In this sermon, David Capoccia examines a short testimony from God in the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning how a person obtains a cursed or a blessed life. David Capoccia explains how God provides two vivid pictures of blessing and cursing to warn people not to trust in mere man and to encourage people to trust wholeheartedly in God.
I am filled with so much joy this morning. It is so good to be back with you, to be fellowshipping with you, and to be singing about the Lord’s mercy and a wonderful Christ.
Thank you so much for making us feel so welcomed back. Thank you for all the support and all the prayer that you’ve given us both when we’re here and when we’re away. We are truly grateful to the Lord for you.
We pray that the Lord would continue to grow and provide for all of your needs as well. It’s also a great joy to be bringing the word to you this morning. Before we go on, let’s pray.
Lord, God please speak to us now. Speak to us through Your word. Use me God even as Your mouthpiece. Give me the ability to explain clearly and appropriately what Your word says. That we might progress in sanctification and faith just as you meant. Our sins are indeed many. Not just they were many, but they are many. We still stumble and You’re so gracious and patient with us. You do show us mercy continually. You meant for us to progress, so please accomplish that even now God as we hear from Your word. In Jesus name, Amen.
Well, if you had to guess, what would you say is the official motto of the United States? If you look around our society, you see what it values. You’d be forgiven if you thought the motto was something like:
He who has the most toys, wins.
Or, above all else:
Be true to yourself.
Capitalism is the way to glory.
A lot of people think that the motto of the United States is the rather cool sounding Latin phrase:
E pluribus unum
It means out of many, one. In some ways, it is a very appropriate model for the United States, but not actually the official motto. What is the motto?
In God, we trust.
Yes, I’m not kidding. That’s the official motto of the United States. Adopted in 1956 by congress, it’s remained our motto ever since and it’s printed on all our currency. If you pull out a dollar bill or some coins, you will see the phrase, "In God, We Trust."
There are many reasons our country chose to adopt that, but one of them was that even as we work and exchange currency, we would be reminded that our ultimate trust is not to be in our work or in our money, but in God.
Of course, the irony in all that is quite profound because what is America known for today? Not really its trust in God, but actually its trust in money, its trust in self, and its trust in materialism. That is, the pursuit of material goods and pleasures will be your satisfaction and security.
This is quite obvious if one studies American culture for any small amount of time, but what about us? What about us who claim to be Christians? We, of all people, are those who claim to especially love, to follow, and to trust God. But, does our behavior, like the behavior of those in our country, betray where our trust really lies? Do we actually trust in idols and false gods rather than the living God? What does your lifestyle say about your trust? What does it testify? Is it something like:
In hard work, I trust.
In self, I trust…In science, I trust…In Netflix, I trust.
What is it that you look for protection and provision in your life? What do you rely for wisdom and guidance? How do you seek joy? Where do you find your strengths? Where do you turn when troubles arise in your life? Do you turn to God? Or, do you turn to some mere thing?
Brothers and sisters, I know that we are under constant pressure today from our own sin principal that remains with us, the culture, and the evil one. All these pressures are wanting us to move our trust away from God and moving it to something in this world, man’s wisdom, or our own selves. That’s why the text that God has set before us today is so critical for us to hear, to understand, and to apply.
Ultimately, what’s at stake is God’s abundant blessing or God’s painful curse. We’re going to examine in-depth today, Jeremiah 17:5-8. In Jeremiah 17:5-8, God gives us two vivid pictures of cursing and blessing to warn us. On the one hand, against trusting in mere man, and to encourage us, on the other hand, to trust wholeheartedly in God. Let’s read Jeremiah 17:5-8:
Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6“For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant. 7“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD. 8“For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
The presentation of God’s message in these verses is very straightforward. We have a description and an image of the cursed man, and we have a description and an image of the blessed man. This will form the outline of my sermon since it is the outline of the passage.
Before we even get into the text more specifically, we need to ask what does it mean to be cursed or blessed, especially by God? Surveying what all the Bible says, yields and understandings like the following: To be cursed by Almighty God means to have God working against you, to punish you, to harm you, and ultimately to destroy you. If you are under God’s curse, life ultimately will not go well for you.
