"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 17:8
This was a tree to be envied. Growing on riverfront property, it didn’t have to worry about weather reports, withering temperatures, or an uncertain future. Nourished and cooled by the river, it spent its days lifting its branches to the sun, holding the earth with its roots, cleaning the air with its leaves, and offering shade to all who needed refuge from the sun.
By contrast, the prophet Jeremiah pointed to a shrub (Jer.17:6). When the rains stopped and the summer sun turned the ground to dust, the bush shriveled into itself, offering no shade or fruit to anyone.
Why would the prophet compare a flourishing tree to a withering bush? He wanted his people to recall what had happened since their miraculous rescue from the slave yards of Egypt. For forty years in a wilderness, they lived like a tree planted by a river (2:4–6). Yet in the prosperity of their promised land they had forgotten their own story; they were relying on themselves and on gods of their own making (vv. 7–8), even to the point of going back to Egypt looking for help (42:14).
So God, through Jeremiah, lovingly urged the forgetful children of Israel, and He urges us, to hope and trust in the Lord and to be like the tree—not the bush.
God, you alone can be trusted
—even when it seems like You are nowhere to be seen.
Father, in so many ways You have taught us that You alone can be trusted—even when it seems like You are nowhere to be seen. Please help us to recall today what You have already shown us along the way.
Let’s remember in good times what we have learned in days of trouble.
Today’s Bible reading contrasts the life of the person devoted to God with the life of one who trusts in his own strength. Jeremiah uses incredibly strong language to differentiate between the two. One is blessed and one is cursed. It’s mind-boggling that we would choose to trust in ourselves instead of God, yet we all choose to do so from time to time. But verse 10 offers hope. It is not what we claim that determines whether we are a tree by the streams or a bush in the desert; it is the Lord who examines and rewards us. Are there any areas of your life you need to ask the Lord to examine?