Saturday, March 04, 2006

Jeremiah 17:5-8: The Perennnially Blessed

5 This is what the LORD says:
"Cursed are those who trust in mortals,
who depend on flesh for their strength
and whose hearts turn away from the LORD.

6 They 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 are those who trust 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."


In Hebrew poetry in the OT (Old Testament) parallelism of two lines is a common device. It can help one ascertain meaning by comparing the two lines. The lines can explain each other in terms of similarity (saying the same thing in different ways) or contrast.

Here we have contrast, two descriptions of people: those cursed and those blessed. Though not two lines, this Hebrew poetry conveys contrast in striking terms. The cursed are like a bush in a wasteland, left "high and dry" so as to miss God's blessing, even when it comes. The blessed are like a tree planted by the water, which continue to thrive, even when facing drought, still taking in God's blessing. One is reminded of Psalm 1.

The cursed "are those who trust in mortals, who depend on their own strength and whose hearts turn away from the LORD." This is a denial of one's own createdness and of the Creator, as well as one's sinfulness and need of God's redemptive grace.

The blessed, in contrast, "are those who trust in the LORD, whose confidence is in him." Not in their circumstances- good, as long as everything is going alright. Nor in their own abilities or experience ("know how"). But only in the God who is over all, and whose will cannot be thwarted.

"Crunch time" for this, meaning the real test, comes when- one way or another, we're "up against it". When oppostion, whatever form it takes, seems to threaten one's vocation (in God), and even bring the promise of defeat and failure with it.

Jeremiah, the prophet from which these words come, is a good case in point. He is forever running into obstacles, both from without (human opposition from leadership and even from his own family) and from within (himself, like his depression and expressed despair).

But what does Jeremiah do? He repents surely, when God calls him to do so with promises (15:18-21). He grows through the experience of life and in the process life/God brings. He finds God to be merciful and faithful through it all.

God help us to trust in him, through the difficult times, as well as in the easier times. That we would find him to be more than sufficient through everything. And that in all circumstances we would be more than conquerors through him who loves us. Amen.

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