To be blessed by God is to have that same Almighty God working for you, to provide for you, to help you, to give you joy, and ultimately to give you salvation. If you are blessed by God, then ultimately life will go well for you.
Though true, Christians cannot be cursed by God because they are in Christ – Jesus Christ has taken away their curse by becoming a curse for them on the cross. Nevertheless, Christians can and do experience pain, even God’s opposition, when they turn from God and His way. They receive even serious corrective discipline at times.
Let us not forget, in the New Testament, God put to death two professing Christians, Ananias and Sapphira, when they displayed arrogant hypocrisy before God and the church. God also caused a number of Corinthian Christians to become sick and even to die because they approached the Lord’s table sinfully, and even used the Lord’s table as an occasion for sin.
If you’re a Christian, do not say to yourself, "God will never discipline me too harshly. After all, I can’t be cursed." Actually, God may need to teach you and others around you not to presume on His grace. If you walk into the way of the curse, you will feel it even as a Christian.
The Bible often repeats and emphasizes this basic truth that those who follow God will be blessed, and those who turn from God will be cursed. In reading these verses, you may have been immediately reminded of Psalm 1. Does not Psalm 1 essentially say the same thing as what we read here. Psalm 1 compares the blessed follower of Yahweh to a well-watered tree that experiences prosperity whereas the wicked man is described as one who’ll be judged by God and parish suddenly.
Actually, the concept of blessing and cursing, according to obedience, is even more central in the beginning books of the Bible, the Torah and the Law of Moses. It is there where God lays out the terms of His special covenant with Israel – a contractual relationship.
We see this in the book of Exodus, and we see it in the ones that follow. In that covenant, God again and again emphasizes to Israel that they will be overwhelmingly cursed if they do not keep His covenant, but if they will follow God and abide by the terms of the covenant, they’ll be blessed beyond their wildest dreams.
We see what this looks like in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. It’s an entire list of promise curses or blessing based on whether the people will have faith in God and obey Him. Some of the curses include trouble such as military defeat, nationwide famine, and removal from their land by exile. Some of the blessings include military victory, abundant wealth, and worldwide honor.
God is quite serious about these promised curses and blessings, and as the history of Israel progressed, they experience both the blessings and the curses depending on how they responded to God and His covenant.
In fact, by the time we reach the days our texts were written, the days of Jeremiah around 600 BC, the people of Judah, recipients of this Word, would know all too well about the seriousness of the curses of God. They saw it play out in front of their very eyes.
After the days of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into two. There was a northern kingdom of ten and a half tribes, and a southern kingdom of one and a half tribes called the kingdom of Judah. The kingdom of Israel rapidly descended into sin and idolatry, and in 722 BC, it was destroyed and taken into exile.
The kingdom of Israel was obliterated. God’s curse came on that kingdom, but Judah, too, felt the curse because they were not faithful to Yahweh. This Syrian empire, which had destroyed the kingdom of Israel, had also attacked and subdued the kingdom of Judah. When the Syrian empire was replaced by the Babylonian empire, the Babylonian empire also attacked and subdued the kingdom of Judah. They were a subject kingdom to the Babylonian empire.
As a result, the kingdom of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, was not as prosperous as it was, it was in submission, it was not fully independent, and they were experiencing hardship because they were not faithful to God. They were not following after God.
In fact, if we consider the whole book of Jeremiah, it is largely a prophecy and a record of the fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s further judgment of the people of Judah. Even in 600 BC, when God was calling on the people to repent, they weren’t doing it, so He says:
The day is coming when I will judge you further. I will remove you from the land just as I removed your sister Israel, the northern kingdom.
Even in the midst of this proclamation and the fulfillment of this proclamation of judgement, God sent little rays of light that shined through:
Even at this late hour, if you repent as a nation, I will withhold my judgement.
Jeremiah 18 uses the metaphor of a potter and clay and says if the potter spoils his vessel, he can remake it. God is saying the same thing with you as a nation if you turn back:
I can withhold my judgment, and if you turn away, I can bring the judgment and withhold my blessing. Even now, the choice is yours.
