Refuge in the Dark
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man (or what man has made….gods, chariots, weapons of war, security systems, locks and bolts, numbers in the bank account) and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…”
– Jeremiah 17:5
Shrubs and Trees
These are heavy words! Notice how Jeremiah unpacks the idea of someone who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength. He says this sort of person is one whose “heart turns away from the Lord.” …….To trust in man, to trust in flesh, to have as our deepest security be something humanity has created or done or promised, is to have a heart that turns away from YHWH! That is a frightening and sobering reality.
Jeremiah spoke these words in a context of idol worship, however, it is also true for those situations where the idols are subtle and veiled behind the mask of culture. What is it that makes me feel most deeply safe? Into what are the roots of my confidence sunk? What shakes me, what unsettles me, what leaves me feeling exposed and powerless and afraid? These are all questions that can help unearth the hidden idolatry of trust in the strength of the flesh rather than in YHWH Himself.
Jeremiah, goes on:
“He (the one who trusts in man, who makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from YHWH), 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 17:6
A shrub in a desert…..a shallow-rooted, waterless, fruitless, shriveled shadow of a tree. This is what we embrace when we embrace Not-God as our safety…..a thin echo of the beauty God intends for His creatures. Truly, this is just another example of that proven Biblical teaching that we become like what we worship. If we worship rootless nothingness by trusting in it rather that YHWH, we will become a rootless nothing. However, if we worship the One True God by placing our trust in Him alone, we will grow into a cedar, an oak, a redwood, deep-rooted and full of life……
“Blessed is the man who trusts in YHWH, whose trust is YHWH. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that sends our 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
What a difference!
Cursed is the man who trusts in man.
Blessed is the man who trusts in YHWH.
Simple, clear, and beautiful. To trust in the Lord, to have the Living God AS our trust, AS our assurance, AS our security……that is to be blessed (and the word “blessed” can be glossed as, “Oh, how deeply happy”). It is so crystal clear when we read it in scripture….like standing on a mountain on the edge of space and seeing the stars burning with piercing brilliance. But I know (and I’m sure you do as well) that once we descend under the cloud cover of circumstances, once we begin to walk in the shadowed valleys of life’s challenges, the clarity of these things is often muddled. As Jesus warned us, the cares of this life can too often become thorns that choke our belief and render us fruitless (Mark 4:19). May it not be so!
Trusting in YHWH…?
So, very practically, what does it mean to trust in the Lord and to have the Lord as our trust? Let me mention just one thing for your consideration: It means allowing His character and authority to be the deepest security of our lives.
When hard times come, when unknowns loom on the horizon, when every option available to us seems painful and the deadline for action is fast approaching, when the deeply hoped against situation actually happens, when it seems like all light is withdrawn and we are left in an echoing cell of confusion and anxiety….”when heat comes…in the year of drought,” where do we go? What do we fall on? Where does our heart and mind flee? To trust in the Lord means that in those moments (as well as in the day to day) we flee to the refuge of His proven character and infinite authority.
This sort of trust necessitates knowledge of the one we are trusting. How can we hide in His character if we do not know Him? And how can we take comfort in His authority if have not seen it at work? If the roots of our trust are to draw life from the Living God, we must know Him, and we know Him primarily from scripture, and especially at the cross. Yes, the cross of Christ is where God declares Himself to us….if we would know YHWH, if we would know our God, if we would know the one who is to be our refuge when all else fails, we must be looking steadily and consistently to cross where God became a man and died in our place.
His Character at the Cross
There we see the character of YHWH on display…He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. He pours Himself out in love for His enemies, He spends Himself to make His murderers into His children. He takes our sin, He offers Himself up to be damned in our place, and then He rises again – not to exact punishment on His killers – but to extend forgiveness to any who would come. THIS is the character of the One who authors our every day, THIS is the God who ordains the life and death, joy and sorrow, comfort and hardship of every being on the planet…..THIS is His heart communicated, can we not trust a God like this? Can we not trust a love like this?
His Authority at the Cross
And what of His authority? Love without authority is not fortress. But we authority at the cross as well….authority to lay down the life of God Almighty on Roman gibbet, authority to trample Satan, demons, sin and death under His crucified feet, authority to remove Hell from Hell-deserving sinners, authority to descend to the depths of reality and lift our crippled forms from despair into joy, authority to take up His own life and rise from the dead, and now authority to silence every accusation and vaporize every sin with one blood-bought word. THIS is the authority of the One who holds our every second in the love-pierced, universe-upholding palm of His right hand….can we not trust ourselves to an authority like this?
Friends, I say it to myself first, every trust except for the One True God will fail us and leave us ashamed and put to shame. So may we look again and again to the death and resurrection of our God, may we know YHWH in Christ, may we see His character and authority on brilliant display, and me we anchor our souls to this great God so that when the drought comes, we will not cease to bear fruit…