In life, there are many things that we are told to be and not to be. After reading Jeremiah 17 recently, I submit that being a shrub should be high on the list of things not to be in life.
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” – Jeremiah 17:5-6
Whoa. Ok. So being a shrub is not a good thing. If I’m a shrub:
- I’m cursed.
- I trust in man.
- I trust in my flesh/abilities.
- My heart turns away from God.
- I’m in a desert.
- I won’t see any good come.
- I’ll be parched.
- I’ll be in the wilderness.
- I’ll be alone.
- I’ll be salty (not the Matthew 5 kind)
Fortunately, God quickly gives us the better alternative to life as a shrub in the verses that follow. It turns out life as a tree is the much preferred option:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:7-8
That sounds much, much better. If I’m a tree, that means that:
- I’m Blessed.
- I trust in the LORD.
- The source of my trust is the LORD.
- I’m next to water.
- I’m growing, sending my roots out.
- I am constantly fed by roots by the stream.
- I don’t fear heat.
- I remain green.
- I’m not anxious in droughts.
- I continually bear fruit.
There probably couldn’t be a list of contrasts more stark than those above. And yet, I often make the choice of being a shrub or being a tree much more difficult than it has to be.
Usually, I try and be blessed, not cursed. I try to be next to water, not in the desert. I try to grow, not be parched. I try to be with others, not alone. I try to be strong, and not frail.
So why doesn’t it work?
The reason that it doesn’t work, is because I completely miss the focus of these verses. If I’m seeking to be all these things first, they probably won’t happen. Why?
Because I’m making my flesh my strength to do these things (uh oh, that sounds like a shrub thing). Because I’m trusting in myself to make them happen (definitely a shrub thing). Because I want to be able to do it by myself, alone (yeah, major shrub thing).
The issue is I haven’t placed my trust in the LORD, and I haven’t made the LORD my trust.
If I could just remember to start there, to seek Him first, then things would be different. Trust first, then grow. Trust first, then see good come. Trust first, then bear fruit.
Now, even if I do trust first, that doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen. We are clearly told in these verses that heat will come, that the temptation to fear and anxiety will come, that long seasons of drought will come.
In those seasons of heat, fear, and anxiety, my only escape is trust in the LORD.
My advice? Don’t be a shrub. Start living your best tree life now, by seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.