is as out of place as a green bush growing in the desert,
d and shall not see any good come.
and should not expect a favourable outcome for his life.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
He will perpetually live in the most desolate plains of the wild lands,
in e an uninhabited salt land.
not only desolate, but toxic, where nothing will live or grow.
f “Blessed is the man
Instead, let a blessing fall on the man
who trusts in the Lord ,
who directs his trust toward God,
g whose trust is the Lord .
moreover, who finds his trust is God
h He is like a tree planted by water,
That man is like a tree growing beside a stream,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
whose roots search out the life-giving water.
and does not fear when heat comes,
When the scorching heat blows, this man does not fear
for its leaves remain green,
because he sees his leaves remain green and fresh,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
nor does he grow anxious or fret when it fails to rain for a season,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
because he continues to grow fruit regardless."
The heart is deceitful above all things,
You won't find anything more deceitful than the notion of 'following your heart',
and desperately sick;
and the human condition is beset by a deep and dreadful sickness;
who can understand it?
therefore there is no hope that anyone can accurately discern their heart's motives.
i “I the Lord search the heart
[Yet there is one who can ,] "I am the LORD, and I know a man's heart,
j and test the mind, 1
I can assess his intentions and will,
k to give every man according to his ways,
in order to give the just payment for a man's life,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
in direct relation to the outcome and harvest of what he has sown into.
I found the progression from 7b to 7c extremely interesting—it seems to me to show a duel aspect to trust, one part being trust coming from man toward God, but the other part demonstrating that the source of that trust is in fact God himself.
Fruitfulness Matters My mother is a great gardener. I am not. My mother could take what seemed to be a barren patch of soil and somehow bring a harvest from it with whatever she had planted. I, however, seem only to be able to produce nothing but the shriveled remnants of a garden, even in the richest soil. My mother loves to grow citrus trees. When I visit, I enjoy walking around those lush green trees, searching for the fruit I know I'll find. I suppose one reason I enjoy it so much is that it is a rare pleasure, and one I don't often enjoy in my own garden. Fruitfulness matters. As it is true in an orchard, so it is true in the garden of our own souls. Fruitfulness always matters. Jeremiah 17 records for us a declaration of God that should cause us to stop and take stock of our lives. It contains both promises of blessing and a clear warning of a dreadful curse. But be warned from the outset, as God pronounces both blessings and curses, you will be prone to search your own heart and seek to discern your own soul's intentions—yet in this, we are doomed before we begin. This passage holds out blessing, yet simultaneously exposes us bare before the searching eyes of God. [ Read Jeremiah 17:5-10 ] Just as the fruitfulness of my mother's garden (and the barrenness of my own) isn't simply a random coincidence, but an indicator of a deeper principle, so too is the contrast between the two men in this passage. Here too, fruitfulness matters. Yet fruitfulness only reveals a deeper condition. The cursed man's barrenness reveals a deeper sickness—a orientation of the soul. This man's only fruit is the fruit of misdirected confidence. Verse 5 makes it clear: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord." It should terrify us that we live in an era that celebrates the 'self-made man', where entrepreneurial prowess is prized above all else, and the 'take charge kinda guy' is head-hunted and elevated into positions of influence and power. It should terrify us because it is precisely this type of man that God's curse falls on. Of course, the irony of the self-made man, the man that makes his flesh his strength, who trusts in his own ability while refusing to turn his attentions toward God, is this: He is a shrub in a desert! Verse 6 makes it clear that his toxic environment will continue to stunt his growth and extract life rather than give it. When our soul's orientation is toward ourselves, we should expect a 'here today—gone tomorrow' type of existence. We will burn up in the heat of life, leaving nothing behind us. Beware the curse of God. As the cursed man's barrenness was a symptom of the soul, so it is with the blessed man. The blessed man's roots go down deep into life-giving water, drawing up the nourishment required for a fruitful life. Contrary to popular opinion, the 'blessing' does not consist of endless cool breezes and regular rain—verse 8 informs us that hardships still fall on this man, yet he does not fear nor grow anxious. Why? Because his roots aren't drawing life from his circumstances. Despite the heat, or lack of rain, the blessed man's roots stay connected to the stream, and therefore with life. What does this fruitfulness reveal? What is the orientation of the blessed man's soul? Verse 7: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. Despite the season—plenty or want—this man's soul is oriented toward his God. His trust is directed toward the Lord, finding its satisfaction in him. Moreover, the blessed man has discovered that not only is God the target of his trust, but He is the source of his trust. His trust is not only in the Lord, but is the Lord. Of course, it is at this point I could ask, "Which man are you? Are you the man whose fruit reveals his blessing, or his curse? Is your soul's orientation toward the Lord, or your own flesh?" They are valid questions, worthy of your deep and careful consideration. Yet in this we are doomed. It is God who vindicates his own right to pronounce blessing and curses. All self-analysis is flawed from the beginning, distorted by the stain of sin and rebellion, twisted by my own selfish desires. A deep sickness rests on my heart, blinding me to the realities of my soul's desperate need for God's intervention in my life. Any and all attempts at self-justification ring hollow under the piercing view of God's righteous judgment. Yet there is still hope for the blessing of God, but it is not found in ourselves. Verse 10 reveals the vindication of God's righteous judgment. God knows a man's heart and mind, able to discern its true orientation. In his righteous judgment, God will deliver according to what he finds. Heed the warning of God through Jeremiah, and heed the same warning through Paul as he writes to the Romans: 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. (Romans 2:4-10 ESV ) God is holding out to you the promise of blessing, and the warning of his curse. We can not vindicate ourselves before him, our only hope is found in his righteous judgment of a righteousness that is not our own, but instead belongs to His own beloved Son. Remember, the blessing comes to those who not only direct their trust toward the Lord, but whose trust is the Lord (Jer 17:7). Our hope must not only be directed toward Christ, but our only hope is Christ. Jesus is our righteousness and redemption. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-31 ESV ) Where is your boast? If it falls in the flesh, your life is cursed as a barren plant in a desolate land. But if it falls on Christ, not only as the target of your trust, but also its source, your fruitfulness will defy the circumstances of your life. Find your satisfaction in the good news of Jesus Christ. Find your rest in the gospel.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.