Then, the very truth displayed in our text, even as the judgment descends on the whole nation, God says:
For individuals who turn to me, I will yet be faithful to them to bless and protect them. To withhold my curse from them.
Thus, these four verses, in Jeremiah 17:5-8, they function as a testimony. Not just to that generation, but to all the generations that would come afterwards. Even our generation about the way to blessing and the way to cursing, both individually and communally.
So, let’s find out about these ways. Let’s look at the two pictures of our passage so that we might know how to avoid God’s curse and how to obtain God’s happy blessing.
The first picture we are given, in Jeremiah 17:5-6 is this:
Thus says the LORD, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD. 6“For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.
Notice how verse five begins with a phrase, "Thus, says Yahweh." I keep saying, "Yahweh," but the name, "The Lord," appears in the small caps in your Bibles. This is just the translator’s way of indicating the Hebrew word, the special covenant name of God, Yahweh, a reference to the revelation God gave to Moses about His name: I am who I am. Yahweh is a reference that is roughly translated to, "He is."
By using this name here, God remind the people of Judah, and us, that He is the God who keeps covenant. He fulfills His word both to curse and to bless. What kind of man is cursed by God? Look what comes next in Jeremiah 17:5:
…cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
These descriptions are all differing ways of describing the same simple idea. The cursed man trusted mankind. He looks to man, what man is able to theorize accomplish, for that person’s hope, deliverance, and strength. The cursed man also makes mere flesh his strength. He relies strictly on the physical, the material, what he can see, and easily understand. He looks to himself; he looks to his fellow man; he looks to the resources of the earth to give him what he needs and wants.
The cursed man is further described as one who has a heart that turns away from Yahweh. You see this is not really a different description. This is just a further explanation of the same concept because no person can rely on God and man at the same time. When the storm arises, a person can’t seek refuge in two places at once. They’ve got to be in one place of the other.
When the cursed man places his trust in flesh, he necessarily removes his trust from God. What does this me practically? The cursed man either consciously disobeys the commands of God, or he simply ignores them, pays little attention to them, while he pursues his own will, according to his own wisdom, and in his own way.
What would this have looked like the people of Judah? How were they tempted to trust in man and flesh, not God? Considering their situation and what is written in the book of Jeremiah, we can see some pretty main ways. They’re looking at the king of Babylon, the scary superpower that had taken away their independence, and they were tempted to look to tangible resources and relationships to obtain for themselves strength and protection. This is all according to the wisdom of men and the wisdom that comes from the flesh.
They were tempted to look to soldiers, city walls, to accumulations of food and wealth, to alliances with Egypt, or perhaps a coalition of smaller nations to oppose that great superpower battle. Surely, if we just acquire the resources, we secure alliances, and we’ll be safe.
Another temptation was to rely on religious objects and rituals. After all, Judah, the southern kingdom, that’s where the city of Jerusalem was, and what’s in Jerusalem? The glorious temple of Solomon, a place where God, himself, chose to dwell.
The sacrificial system was centered in Jerusalem. Surely then, as long as we have the temple, maintain the temple, maintain all the rituals of the sacrifices, then we’ll be safe. God will give us what we need and want. If it’s all about the rituals, then maybe we don’t need to pay attention to the heart or what’s going on in our lives. This was another temptation.
People of Judah were also tempted to seek satisfaction, sinful, and material pursuits. We see in other places in Jeremiah that in Judah, the rich and powerful oppressed the poor in order to fund the materialistic lifestyles. The land was also filled with adultery, fornication, and prostitution. Not to mention synergistic idolatry.
The people were indulging in idolatrous revelries to other gods while maintaining, at the same time, that they served Yahweh. They thought that God would not care. I mean, the other Gods are not so exclusive. We can serve them alongside other gods. Why should Yahweh be any different? These were very great temptations to Judah, and they yielded to each one of them. Jeremiah is replete with enunciation of these things. Was this wise? Did this secure for them what they really wanted? Not at all. It was the utmost folly. Jeremiah 2:13 says:
For My people have committed two evils:
They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water.
