Drought Proof

Submitted by First Brethren on Thu, 08/03/2023 - 9:18am
Marshall Point Lighthouse in Maine

              While vacationing in Maine two years ago, our family stopped by a lighthouse located about a mile from our rental house. While visiting the lighthouse and the quaint museum connected to it, we discovered this particular lighthouse was a part of cinematic history! You may remember in the movie Forrest Gump the scene where the lead character has been running across the entire country, then reaches the Atlantic, and turns back around and begins running west again. It turns out, that scene took place on the boardwalk to Marshall Point Lighthouse. The museum was filled with pictures and stories from the day that scene was shot. It was neat to walk along the same planks of wood Tom Hanks jogged over while making one of my favorite movies.

              That movie contained a lot of memorable lines, but perhaps one of the greatest is, “Stupid is as stupid does.” That line is profoundly simple, and true. No matter how educated you are, or how high your IQ, your “smarts” are ultimately judged not by what you know, but by what you do.

              We are about halfway through our “Change of Address” series, and we’ve learned a lot from the ministries of Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel so far. One of the hardest things about a sermon series like this one is that there are so many great passages in these books we simply won’t get to, because it would take years go digest every morsal we could pull from them. Jeremiah 17 is one of these passages, and I was recently brought back to the passage because it served as the theme for General Conference.

              God has been announcing His judgment against Jerusalem because of the city’s insistence on ignoring God’s commands and chasing after sin. God says, in Jeremiah 17:1-2, “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts…” Sin has become who they are, and they have instructed their children to follow after them. In their actions, they have been, as Forrest Gump would say, STUPID! And God can put up with it no more.

              But within this passage there is a nugget of gold, a double-edged promise, that can teach and inspire us. Verses 5-6 say this: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 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.”

              God says that to trust in people for salvation brings a “curse”. The Hebrew word for “curse” is “arar”. It’s the same word God used to describe the ground when He cast Adam and Eve from the Garden. It refers to God’s refusal to bless. To trust not in God but in man brings God’s curse. This message was important for Jerusalem’s leaders, who were seeking a political solution to the Babylonian invasion. Throughout Israel’s history, God had provided salvation for His people. God had used Gideon to rescue Israel from the Amalekites; He had used David to rescue Israel from the Philistines; and He had sent a plague to wipe out the Assyrian army during the days of King Hezekiah. The Jewish people had seen that God could be trusted and that He alone could save. But the people’s hearts were so hardened against God, they were so intent on doing what they wanted rather than what He commanded, that they looked to other nations to try to rescue them from Babylon’s grip.

              In these verses, God tells the people that only a curse awaits them if they continue to do so. They will be like a bush in a desert; constantly dry, in a barren and inhospitable land. Not only will they experience spiritual death, there is no chance they will ever be blessed! And though God is speaking this to a particular group of people at a particular moment in history, the truth of these verses applies at all times and to all people. Trusting in people rather than in God is, fruitless and lifeless and, well, stupid. John echoes this very thing, applying the truth to the Gospel, when he says, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son does not have life.” Trusting in anyone other than in Christ leads to a future without hope.

              However, God gives us encouragement in the following verses (7-8): “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Though God was angry with the people of Jerusalem in Jeremiah’s day, He gave a promise to those who would listen. Even though Judah was in a season of dryness and spiritual famine, life was still available to those who trust in God and are connected to Him.

              Drought is a part of life. We’ve had a drier than usual summer in northern Indiana, and though we’ve gotten more rain of late, earlier this summer I was getting worried for our farmers, (and for the people that depend on them for food.) The only way for a plant to be safe from the ravages of drought is to be directly connected to a constant water source. Water is life, and where water is abundant, abundant life is also possible. As believers, we know that Jesus along provides the water of life. Our God is a God of abundance, and the only way to experience His abundance is to trust fully in Him.

              But what does it really mean to trust in God? Is it simply a matter of inner confidence, or is there more to it? James answers this question in his letter to the first century Church. He says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (James 2:26) Trusting in God involves inner conviction, but it always results in outward obedience. If we want to bear fruit even in dry seasons, we must show our trust in God by obeying His Word and living in love relationship with Him. And because this kind of faith is the only pathway to life, displaying it proves we have true wisdom.

              This month, let’s reflect on where our trust lies. Do our actions display a patter of trusting in man? Are we trusting in our own abilities or wisdom? Are we looking to people or institutions who cannot save? Or do our actions and attitudes prove that our confidence is in God alone? My prayer is that we are firmly planted in the river of God’s grace, that we may bear fruit in every season!

Growing in grace,

Pastor Jeff