Jeremiah 17:5-8--Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
Jeremiah begins by stating that whoever trusts in man and not God will be cursed, and he goes on to describe what this will be like. He then contrasts this by stating that whoever trusts and hopes in God will be blessed, and describes what the blessing will be like. It's simple to understand, and it all boils down to the object of your trust. So, as we discuss the effects of where you place your trust, consider your life and what you're putting your trust in. Are you trusting God or something else? How completely are you trusting Him or it? What are the results of this trust?
Jeremiah uses two extended similes to detail the effects of where you place your trust. He begins with the negative of trusting in man. Jeremiah states that whoever trusts in man "shall be like the heath in the desert", a barren wasteland. His whole life will be dry and arid. There will be no beauty, no flourishing life, just empty stretches of desert sand. It will be useless and good for nothing. Jeremiah becomes even more detailed after this, stating that he "shall not see when good cometh". This person's life will be vain and hopeless, but when something good passes by, he won't even notice it. This is because the person's focus is turned inward; his trust is in himself, so he focuses on himself. In his pride, he refuses to let go of himself and accept any help that is offered, especially help from God. As humans, this is one of the hardest things for us to do. By nature we are prideful and selfish. We think we can do everything on our own and we don't need any help. But, as Jeremiah so bluntly points out, this attitude only leads to failure.
The prophet continues, describing the habitation of the self-trusting man. He claims it is dry, full of salt, an uninhabited wilderness. That sounds like a miserable and lonely place. It's true that God has created man as a social creature. He has put in us the desire and need to build and foster relationships with other people (Gen. 2:18-22; Ecc. 4:9-12). It's very hard to grow spiritually without developing healthy relationships with others. However, it's also true that the more selfish a person is, the less friends he or she usually has. And no matter how many friends you have, if you don't have a relationship with God, you have nothing. People will never be able to fill the void in your heart created by not having Jesus. Even surrounded by friends and colleagues, you will still feel alone in the universe because you have never met the One Who created the universe. Your life will still feel pointless because you have never come to the One Who gave you life. No amount of physical, social, or material success could ever meet your spiritual need; only God can.
The next description, in which Jeremiah describes God's blessing as being like a fruitful tree, makes two characteristics stand out in my mind: stability and abundant life. The tree described here is "planted by the waters", and the waters represent God. He is the source of our life, our strength, and every good thing we have (James 1:17). But not only is this tree near the water, it also "spreadeath out [its] roots by the river". This tree's roots are spread far and sunk deep into the nourishing, life-giving water. This entails a person whose trust is deeply anchored in God, firmly founded on His Lord. He has no confidence in himself, but he has complete confidence in God. This is the way we should be. We can't trust ourselves or any other person because we are weak flesh. Abraham said he was "but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27); Paul stated, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18); and Jesus Himself said, "The flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41). The point is that we can't trust in ourselves; we will fail every time. Either our flesh will lead us to do something wicked, or when we try to do something good, we will fail at it. Even if it seems like we succeed, if we did it in our own power and not God's, it is not glorifying to Him, and that is a failure. And no matter how good a person is, they are still human. They are imperfect, and if you put your trust in them, they will eventually disappoint you.
Now, because of this tree's habitation near the waters, it displays the two characteristics mentioned above. We've already touched on the abundant life, but let's look at it a little more. We know God is the source of all life, and Jesus said He came "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). The more you trust in God and the closer you draw to Him, the more fulfilling your life will be. In terms of the tree, Jeremiah says its "leaf shall be green" and it will never "cease from yielding fruit". This is a healthy, vivacious tree abounding with life and fruit. If trees could smile, this one would certainly have the biggest and brightest. It's always healthy because it's near the waters, it's always joyful because it's in the waters, and it's always bearing fruit because of nutrients from the waters. Also, this is a stable tree. Nothing is moving or shaking it, and nothing affects its health. Jeremiah says, "[It] shall not see when heat cometh...and shall not be careful in the year of drought". This tree is firmly planted by the river and has no reason to worry. When heat comes, it stays cool in the water and doesn't dry up. It just keeps producing fruit. When drought comes, it's not worried at all because it's right next to the very source of life. If we wholly trust in God, we will be the same way. He is the solid Rock of ages we can stand on through any storm. He is our strong Tower and Refuge we can run to. When we hide ourselves in God and trust completely in Him, nothing can move or shake us.
So where does your trust lie? Is it in yourself or another person? Is it in success or material things? Or is it in the ever-faithful, everlasting, perfect, omnipotent, omniscient God of the universe? Maybe you're not sure. Pray for God to show you, and use some of the signs and characteristics described above to find out. If there's anything you haven't handed over to God, do so.
More importantly, are you saved? If you died right now, do you know that you would go to Heaven? If you're not saved, there's no way you can put your trust in God because you don't know Him and don't have Him. You haven't taken the first step of faith and accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Only then can you have a relationship with Him and trust your whole life to Him. Don't wait a moment longer to make this decision. Click the Salvation tab above for more details.