There is no true security, there’s no true wisdom, or true satisfaction in what they sought. What they bought into was an illusion. It was idiocy. It was stupidity. Think about it: does God need soldiers to win battles? Does God need great warriors or captains to secure the victory? Look what he did with Gideon in a small band of 300. He didn’t even fight, at first, and God had already given them the victory.
Does God need city walls to protect the place? Will city walls prevent God from throwing down a place? Of course not. As for wealth, what can wealth do? Can it secure you? Proverbs 23:4-5 says:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
Cease from your consideration of it.
5When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
For wealth certainly makes itself wings
Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.
The temple was no protection for the people of Judah. In Jeremiah 7, God reminds the people, who kept saying, "The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!" They thought it was such a lucky charm for them. God says that I have allowed My worship sites to be desecrated in the past, so what makes you think I can’t do that again?
If I have to judge my people, I’m willing to have My temple desecrated. Will religious rituals, even if they are performed according to the letter of the law, ever satisfy God if the heart and life are impure? Not in the least. In fact, that kind of worship is an ugly offense to God. It does not secure His favor; it secures His wrath.
As for indulging in materialism, immorality, and syncretistic idolatry, had Judah not learned the painful lessons of Solomon? He pursued all these things and he wrote about these things. In the end, he testified that you don’t get what you’re looking for. Instead, you get sorrow, weariness, and judgment.
So, what about you? What about us? In what do you trust? Do you trust in your money supposing that if you get the right job or enough savings that you’ll finally have all you want or need? Do you trust in your abilities whether it’s your ability to work hard, to be clever, to talk your way through difficulties? Do trust in your relationships? Do you believe that having certain friends, family members, or connections will provide what you need? Do you believe that if you just acquire authority, control, popularity, that you’ll be safe?
God may give you some of these things, but you He can take them away just as easily in a moment. So, don’t look to the things of the earth. Look to your creator, who controls and sustains all things on earth including you. Do you trust in religious rituals to secure you before God and to satisfy Him? Do you think as long as you know the right doctrines and talk about them competently that you’ll be fine?
As long as you go to church, as long as you give, as long as you pray, as long as you take communion, as long as you’re baptized, as long as you serve in some ministry, as long as you read the Bible, and as long as you teach the Bible that those things will satisfy God?
These things are good and useful, but if your heart is far from God and you do these things, you are not secure, and you do not have God’s favor. You’re walking like a cursed man trusting in mere flesh.
Do you ultimately trust in pleasure to satisfy you or to comfort you through life troubles? Instead of looking to God, you seek satisfaction, ultimate strength, and entertainment in substances, parties, or various sinful pleasures. Turning to these things, that’s according to the wisdom of the world. Actually, it’s the wisdom of demons. It comes from below as James says.
Have you accepted that wisdom? Have you imbibed the spirit of the age? Have you decided to listen to the flesh? There are so many popular ideas that is so contrary to what God says. Things like, "the customer is always right… You need to be ruthless and self-assertive. That way you’ll get what you deserve." Above all else, "be true to yourself because otherwise that’s inauthentic, which is the greatest sin. Therefore, whatever desires and feelings you have, that’s the true you."
Have we even falling into the deception of scientism? Believing that today’s scientific and psychological so-called experts can give the true answers to life’s questions, even when their answers contradict or force a reinterpretation of the Bible. Like when it comes to the origin of the earth, when it comes to how you parent your children, or how you deal with issues of the inner man. Psychologists call this the "psyche." The Bible doesn’t use that term.
Have you given away to pragmatism and experience-based approach to life? If it works, it must be right, but if it’s uncomfortable and painful and doesn’t produce the results I’m looking for right away, it can’t be right. Do you find yourself responding to exhortations or explanations of the commands and principles of God’s word by saying, "Yeah, I know the Bible says that," but do you find creative ways to explain away the Scriptures to silence your conscience and to excuse your behavior?
