The contrast of confidence in trusting God

We can choose where we set down our “roots” of faith.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 – “This is what Yahweh says: Cursed is the person who trusts in mankind. He makes human flesh his strength, and his heart turns from Yahweh. He will be like a shrub in the desert; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The person who trusts in Yahweh, whose confidence indeed is Yahweh, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit.”

The Bible is all about contrasts: light and dark; summer and winter; good and evil. These contrasts serve to illustrate the characteristics of the created world and the balance of equity in God’s hand.

One of the most famous passages to illustrate this type of literary device is from the book of Ecclesiates:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.”

In the passage we are reviewing today in Jeremiah 17, the tribe of Judah is being accused by God of having become unfaithful to him and pursuing idolatry as opposed to remaining loyal and faithful to him. To illustrate their sinfulness, the prophet Jeremiah is inspired to provide them a series of contrasts:

  • Trust in mankind – trust in Yahweh
  • Curse – blessing
  • Heart turned from Yahweh – confidence in Yahweh
  • Desert shrub – well-watered tree
  • Lack of vision – no anxiety

What I find interesting in this imagery is not only the contrasts, but the one constant: the drought or heat. Both the shrub in the wilderness and the tree near the water experience the heat of the drought conditions; however, only the tree planted by the water is described as having rich foliage and producing fruit.

Jeremiah had made his point well in chastising Judah for their idolatry and unfaithfulness. Yet, I think there are also some lessons we can take away from this word picture, as well.

We all experience droughts of adversity in this life, yet there is a real and qualitative difference between the shrub of the desert and the tree planted near the water. While trees can only sprout where the seeds have landed, as people we can choose where we “set down roots” of faith. Where we do so can result in a curse or a blessing; a heart of isolation on our own or a heart of confidence in God; a lack of vision or removal of anxiety. Trusting in our own limited understanding can result in short-sighted consequences, while trusting in the God of the universe can result in lasting confidence through adversity.

Left to our own devices, we may think all trees experience the same conditions; however, trusting in Yahweh helps clarify the contrasts between good and bad.

Yeshua confirms these contrasts are real and truly do exist; and yet, like Jeremiah, he also reassures his hearers of the blessing and provision afforded to the faithful.

Matthew 6:31-34 – “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear? ‘ For the nations eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”


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The fragility of holiness in a world of darkness

Holiness is a choice we make every moment.

The prophet Haggai, in relating the Word of God to the recently returned captives from Babylon, questions the priests on a specific ruling in regard to holiness.

“Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Ask now the priests for a ruling: ‘If a man carries holy meat in the fold of his garment, and touches bread with this fold, or cooked food, wine, oil, or any other food, will it become holy?'” And the priests answered, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If one who is unclean from a corpse touches any of these, will the latter become unclean?” And the priests answered, “It will become unclean.” Then Haggai said, ” ‘So is this people. And so is this nation before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and so is every work of their hands; and what they offer there is unclean.

Haggai 2:11-14

Through this, the prophet attempts to illustrate to the people that regardless of their presence back in the holy land and them going through the motions of sacrifices, their defilement was overshadowing the holiness that they were intending to bring about through their sacrifices. In fact, the prophet argues, the depths of their defilement was actually making all of the sacrifices unclean.

This illustrates for us that holiness is not something to be flippant about, as if it can be assumed or taken for granted. Holiness is directly related to our separation from defilement; it’s inherent in the word itself. We cannot remain in a state of holiness if we continue to choose ways that don’t please God.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

2 Corinthians 7:1

For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Ephesians 5:5

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

Titus 2:11-14

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts [which were yours] in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all [your] behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.”

1 Peter 1:14-16 A

If we have been purified from past sins, why would we continue to walk in them any longer? According to Haggai’s logic, doing so only continues to defile every holy thing we try to do.

Instead, we should seek to remain faithful and obedient in all things, being ever mindful and respectful of the fragility of holiness as we continue to live in a world of darkness.

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If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Yahweh the King

Yahweh has always been, and always will be, the rightful king of his people.

Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:7

The political kingship of Israel began with a rejection of Yahweh as their king.

Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together and came to Samuel to Ramah. They said to him, “Behold, you are old, and your sons don’t walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel prayed to Yahweh. Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them.

1 Samuel 8:4-7

Even when presented with all of the tyrannous things a national king would do: the taxes, the conscription, the giving over of land, children, and slaves to the service of the king, the people would not relent.

Yahweh told Samuel that their desire for a political king, and their forsaking of Samuel as judge over them, was akin to their idolatry.

According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me and served other gods, so they also do to you.

1 Samuel 8:8

Throughout their tumultuous political kingdom, Yahweh still had plans to use Israel’s national kingdom as an object lesson for all time. Although Saul had originally been God’s choice for ruler, Saul became corrupt and demonstrated he was not obedient whole-heartedly to the torah, or instruction, of God. So instead, God raised up David as a man after his own heart to firmly establish the kingdom.

While David was originally rejected by the people of Israel, through him and his son Solomon, the pinnacle of the earthly, political kingdom of God was reached. The corrupted initial kingdom was replaced with a king who was yielded to Yahweh and who ruled wisely as God’s faithful representative with the wisdom of God.

Just like the kingdom of David and Solomon, God always had plans to consummate his rulership over his people with a representative who would honor and represent him whole-heartedly. The coming of a Messiah, a son of David, an anointed one (i.e., a king), was foretold through the prophets and longed for by the Israelites who suffered under each rebellious king and through exile in foreign lands.

Yeshua arrived into a world of immense national and political corruption, just like the conditions of the kingdom of Saul. However, just like the house of David, Yeshua demonstrated through his faithfulness that he was truly anointed of God, and the rightful king of God’s people.

True to form and the cyclical pattern of torah, Israel rejected God’s anointed king (for that is what the word “Christ” means). But God’s plan to go full circle back to his own rulership over his people was not yet complete. Through the demonstration of his power and through the resurrection of Yeshua, Yahweh maintained a rightful ruler of his people, one who would oversee the affairs of his kingdom as if he himself were king. Through his Messiah, his anointed king, the rightful rulership and all honor would ultimately return to Yahweh himself.

Then the end comes, when he (Messiah) will deliver up the Kingdom to God the Father, when he will have abolished all rule and all authority and power. …When all things have been subjected to him, then the Son will also himself be subjected to him who subjected all things to him, that God may be all in all.

1 Corinthians 15:24, 28

Through the faithfulness of his Messiah, Yahweh remains as rightful king over his people for all time, and is worthy of all honor and praise.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.