Soon after this post is published, I’ll be on a plane to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for this weekend’s Living Proof Live. I love going to the Dakotas so I am filled with joy over the privilege to serve there and anticipating God’s gracious and obvious (please let it be, Lord) presence crowded around us and welling up within us. Please pray for Jesus to be exalted, experienced, and enthroned there and for many to be saved and stunningly delivered.
My Scripture memory selection this week is springing up from my Monday morning reading there in my den at home. I’ve mentioned many times that I use a different translation for my devotional and prayer time so that the words will fall particularly fresh on me and so that, if the reading happens to be a familiar segment, I can’t anticipate it and unintentionally dismiss it. The translation I often use is The NET Bible. I’m going to give you the whole segment I read Monday morning so that you’ll see the verse I’ve chosen this time around in its context. This is Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NET):
17:5 The LORD says,
“I will put a curse on people
who trust in mere human beings,
who depend on mere flesh and blood for their strength,
and whose hearts have turned away from the LORD.
17:6 They will be like a shrub in the desert.
They will not experience good things even when they happen.
It will be as though they were growing in the desert,
in a salt land where no one can live.
17:7 My blessing is on those people who trust in me,
who put their confidence in me.
17:8 They will be like a tree planted near a stream
whose roots spread out toward the water.
It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.
Its leaves are always green.
It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought.
It does not stop bearing fruit.
If you are like me, you found the way the NET translates the very first verse (V.5) a little disturbing. You’ll be relieved to know this isn’t the Scripture I’ve chosen to memorize (smiling) but it still needs addressing so that we’re not too distracted by it to engross ourselves in the remainder of the segment. If you’re familiar with the passage, you are probably more accustomed to wording like the NIV: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man.” The fact that the NET makes God the one “putting” the curse on man makes us squirm. Before we let it tie us in a knot and throw us in a lake of fear, we have to remind ourselves of our position in Christ. We have the glorious benefit of living this side of the completed work of the Cross and resurrection.
Galatians 3:13 says to our great relief: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”
Jeremiah 17:5 is still tremendously relevant to us because it unfolds the misery of counting on mere flesh and blood. I wonder if the “curse” talked about in this verse is of the same ilk as the one in Genesis 3 that came directly from God to man after the fall in the Garden. If Adam and Eve were doing anything at all when they ate from that tree, they were shifting their trust from God to themselves – mere flesh and blood – by attempting to be God-like. Though the Cross of Christ bore the curse for us, we can still endure the desolation that invariably results from placing our trust and confidence in people rather than God. This gets us where we’re going in our post today. Look back at Jeremiah 17:6 because this is the part that totally captivated me.
“They will be like a shrub in the desert. They will not experience good things even when they happen.”
Read it again if you need to but don’t proceed until you’ve tried to absorb that second sentence. Have you ever been right in the middle of something good happening and yet missed the full experience and joyful impact of it? Surely you’ve said silently to yourself as I’ve said to myself, “I should really be happy right now. What is wrong with me??” You know the feeling. You’re in a celebration or service of some kind or a holiday gathering and yet you almost feel detached from it. You’re there. But you are somehow disconnected from experiencing it. You know “it” (the positive thing presently happening) but you can’t feel it. It’s a good thing but you don’t feel good about it…or in it. What on earth is that about?
Jeremiah would suggest that the experience of good can be disconnected from the good because we are in a season of shifted trust from God to man. When we’ve set our hopes for happiness in how well all our people are doing…getting along…flourishing…affirming us…satisfying us…and all-around-generally-blessing us, and we even get a glimmer of it, we can’t experience the good because we know down deep that we can’t hold onto it. As much as we love all our people, we know that, ultimately, they are not going to come through for us. One shoe will drop. Then the other. The disappointment will come. And the harmony we feel for this moment with our fellow humans could at any second flip upside down into complete mayhem.
Notice the part that says “they will be like a shrub in the desert.” Isn’t it ironic that the more we depend on flesh and blood to come through for us and to fulfill us, the more isolated we become? You’d think that numbers alone would insure company and community. In other words, why derive our strengths and confidences from one God when we could get infinitely more out of all these people? Out of all these communities? Out of all our fellow church members? Out of all our Facebook friends? Our fellow tweeters? Company is one click away.
But it never works that way, does it? We never can let down our guard completely and find any shred of real security from flesh and blood. The person obsessed with us today can turn on us tomorrow and we know it. The person who makes life worth living for us today could die on us tomorrow and we know it. I don’t mean to be morose. I just mean to point out the emotional tightrope we’re walking. Being vastly people-oriented rather than God-oriented always ends up taking us to a place of isolation because they’re invariably busy when we want to play, invariably distracted when we want attention, and invariably more taken with themselves than with us. And so, there we sit, with our trust and confidence in mere flesh and blood and we end up feeling like a shrub in a desert. Just as Jeremiah 17:6 says, “It will be as though [we] are growing in the desert, in a salt land where no one can live.”
Trust in man can seem a great place to visit but no one can really live there and come out calling it living.
It’s so odd to me that the more drawn I feel to God and the more taken I become with His Presence, the freer I am to love other people and the less I hold them responsible for me. Community with God increases our “experience” of good in a community of people. It is its own paradox.
And all of this brings us to the verse I have chosen for my memory work this time around:
Beth, Houston. My blessing is on those people who trust in Me, who put their confidence in Me. Jeremiah 17:7 The NET Bible
And what earthly difference would that make? Well, let’s see…
“They will be like a tree planted near a stream whose roots spread out toward the water. It has nothing to fear when the heat comes. Its leaves are always green. It has no need to be concerned in a year of drought. It does not stop bearing fruit.”
Notice a very intriguing contrast hidden in Jeremiah 17:8 – “It has nothing to fear when the heat comes.”
Reflect back on 17:6b – “They will not experience good things even when [good things] happen.”
When we place our confidence in mere flesh and blood, we are shortchanged even when good things happen. When we place our confidence in God, the Immortal Invisible, we have nothing to fear even when hard things happen. The former leaves us a dry shrub. The latter makes us a fruit-bearing tree.
We never get this lesson learned once and for all, do we? Or maybe it’s just me. I still get so tempted to put my confidence in people and to think that, if all my loved ones were safe, well, and flourishing, I could be so happy. The truth of it is, I do want those things for my loved ones but God alone can come through for them and for me. Anyway, at the end of the day, I could have everything this world could offer and all the good that man could possibly do me and still sit back and think, “Why doesn’t it feel better than this?”
My blessing is on those people who trust in Me, who put their confidence in Me.
Let’s hear your verses, Sisters!
Tags: Scripture Memory 2013