If you do and if you have, you need to realize that you’re making the same mistake as the people of Judah. Let’s not make that same mistake. The objects of Judas trust where empty. It did not bring any real power or benefit, so are the fleshly objects that we are tempted to trust today, promoted according to the world wisdom.
Even worse, trusting these things were told that it would not only benefit us, but it will bring us under God’s curse. What does that look like? Jeremiah 17:6 elaborates that for us:
For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes, But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.
God’s image of the cursed man is one of lifelessness, deprivation, and ultimate destruction. Living in Southern California, Emma and I have gotten a little more familiar with desert bushes. You can see these dry little shrubs as you pass by them on the highway. They are not exactly pictures of life and vitality; especially as hot summer days descend on Los Angeles. These desert shrubs shrivel up, get brown, and get more and more fragile looking until it seems like surely, they will just disintegrate and blow away.
God says such is the man who is cursed. He becomes a dry desert bush. Actually, the images are even more depressing because we hear in the next line:
… And will not see when prosperity comes
Desert bushes are often able to survive because eventually water does come. Even in the desert, even in the dessert of Southern California, water does come. Prosperity eventually returns, and the dried-up desert bushes become revitalized in the winter rains. God says that’s not the way it is for the cursed man.
When prosperity comes, he doesn’t see it. God says I will make sure that this cursed desert bush will never see life-giving rain. It may hang on for a while, it may look pretty good, it may seem to be really flourishing, but the land will remain parched. The cursed man will be like a forlorn shrub in a stony waste in the wilderness.
Think of the most barren landscape you can. That’s where you’re going to find the cursed man God says. Such a place is also described as the land of salt, and salty soil prevents most plants from growing. It’s kind of poisonous to plant. In the Bible and in ancient times, conquerors would sometimes sow a land with salt, so that when people were trying to rebuild and plant farms again, they couldn’t since it wouldn’t grow.
God said the cursed man has been placed by God in the middle of a salt waste – one without inhabitants. It’s a place devoid of life. That’s where God places the cursed man to wither. Are you getting the picture? It’s very bleak. So, what’s the main point?
God says this is the kind of life for a man who does not trust in Yahweh, but instead looks to himself, to men, to the wisdom of the world, and to the things of the world to be his strength. Of course, trusting the flesh sometimes looks like it will lead you to joy and prosperity. It looks like the wise course, it looks like the secure course, it’s popular, everybody is saying look it works, I love it, it’s so good, you should try it, but listen to Yahweh.
Listen to the covenant keeping God who does not lie. People lie, people misinterpret, but God doesn’t. He’s given us His perfect word that we can trust. This is the true picture of the one who forsakes Yahweh and follows the flesh. It is barrenness in this life, and it is eternal destruction in the next.
Now you Christians, my brothers and sisters, have you put yourself in the way of cursing, forcing God to oppose you, and correct you because He’s a good father. For those of you who are not Christians, how long will you remain in the barren desert, clinging to life as a desert bush, especially when such a blessed alternative is available to you? What is the alternative? That’s what God describes next in the text.
It’s the flipside. We have seen who the cursed man is, but who is the blessed man is, and what does this blessing look like? We see the second picture in Jeremiah 17:7-8. We beheld the cursed man-trustor, who is a desert bush, but now we behold the blessed God-trustor, who is a well-watered tree. It says:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the LORD.
These two statements, in the English translations, sound like they’re identical, but that form was called a chasm, a literary structure of inversion that emphasizes the central idea. A more literal translation would be something like this:
Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh and for whom Yahweh is his trust.
Do you see the little inversion there? Trust-Yahweh, Yahweh-Trust. Chasms are often about emphasizing the central idea. The blessed man is the one who thoroughly trusts in his covenant God. Yahweh is his sensor. God is his strength and confidence.
This man, while he makes use of the resources and relationships that he has in the world, which as a good steward of God is called to do, he nevertheless does not look to these things for his ultimate protection, his ultimate joy, or for his wisdom. Rather, he looks to God, which means he looks to God’s word.
The blessed man knows and believes Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:
Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that receives from the mouth of God.
