Today’s reading: Jeremiah 14-17.
A little over a month before he died, the famous atheist Jean-Paul Sartre declared that he so strongly resisted feelings of despair that he would say to himself, “I know I shall die in hope.” Then in profound sadness, he would add, “But hope needs a foundation.” Our Daily Bread
Hope needs a foundation. Unfortunately, sometimes people choose a weak foundation that is bound to fail. That was exactly what happened to the nation of Judah. Even as their world fell apart they foolishly clung to a false foundation of their own making and rejected the sure foundation of God.
“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8
Jeremiah contrasted a bush in the desert with a tree planted by ever-flowing water. The bush fails to grow because of its dry environment, is isolated and alone, and fails to enjoy prosperity even when it comes. So are those who put their hope in men rather than the LORD. The tree flourishes as its roots grow deep into its eternal water source. It bears much fruit, creating its own prosperity even in times of heat and drought. Such is the security of men who put their trust in God. In the midst of a hopeless situation, Jerusalem and Judah facing destruction, Jeremiah declared that there is a foundation for hope. Roy Honeycutt, Jr., in Jeremiah: Witness Under Pressure, pointed out the ways that the prophet revealed God as the only source of hope:
God is the only hope for sin. “Judah’s sin is engraved with an iron tool, inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts…” The people have no ransom to pay for their sin, and will pay the price with their land and all their wealth. If only they had repented and turned to God, he would have removed their guilt.
God is the only hope for our wicked hearts. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” We can’t trust ourselves because our own hearts deceive us. Only God, through the Holy Spirit and his word, gives us the tools to honestly examine our mind and motives.
God is the only hope for security. “Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.” We cling so much to the false security of riches. As a result, we grasp after wealth by any means including illegal or unjust methods. No sooner do we gather such wealth than it flies away. Only God can give the security we long for.
God is the only hope for healing. “Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. Heal me, O LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.” Health and wealth are treasures of life, but those who turn away from God risk throwing away their well-being. God is the source of health, both physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal.
Jeremiah called the LORD “the hope of Israel,” but said those who rejected him would be put to shame. In a time of great distress, Jeremiah saw God as his sanctuary, his refuge, lifted high above the day of despair. Look at your own life today, and see where you are planted. Are your roots in the dry sand of worldly concerns? Are you grasping after the false security of wealth? Sink your roots deep in the unfailing security of God’s provision, and find real hope in the safety of God’s grace.
Image by Jocelyn Kinghorn on Flickr, CC by-sa 2.0