For a semester, one of my professors at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary started each class by reading the same four verses from the prophet Jeremiah and expounding on them. Almost thirty years later the passage still pops into my mind occasionally. Repetition serves as such a useful tool for any kind of learning.
“This is what the Lord says: ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He 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.’” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
As tempting as it might be, we should not put our ultimate hope in a theologian or pastor, a political leader, a spouse, a child, ourselves or any human being. It is only in trusting God that we find lasting fulfillment. Even the most loving friend or family member will disappoint us at times, but the Lord never will. Our lives won’t be free from the heat or drought, but we can rest assured that God will bring us through the trials.
This passage is reminiscent of Psalm 1. The person who delights in the law of Lord and meditates on it “is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers.” (Psalm 1:3)
In his commentary on Jeremiah, Matthew Henry writes, “Those that trust to their own righteousness and strength, and think they can do well enough without the merit and grace of Christ, thus make flesh their arm, and their souls cannot prosper in graces or comforts; they can neither produce the fruits of acceptable services to God nor reap the fruits of saving blessings from him; they dwell in a dry land. … Those who make God their hope have enough in him to make up the want of all creature-comforts. We need not be solicitous about the breaking of a cistern as long as we have the fountain. They shall be fruitful in holiness, and in all good works. Those who trust in God, and by faith derive strength and grace from him, shall not cease from yielding fruit; they shall still be enabled to do that which will redound to the glory of God, the benefit of others, and their own account.”