Jeremiah 17:5 says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” Then Jeremiah 17:7 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD” (ESV). He then gives pictures to describe each person. The one who trusts in man is “like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited land” (v. 6). Then the one who trusts in the Lord 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” (v. 8).
Which picture best describes you?
These are both very descriptive images that lead to an obvious question: Do you want to be a healthy tree or a dingy desert bush? When I think about a desert bush, my mind conjures up an image of a small, dry, lonely, unimpressive, prickly, thin, and ineffective-at-doing-anything-significant (no offense to desert bushes) shrub. Then, I think about a tree planted by water whose roots are sent out by the stream. This is a big, lush, strong, impressive, fruit-producing, towering, ever-growing, seen-from-far-away, shade-providing, and pretty tree.
What is the key difference between the two? The key difference isn’t what they look like, it’s what causes them to look that way. The key difference is where the plant is planted. The shrub is in the desert. The tree is by a stream. This leads to the next big question: Where are you planted? Are you planted in the desert or by the stream?
Here’s another observation for you: Shrubs don’t bear fruit; trees do. I want to bear fruit, and you should, too.
So, how do we do this? We must plant ourselves by the stream. What is the stream? The Lord! His Word. His promises. We must trust in the Lord. We must lean on Him. We must realize the limitedness of our own strength to realize the sovereign-ness (not sure if that’s a word) of God’s strength and will. One is infinitely greater than the other.
So, back to the question, where are you planted? Are you planted in the promises of God’s Word and the strength of the Lord? Or, are you planted in the very limited strength of your own flesh and will?
Let me give you one last thought. The shrub is totally impacted by the heat of the desert, while the tree doesn’t fear the heat. Instead, it produces fruit in the midst of the heat. Here’s the reality: The heat is coming. The question is, will the heat totally determine your future, or will you be the tree that continues to be green and produce fruit in the midst of the heat?
Be the tree, not the shrub.
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, and son, Judah, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. They will be planting a Salt Network church in East Lansing, MI at Michigan State University in Fall 2019. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow