Feb 17, 2019
“Trust In The Lord” - Jeremiah 17:5-10
A story is told of a man who took his young son outside and put him on the railing of the back porch. He then went down, stood on the lawn, and encouraged the little fellow to jump into his arms. "I'll catch you," the father said confidently. Finally, after a lot of coaxing, the little boy made the leap. When he did, the father stepped back and let him fall to the ground. He then picked his son up, dusted him off, and dried his tears. "Let that be a lesson," he said sternly. "Don't ever trust anyone."
Believe it or not, that is exactly how our Older Testament reading for today starts off. With that very lesson. With those very words. The message boils down to those four words. “Don’t ever trust anyone.”
That’s how a young man begins his message to a crowd of people. People waiting to hear what shocking things he’ll say next. Waiting to see what crazy things he’ll do next. You see, he’s been given some pretty strange assignments. So, they brace for what he’ll do next.
The young man doesn’t disappoint. He boldly says this to that curious crowd. “My boss told me to give this message to you. So, lend me your ears. It’s terribly important. In fact, it’s life-saving important.”
The young man is Jeremiah. He’s one of the greatest prophets. A faithful spokesman for God. And he has a habit of delivering challenging news to the people. News that God thinks they need to hear in order to survive and to thrive. News straight from the boss. So, we’d better pay close attention. His boss just so happens to be our boss as well. It’s God.
Let us pray. Dear God, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The people of Israel have become more self-confident than God confident. God has clearly warned them through Jeremiah that unless they change their ways, destruction is coming. They are skating on thin ice. But the people ignore him. Instead of putting their trust in God, they count on saving themselves by making alliances with other nations. Jeremiah warns them not to do it. But they proceed to put their trust in foreign powers instead of in God. For some reason, they seem hell bent on trusting unreliable Egypt more than they trust reliable God.
Jeremiah opens with these words addressed to the people of Israel. Addressed to God’s people. That means they’re addressed to you and to me as well. He has the confidence to claim that the words are from God. He even states that he’s quoting God word for word. Just listen. “Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.”
That’s right. We’re told not to trust anyone but God to save us. We’re not even to trust ourselves. Not to trust in our own strength. Not even to trust our own minds. And certainly not to trust in the things of this world. Things that moth and rust will gobble up, according to Jesus. To trust worldly things is to make a big, fat mistake. Mere things will fail us. Will disappoint us and let us down. Will prove unsatisfying and shallow. Will turn out to be just a temporary fix. Just a tiny Band Aid.
Jeremiah says that when we put our complete and ultimate trust in just our own selves and our own devices, something truly awful happens. We end up turning our hearts away from the only One who can really help us and truly save us. We end up turning our backs on the One who will never ever let us down. The One who will never ever disappoint. Of course, that One we’re talking about is none other God.
Jeremiah illustrates his point. He confronts those who dare to not put their primary trust in God. To those who put their primary trust in the things of this world. Things like missiles and money and power and technology. Those things, he declares, will eventually let them down. And people found putting their ultimate trust in those things, he states, are like a shrub in the desert. They’ll end up parched. They won’t grow. They won’t thrive. They’ll just wither away to nothing.
That’s because they’ve cut themselves off from the only true and reliable source of help. From the only one who can give them what they really need. Living water. Nourishment. Encouragement. Support. Steadfast love. Those are the things God and only God is able to offer.
Jeremiah puts it in these life-saving words. “Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.” Yes, he declares it wise and safe to put all of our eggs in God’s basket. That’s because God will not disappoint. That’s because God will not let them or us down.”
You see, those who trust in the Lord. Those who really trust in God. Are like a tree planted by water. It’s roots reach out to the stream. So, it doesn’t fear when heat comes. Its leaves stay green. In the year of drought, it is not anxious. And it never ever ceases to bear fruit.
Likewise, those who trust in the Lord will be rewarded. They will grow. They will be nourished. They will bear fruit. They will thrive. They will be loved and cared for. They will be watched over and protected. Loved and supported and nurtured and encouraged.
When disaster comes they don’t worry. They aren’t afraid. They somehow know they aren’t alone. They somehow know they aren’t left to their own devices. They trust God is with them. That God is right by their side. That God is sticking with them come hell or low water. And that makes all of the difference in the world.
The great Disciples preacher Fred Craddock stressed how crucial it is to put our trust in God. How important it is to put deep roots down into God’s word. To regularly show up at church for worship. To faithfully gather at the Lord’s Table. To pray and to sing hymns. By doing so, we prepare for the coming drought. For Jeremiah says it’s not a matter of “if” a drought will come, but “when” a drought will come.
Fred told of a time he went to visit a woman in the hospital. She had never been in the hospital before, and she was facing major surgery. When he walked into the room, he found her crying. She was a nervous wreck. Fred noticed there was a stack of magazines on her meal tray. Stuff like True Love and Hollywood Today. Articles about Elizabeth Taylor and other movie stars. She had a stack of them there, and she was a wreck. It occurred to him that there wasn’t a calorie in that whole stack to help her through her experience. She had no place to dip down into a reservoir and come up with something. With anything. She was facing a drought, and her wells were empty.
If she’d bothered to ask him, Jeremiah would have told her that it is only God who can give living water. Years later, Jesus himself would claim to be that living water. It’s the only water that will really satisfy. And it’s tailor made. That’s because God loves us and knows what we truly need to flourish in this world with its droughts and its storms.
The Psalmist put it this way. “O LORD, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.”
Yes, God knows everything there is to know about us. God sees us as we really are. And wonder of wonders God still loves us. God’s love is faithful, and God’s love is wise. God knows exactly what we need to live whole and abundant lives. That’s because God designed us and created us. And God doesn’t give up on any of us. God can be trusted.
Recently, I read about a group of botanists who were exploring remote regions of the Alps in search of new species of flowers. One day, through binoculars, they noticed a rare flower of great beauty. They could see it, but couldn’t reach it. It was deep in a ravine with steep cliffs on both sides. They concluded that the only way was to lower someone over the cliff on a rope. But the problem was that all of them were too big to fit between the rocks.
That’s when they spotted a curious young boy who was watching their every move. The scientists told him they would pay him well if he would agree to be lowered over the cliff to retrieve the flower.
The boy took one long look down the steep slope and said, "I'll be back in a minute." A short time later he returned, followed by a gray-haired man. Then, the boy said this to them. "I'll go over the cliff and get that flower if this man holds the rope. He's my dad." You see, this boy trusted in his earthy father like we’re to trust in our heavenly One.
During this season of Epiphany, Jeremiah reminds us that every day we have a choice. Yes, in a culture that prizes autonomy and self-sufficiency, we have a choice to make. We can trust in ourselves and the things of this world. Or we can more wisely place our trust in God.
So, may we, like Jeremiah, be found trusting in God. God does not disappoint. God will not let us down. God is there for us. There for us during storms or floods or drought. Loving us. Watching over us. Giving us what we need. That’s because God knows us and God loves us. That’s who God is, and that’s what God does. That’s exactly what God’s Word and what God’s Spirit keep telling us. So, thanks be to God. Amen.