Text: Jeremiah 17:5-8
Third Sunday before Lent, series C
Listen to the sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our reading from Jeremiah 17 is all about trust. Bad Trust. Good Trust. Jeremiah asks us: who has your trust? Jeremiah gives us a vivid contrast between the two types of trust. He does this by using an image drawn from nature. Jeremiah contrasts a parched desert shrub with a vibrant tree that hugs a flowing stream. These two different plants are two different kinds of trust—trust in man and the Lord.
The Curse of Trusting in Man
Jeremiah begins with the curse upon those who trust in mankind rather than God. This is a direct assault on our culture. “Cursed is the man who trusts in man.” A curse is pronounced upon anyone who trusts in economics, psychology, medicine, government, the military, the news media, the arts, or any other aspect of our culture. Yet these are precisely the things we tend to look to for meaning and security in life.
It is not a sin to trust people. Still, it is a sin to trust in people. We must not invest our most profound faith in another person. Never derive your dearest hope from another person—to give that person the place in our hearts that rightfully belong to God. Jeremiah says: do not trust yourself! Or we might be tempted to invest our ultimate trust in an ideology or philosophy—or our political views. Or we might be tempted to trust in our own wisdom or that of the so-called experts. The more gifted or wealthy we are, the more we are tempted to trust ourselves. Do not trust in princes or any other human or human institution. To trust in man is to turn away from God.
We are designed to trust. We will trust in something or someone. We can trust in mankind, or we can trust in God. We cannot have it both ways. To turn toward something other than the Lord is to turn away from the Lord. We can’t face both directions at the same time. If we trust in ourselves or others and not in God, then we will do whatever we can to get ahead in this world no matter who we hurt along the way. If you trust in man, you’ll make up the rules as you go along.
Trust is an invisible thing in many ways. You cannot see trust. Trust is an internal disposition. Trust is a matter of the heart. Sometimes we say, “He has a good heart.” Do you have a good heart? Our passage tells us it’s wrong to trust mankind. But why? Why is it so wrong to trust in mankind? Because, Jeremiah said, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt. It’s not whether your heart trusts or not. Instead, what does your heart trust in? Our hearts are corrupt and deceitful, and we cannot trust them. Disney says, “Trust in your heart.” But that is a recipe for disaster. We all find ourselves torn by conflicting values and desires. It is difficult to understand other people’s hearts because people disguise their deepest thoughts and feelings to show their best side. Sometimes we need to get help from counsellors to understand our deepest thoughts and feelings. If we have difficulty understanding our own hearts, how can we expect to understand the hearts of other people?
If your heart is desperately corrupt, then so are your ideas, politics, ideologies, governments, and every other thing that mankind touches. That’s why the heart is beyond cure; it will always find a way to get its way. It is inherently self-centred. We cannot see ourselves accurately and have no power to fix ourselves. This deceitful, incurable, incomprehensible heart is the root of all sin and misery and corruption in the world.
The Blessing of Trusting in the Lord
No one can understand the heart, either their own or anyone else’s. But God does. “I the Lord search the mind and test the heart.” God understands our hearts. The difference between the blessed and the cursed is in who you trust. If you will stop trusting your own judgment and start trusting the Lord, then you’ll move from cursed to blessed. When Israel trusted in their own strength and skill and alliances, they were like a bush in the desert: parched and lonely and unfruitful at its core.
Those who trust in the Lord are those who place their entire confidence in him. Your security and hope and strength and righteousness and life come from him. That’s why they are blessed. A tree planted by a stream never dries up. Whenever we put our trust in the Lord, he will make them like a tree planted by streams of water. If we trust God, we will be refreshed continually by his grace.
The person who trusts in the Lord does “not fear when heat comes,” “in a year of drought.” So, that means you do not need to live in fear and worry. There have been many reasons to fear and worry for the past two years. Those who trust the Lord will continue to flourish and be fruitful even in times of trouble. Fear may come, and anxiety may linger, but life is guaranteed. The key is to keep trusting the Lord. Cling to him for dear life. Self-reliance, independence, autonomy, pride are self-idolatry and will finally leave you cursed.
Today the Lord is calling us to repent, promising blessings to those who place their confidence in him. We need to repent of the ways we have trusted in ourselves, the government, the media, or anything other than him alone. Today, God gives life and health to you. God is the Author and Perfecter of your faith from beginning to end. When you were yet enemies of God, He sent His Son in human flesh to redeem you. God alone lived and suffered and died and rose. He alone strived and suffered for your salvation. He made atonement and satisfaction for your sin. His death upon the Tree of Calvary has given you mercy, redemption, and hope.
Your trust in the LORD can never be disappointed. He will not fail you, since Christ is both God and Man. He is both the Creator God who always keeps his promises, and He is truly human, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. You can put your trust in that man, for He is not a weak and frail sinner like you and me. He is the holy and perfect Saviour of the world.
If that were not enough, He has given you faith through His Gospel. He has sent down His Spirit upon you to provide you with life. In Baptism, the Holy Water of Life has been poured upon you, and that water never dries up. You are firmly planted upon Jesus Christ and His righteousness. You are built upon the unshakeable Rock who never fails. You are like a tree planted by a river that never dries up because of Jesus. He continues to tend you, as a gardener tends a tree so that you remain in the true faith to life everlasting. How could anyone not trust in the Lord when He has done so much?
So do not be anxious. Do not fear the troubles of life striking you like heat and drought in the desert. Instead, trust in God. He has forgiven you all your sins. He has given you eternal salvation in His Son. He has rescued you from destruction. He has given you gift after gift of His rich grace, beyond all human imagination. He promises to fix this messed up world. Trust in the Lord. Never let your heart never depart from Him, and He will never disappoint you.
May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.