Do you know who else quote that? Jesus Christ when he was tempted. The blessed man has also learned to say along with the Psalmist in Psalm 16:5, 11:
Yahweh is the portion of my inheritance and my cup…11You will make known to me the path of life in your presence is fullness of joy.
The blessed man recognizes that. He believes in his covenant keeping God and he demonstrates that belief by obedient to God’s word. He trusts God through the dangers and trials, and he does not resort to sin to escape his trials or to find comfort through them.
This man waits upon the Lord in all his life. What would this have looked like in Jeremiah’s day? Surely, a blessed man, in Jeremiah’s day, who made Yahweh his trust, would have certain observable features. One is a devotion to Yahweh’s word. He would pay careful attention to it. He would read it when he could, he would listen to it, he would memorize it, and he would sing it. Above all, he would be careful to believe and obey it.
This man is also devoted to prayer. Praying daily, not simply reciting a formula at different times, but committed to focus time of worship and communion with the God of heaven. This an also, when it came to his work and his family life, would not have misrepresented his skills or his goods to make a profit. He would not cheat his employees or his customers, but he would provide generously for his workers.
He would be generous to give to others, to those in need, and to the temple service at the time. This would be unthinkable according to worldly wisdom. You must keep your wealth. You must use it to get more wealth. This man, he would have practiced the golden rule rather than the wisdom of the age.
He would not have been committed to self-love, self-worth, or self-assertion. He would have trusted God to take care of him. He also would not have sought too harshly teach people lessons when they failed, or they sinned. Instead, he would like to show them love, undeserved favor, and gentleness even as he corrects them.
This man would have found his highest joys in knowing and seeking Yahweh exclusively, not along with other gods. He found joy in obeying Yahweh, fellowshipping with Yahweh, and with Yahweh’s people Also, giving public praise and testimony of Yahweh, and Yahweh’s faithfulness. These are the things that are described in the Psalms.
If this was true, in the days of the psalmist and in Jeremiah’s day, if that’s what a blessed man would look like, then what about today? Isn’t it the same? So, what about you? Is your life marked by devotion to Yahweh and His word? Is it marked by trusting in Yahweh’s wisdom over the wisdom of the world?
Is it marked by a delight and walking to Yahweh’s way rather than the way of sinners? God declares that this is the person who will be blessed. You want to be blessed, then this is the way! God’s favor for good will be on this man, and what does that look like? God gives us a picture in Jeremiah 17:8:
For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.
Isn’t this the exact opposite picture of the cursed man? The cursed man is a bush placed in the dry desert to wither, but the blessed man is a tree planted by water. This is not merely a tree planted in a land that sees a decent amount of rain.
No, this is a tree right next to a continual water source. It says its roots are extending by the stream. It has an abundant, ceaseless supply of life-giving water. Notice though, this tree does see troubles. It sees difficult days. It says the tree passes through seasons of heat and years of drought. Those are hard, right?
I mean, we’re not trees and we have difficulty in the heat and in drought. It’s above 80 degrees and I don’t even want to go outside. I feel like I can’t even move. It’s true in Southern California, how much more here with the humidity that wraps you like a blanket? A blessed, too, sees hard days. Even whole seasons and years of difficulty.
However, notice that the text says this tree will not fear when the heat comes, and it won’t be anxious in years of drought. How can that be? These are desperate times for plant even trees. The answer’s obvious. Why doesn’t the tree fear or is anxious? It’s connected to a secure water source. No matter the heat or drought, that tree will still soak up its abundant water supply.
Not only will the tree survive, but it will thrive. In talking about these difficult days, its leaves will be green. Not brown or shriveled, but green and vibrant. This tree is looking lush in the middle of a heat wave. How’s the tree fair in the middle of a drought? It says it does not cease to bear fruit. It is bearing fruit in the middle of a drought. This tree prospers even in difficult circumstances.
God says such is the man that he blesses. God is that man’s abundant supply of life, of strength, of wisdom, and joy. God will continue to provide for that man and in all his troubles. That man, then, has no true cause for worry or fear because he has Yahweh. He has a sovereign God. Just like God said in Jeremiah 2:13 that He is the fountain of living waters.
