The Cursed and the Blessed

Jeremiah 17:5—8

Chapter 17 of Jeremiah’s book of prophecy is a continuation of what the prophet started in chapter 16. Though it doesn’t have a central theme, it does group together numerous denunciations of the sin and sins of Judah and it contains some interesting proverbial sayings on the issues of life, sin, and what happens when one lives right or lives wrong.

Verse 1 really sets the tone and shows Judah’s real problem:

Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts and on the horns of their altars.

The sin of Judah was not her many sins or sinfulness, but rather her proclivity to sin which led to her sinful practices, like idolatry. How bad had things gotten in Judah? Her sin was actually engraved upon the tablets of her heart. In other words, the root of sin ran deep in Judah. It was passed on from generation to generation. Even those with good hearts found it difficult to remain faithful to God because they were surrounded by sin and sinfulness night and day. Sin had taken root within the inner being of so many people in Judah that ordinary means were insufficient to get rid of it. Sinning had become a habit; part of her nature—their settled disposition. Judah’s focus, her affection, her habit, her first thought, her strongest desire, led in one direction so that evil and wickedness had become the norm. Forgiveness would never change this. God has no way of dealing with such a sinful disposition except to break it, as a potter would smash a marred vessel. Out of the broken pieces He fashions a new creation.

In verses 5—8 we are introduced to groups of people for the purpose of a strong contrast. There are certain spiritual laws that cannot be altered and will always come to pass. For example, most of us are familiar with the “law of reciprocity,” which says “you reap what you sow.” This most basic of Biblical laws cannot be avoided; it will always work. Another immutable law of God is the law of blessings and curses. Obedience to the Word of God brings God’s blessings, but disobedience brings curses, or a deliberate withholding of blessings.

1. Who are the cursed?

Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord. (verse 5)

This group of verses brings to mind the contrast of Psalm 1, where we read of the fate of two men: one who trusts in man versus one who trusts in God. To trust in man is to not trust in God. Here is what Jesus said on the subject:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)

Man was created with a free will, he is not a robot, and he has the power of choice and man must make the right choice if he wants to enjoy God’s blessings. The importance of choice is a theme all over the Bible:

But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

There is always a choice for a person to make: God’s way or man’s way; good or evil. For Jeremiah, the evil choice was that of self-confidence, which included things like self-righteousness. To trust man is to put your confidence in man and in man’s ideas. It really is a conscious departure of the heart from the Lord. Judah’s hope for salvation, like ours, cannot come from the wisdom or the efforts of man.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. (Psalm 118:8, 9)

Your hope cannot rest in any man, prince, or even king! Your help does not come from man:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber… (Psalm 121:1—3)

It is the evil heart – the heart far from God – the heart of unbelief –  that departs from the living God. To trust man is to deny God. Keil and Delitzsch wrote this:

Dependence upon the flesh, the antithesis of the spirit, sets forth the vanity and perishableness of man and all earthly things.

2. What is the curse?

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.

History testifies to the fact that Judah had a habit of relying on Egypt, Babylon, and other nations for help when she should have trusted God to help her. The curse for continually ignoring God and choosing man is clearly spelled out in verse 6. When you trust in man, your spiritual life will wither up. That kind of person is like a shrub in the middle of the desert: all by himself with nothing around for shade and no one to care for him. There’s no rain, no nourishment, no growth, no hope. That desert shrub is both stunted and starved. When you prefer man’s way over God’s you will live in a perpetually barren state; God’s spigot of blessings has been turned off.

Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh? Can reeds thrive without water? While still growing and uncut, they wither more quickly than grass. Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. (Job 8:11—13)

3. Who are the blessed?

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. (verse 7)

Contrary to the people who trust in man are the people who trust in the Lord. To “trust” in the Lord and to have “confidence” in Him is to give the Lord your undivided confidence from the heart. When you are able to do that, you will have discovered the secret of full and eternal blessedness. People who trust in God like that are truly blessed in every way.

Take careful note of Jeremiah’s use of the words “trust” and “confidence.” They are different, but you can’t have trust without confidence. Confidence suggests hope; if you trust in God, you will have hope because your confidence is placed in God, who has never failed.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3, 4)

4. What are the blessings? Verse 8

The blessings of a life of obedience to God and faith in God alone are great. This blessed person has:

A good position.

He will be like a tree planted by the water…

When you trust in God, He puts you in the right place at the right time. You will have purpose.  You won’t be like that shrub stuck in the middle of the desert! The believer is planted in Christ! There is no more secure position to be in!

An endless supply

…that sends out its roots by the stream.

When your hope is in God, the resources of heaven are there for you. All the resources of God’s continuous flow of blessings are available to you. When your trust God and your confidence is in the right place, you are able to “send out your roots” into the river of God’s infinite blessings.

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

A happy fearlessness

It does not fear when heat comes…

The drought has no effect on the tree that’s planted by flowing waters. The significance of this phrase cannot be overstated! It means that regardless of what the circumstances are all around you; no matter what your neighbors or co-workers are going through, if your trust, your hope, and your confidence is in God, you will not fear! God elevates you above your circumstances. You can live fearlessly and cheerfully when your trust is in the right place.

An ever fresh experience

its leaves are always green.

Many a Christian would love to have a fresh experience with God. You can, if you renew you hope and trust in Him! Imagine what your life would feel like if you could have the burden of all your cares taken away.

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall. (Psalm 55:22)

That promise is for you, if you can muster enough trust to let God carry what gets you down.

A blessed freedom

It has no worries in a year of drought…

Can you imagine living without worries? You can!  Worry is a sin, it’s not a virtue. There is not a good thing achieved by worrying. Worry is not concern; concern is a good thing but worry is the silent killer of faith. When you trust in the Lord, you are not trusting in things and people that fail. Living on the promises of God saves you from the fearfulness of hard times when they find you. And they will! The question you need to ask yourself is a simple one: Will I face the hard time full of worry and fear? Or will I trust God to get me through?

Continual fruitfulness

and never fails to bear fruit.

A never-failing river of life produces in those who receive its fullness a never-failing fruitfulness to God! When you are trusting God and not man, you will be able to not only attempt great things for God, you will DO great things for God. But it starts with trusting Him full.

Maybe it’s time we pulled out and dusted off that old gospel song:

I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!
Makes the lame to walk, and the blind to see.
Opens prison doors, sets the captives free!
I’ve got a river of life flowing out of me!
Spring up, O well, within my soul!
Spring up, O well, and make me whole!
Spring up, O well, and give to me
That life abundantly.

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