Wednesday, November 23, 2005

From Frustration to Affirmation: Jeremiah 17:1-18

Jeremiah 17:1-18

It is difficult to keep our eyes on Christ in hard times. Peter serves as the clearest lesson of this truth when he tried to walk on water and began to sink after moving his gaze from Christ to the storm around him. Jeremiah has been through many difficult times simply for being a faithful servant of God, and in these few chapters we have heard him express that frustration several times. But what might it be like on the other side; what clarity there may be when the trial has passed and our gaze has not moved from God!

In verses 5-18, we read a psalm of sorts from the pen of Jeremiah. In fact, you might recognize the influence Psalm 1 has on the vocabulary and themes of this chapter. Jeremiah begins by expressing the fate of those who trust in humanity:

Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.

This is not the kind of cursing in which we wish futility or destruction upon our enemies. This is the word God used to curse the serpent in the garden, and it means, “doomed.” The prophet has learned that those who rely on the potential and abilities of themselves or other humans are doomed to a path of aggravation and eventual failure. And the prophet is clear on why we cannot trust in others or ourselves:

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

This may be the starkest and most vivid description of the state of the human heart in Scripture. Of any and all things wicked and twisted we can imagine, the heart is worse than them all; clearly not a thing to be trusted. And in what is sometimes a convicting twist of phrase, though we are unable to fully understand the depths of our own heart, God sees and comprehends it all.

But all of this is a lesson Jeremiah has learned-he is writing out of what he has lived. Whereas he once accused God of being a deceitful brook (15:18), he now affirms that in reality, God is a fountain that never runs dry. Jeremiah has discovered that God never fails-never ceases to provide nourishment and grace to those who trust in Him.

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.

So now, where in the past we read a complaint spoken out of desperation, we read an affirmation spoken from a position of strength (vs. 14-18)-from one who has seen the dregs of life and who has kept his eyes on God the entire time. In the past, Jeremiah has wondered about God’s ability to save and heal (15:18), now he proclaims that God is the only one who can save and heal. In the past, Jeremiah has complained about scoffers (11:19). He now brushes them aside. In the past, Jeremiah has felt the burden of his call (15:16-17), but now he proclaims in victory and thanksgiving that he has not turned aside from God’s purpose.

Let Jeremiah be an example to us all. Taking our eyes off of God and turning them to humanity for our provision and security spells certain doom. We must train ourselves to keep our eyes on the only one who is able to heal and to save; the only one in whom our trust and faith should reside.


Justin VB said...

Sometimes I will let the talents God has given me collect dust because I feel like it will be "making flesh my strength." Am I taking this out of context?

Phil Steiger said...

I do think we need to be careful to take this too far. God created us with certain inclinations, gifts and abilities, and He did so in order for us to use them for His glory. We should do what we can do, but always in the strength and wisdom of God.

This is not always an easy line to find, but I think it is true.

AlivaMax44 said...

Since God knew the way of living in Jeremiah time would come many adversaries and untrusting hearts in humanity,he brought down his son Jesus to wash away our iniquities. I am so grateful for that!

Many blessings and love,

Ruth- Prime Bay Funding