If your route is placed in that fountain, you will never lack. Doesn’t this remind you of Jesus’ own words in the new testament? God incarnate said in John 4:14:
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
Jesus also said to the Apostle John in great glory in Revelation 21:6:
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Open invitation, full generosity offer. If you want true security, if you want true satisfaction, if you want true life, then know that you only find it in God. That’s the way God designed you as His creator. I think we often forget when we start listening to sin, the flesh, and worldly wisdom.
We’re not designed to go that way, and what happens when you use something against its design? You usually hurt yourself. God designed you to rely on Him. That’s the way to blessing then. If you seek it any other way, then you will end up like the bone-dry shrub in the desert. Trying to suck water from broken cisterns. That’s just the way it’s going to be. You won’t be an exception. God doesn’t lie.
Practically, what does this blessing that comes from Yahweh look like? In the days of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, many of these blessings from God were explicitly material as part of the Mosaic covenant. Things like victory in battle, no miscarry, economic prosperity, and the healing of diseases. God promised these material blessings to His people if they would follow him in those days. Those weren’t the only blessing.
Certainly, there’s actually even greater blessings beyond those. Faithful Jews got to experience confidence in the future, assurance of God’s protection and provision, joy in fellowship with God, and the joy of obedience to God. What about the church and about us today?
We have not been given the same material promises as the people of Israel and Judah were, at least, for this stage. We will experience that amazing prosperous blessing in the age to come. Where Jesus establishes a kingdom on the earth, a kingdom that will be of both Jew gentile to those who follow God, and we taste that kingdom now.
In this age, we aren’t promised abundant material blessing. Though, some do experience it even as believers. So, what are we promised? We are promised perfect and generous provision as Jesus explains in Matthew 6:31-33:
“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things…
The gentiles seek all these things. They’re running after that because they serve the flesh. They trust in mere man. Jesus continues:
for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
We have a generous provision promised for our lives, but even without that and even with the persecutions and the troubles that will come to us in this life, as followers of Christ, we also still have the most important and greatest blessing as the ones in Israel had. They had God. They had the source of the water of life.
If you have that, then what need do you have of anything else? Ultimately, God is our life. Knowing Him and walking with Him is our strength and our joy. Paul says to live is Christ.
We know that we have everlasting life with Him, so let God do as He wills with our material circumstances. We know He will take care of us. We’ve already got the most important thing – we’ve got Him.
Many Christians can testify of these very things even you. Has God not been so gracious to you in your life? Has he not provided exactly as you needed and exactly the right time? Oh, I know many of you have gone and are going through some really hard things, but God, just as he testified in this passage, even in the heat and the drought, He is a source of abundant water.
Many Christians in history of testified of that, and many of us can today as well because this Word is true. Like the blessed man in this text, we, Christians, can truly know God we will ultimately flourish as green trees and bear fruit even in the midst of difficulty.
Aren’t these truths so simple, yet so glorious and good? How often yet we still don’t cling to them. We still don’t grab hold of them. We still don’t believe them. That’s why we need this text. God is giving us two very clear pictures today of blessing and cursing, so we might no longer trust in mere flesh an might be encouraged to trust wholeheartedly in our Yahweh God.
If you hold on the one hand, the cursed man-trustor, he’s a desert bush. He’s a decrepit shrub in the wilderness. On the other hand, if you hold the blessed man, a well-watered tree, a lush tree in the middle of heat, which of these pictures best describes your life right now? Have you had your root placed in the living waters by faith in Jesus Christ, so that you are able to rejoice in the Lord no matter your circumstances? Even as you experience sorrow and trouble, you say, "I am still secure. I’m still rooted to the water source."
Are you still that dry shrub, shaking in the desert wind, hoping vainly the ultimate security and satisfaction will come maybe one day? As we close and as a final illustration, consider briefly the two testimonies of King Saul and King David:
King Saul was a man who experienced blessing. He was chosen by God to be the first king of Israel, an immense honor and privilege, and God charged Saul to seek God. He promised that if he would, he would be a blessed and his dynasty will have the throne forever. God was with Saul. God gave Saul military victory. He established his rule over Israel, but then Saul began to turn away from God.
