Don’t Be A Shrub

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:

  1. I’m cursed.
  2. I trust in man.
  3. I trust in my flesh/abilities.
  4. My heart turns away from God.
  5. I’m in a desert.
  6. I won’t see any good come.
  7. I’ll be parched.
  8. I’ll be in the wilderness.
  9. I’ll be alone.
  10. 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:

  1. I’m Blessed.
  2. I trust in the LORD.
  3. The source of my trust is the LORD.
  4. I’m next to water.
  5. I’m growing, sending my roots out.
  6. I am constantly fed by roots by the stream.
  7. I don’t fear heat.
  8. I remain green.
  9. I’m not anxious in droughts.
  10. 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.

4 thoughts on “Don’t Be A Shrub

  • This is very helpful, Belle. Thank you for the fruits of meditation! I think there may be another level as well. In the Hebrew of vv.5-6, the shrub is “arara”. This is an actual species that still grows in the driest places in the Holy Land today. It’s always green (apparently sending its roots down an incredible distance) and bears fruits that look like lemons. What a find to a thirsty wanderer, you think! However, it’s a deceiver: if you cut into the fruit it is hollow and the seeds are poisonous. The Bedouin tip arrows with arara sap for dealing with hyenas. Would this fit in the context of “being a shrub”? The element of *hypocrisy*, promising good but delivering evil?
    In addition we have a Hebrew word play between ‘arar[a]’ (the shrub) and ‘arur’ (cursed).
    Here’s a link about the arara:


    • Thanks for the comments, Trevor. Very insightful! I think you are spot on with both observations of the arara shrub being a hypocrite, and the word play of its meaning – cursed.
      Indeed, Jesus often reserved his strongest words for the hypocrite; calling the Pharisees white washed walls, tombs, vessels of death itself. He would rather us be hot or cold than a lukewarm hypocrite, as we would be spewed from His mouth. Utter rejection from God is the very definition of cursed.
      Praise be to God that He doesn’t leave us in that state, but offers us forgiveness, His righteousness, and life eternal – with Him! Jesus left this paradise, to make it possible for us! He suffered, that we would know Grace!


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