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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 17:5-8

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This passage is like a parable of two trees: The one, a juniper shrub (a kind of evergreen) thinks that it can survive anywhere, but it’s growing in the desert. Its days are ending fast. It will wither and die. The other is some kind of fruit tree. It’s planted by a stream, and it will grow and thrive and bear fruit for many years to come.

Curses and Blessings
5 This is what the LORD says:
Cursed is the one who trusts in mankind,
  who makes human flesh his strength,
  and who turns his heart away from the LORD.
6 He will be like a juniper in the desert.
     He cannot see good when it comes.
He lives in a dry place in the wilderness,
  in a land of salt where no one lives.
7 But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
     whose confidence is in him.
8 He will be like a tree planted by water.
     To the stream it sends out its roots.
It does not fear the heat when it comes,
  its leaves will remain green.
It is not concerned about a time of drought.
  It does not stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah is thinking of Psalm 1 as he writes this (he was thinking of the same Psalm as he wrote 12:1-2). Psalm 1:3 says, “He (the believer) is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.” A tree bearing fruit was among the very first blessings given to mankind (Genesis 1:29). Such a tree doesn’t just stay alive; it blesses everyone and everything around it. Animals, birds, mankind and even other plants all thrive around fruit trees. In the same way, a Christian should be a blessing to everyone around.

Does that mean that Christians will always be wonderful to have around? Of course not. A Christian is also a sinner, far from God’s holiness. Every single Christian has bad days. We’re jerks sometimes just like the devil is a jerk all the time. Every single Christian in the world has a past smeared with sins. In that respect, we’re no different from any unbeliever. The difference is God’s forgiveness. The blood of Christ has covered all of our sins—believers and unbelievers alike—and the Christian knows that and believes it and trusts it.

If we try to cover up our sins by ourselves, it won’t do any good at all. If we come up with some personal atonement we impose on ourselves, what good would that do before God? The dying tree “cannot see good when it comes” (verse 6). It’s a tree that doesn’t get rain because it passes him by—a person who rejects Christ rejects every blessing from God, because they all come through Christ.

A fruit tree cannot water itself, but it can thrive and be a blessing to everyone. “The LORD will open the heavens, the storehouses of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands” (Deuteronomy 28:12). So it is with us. We can’t atone for our own sins. Jesus did that for us. We are blessed by God’s forgiveness and the water of life in Christ, and we can be blessings to the world around us.

How has God blessed you? How can you be more of a blessing to someone else?

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.