He began to trust in mankind and in flesh instead of his covenant God. Like many pagans, King Saul began to believe that he was dependent upon the favor of the people and his subjects He feared disappointing them. He feared crossing them. He feared losing their support.
When the enemy began to bear down on saw and Israel, in 1 Samuel 13, and the people began deserting Saul and Samuel had still not arrived to offer the sacrifices, which Samuel said he would do and that’s all should wait for him, Saul chose to disobey and forsake Yahweh, and he offered the sacrifice himself.
Even worse, in 1 Samuel 15, when God commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekite’s and to destroy all their goods because this is going to be a special act of judgment from God, Saul disobeyed. He destroyed most of the Amalekite’s, most of their stuff, but he kept the best goods for the people of Israel. He kept alive the king of the Amalekite’s as a trophy of the victory.
Samuel confronted Saul over this. He said you disobey God and Saul said, "No, I didn’t…I’ve got a reason," but when pressed, Saul admitted that Samuel was right, and he sinned because he feared the people. The sad thing is even when confronted even when he admitted it, he did not turn from that fear. Saul continued to forsake Yahweh, so what was the result on Saul? It was a curse. He felt God’s curse.
God took away the kingdom from Saul. God took away Saul’s joy. God took away Saul’s confidence. God sent a tormenting spirit to afflict Saul. He who had once experienced great blessing, yet, with all these things, he did not turn back to God. Even when Saul or even when God brought David into Saul’s life, who was an immense blessing to Saul. David would play and the tormenting spirit would leave Saul. He would lead Saul’s army’s to great victory.
He was an extremely loyal servant even when Saul tried to kill him. He would not rebel against Saul, but Saul didn’t love David He feared David because David might take the favor of the people. That’s what Saul feared most of all. If Saul loses the favor of the people, he would lose the kingship, and that’s the most important thing to Saul.
It’s very sad and tragically ironic because Saul, so desperately, wanted the security, satisfaction, and honor. Outside of God, he lost all those things. The kingship, which he held as his greatest treasure, and the favor of the people, which would give him that kingship, are the very things that he lost.
Even worse, he risked his own eternal soul. It’s interesting, I’m not sure if Saul’s in heaven. Maybe He is. There are some people who have sinned some great ways, yet they are still counted among the faithful in Scripture. However, there’s never a sign of repentance in Saul when he pursued his path of sin. He never showed the fruit of repentance. Wouldn’t that be the saddest thing? He clung to the kingship and lost the eternal kingdom.
What a tragic contrast between Saul and David. King David came after Saul. He wasn’t perfect. He experienced some painful consequences for his sin, but as a whole, he followed Yahweh. As a result, he had blessing, joy, and strength. David testifies about it again and again in the Psalms. He says:
I love the Lord. I love his law. I delight to follow Yahweh. God make me more like yourself.
David was a blessed man, and he testified of how wonderful that blessing was. Saul was a cursed man, and we can see how terrible that curse was. So, what do you want? Which will you choose? You’re faced with a choice of following Yahweh, following the wisdom of the world, or the inclination of your flesh – which will you chose?
Do you want blessing, or do you want cursing? Are you willing, by faith to trust God, and experience his abundant blessing? It may be hard for a while, but he will sustain you through it and it will come. Will you stubbornly refuse to trust God to your own hurt, to your own eternal peril?
You know, our country’s motto is really a sham. It’s not accurate to say that America trust’s God, but it should be accurate for us. May we, as the people of God, as men, women, and children, who found in Christ, be able to testify in God we trust because God will vindicate that trust. Let’s pray:
Lord, we thank You for Your supreme word. It instructs us, it comforts us, and it shows us the way. Lord, what we discussed is so basic, yet we seem still like stubborn animals not able to yield to it. We need Your help. God help us to trust you, to believe Your word, to believe that Your way is always the way to blessing even if there is some hardship for a time. Help us not to believe the false wisdom of the world, the false wisdom of the flesh, and not to trust in man. In Jesus’ name, Amen.