‘’The person who does not have God at the centre of his life inevitably places himself at the centre; this is the most basic form of idolatry.’’ Tom Hale: ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.1100
The people of Judah experienced first-hand the futility of trusting in people rather than God (5, 6).One form their idolatry took was to place too much confidence in alliances and treaties rather than to trust fully in the Lord their God. Jeremiah repeatedly called the people away from such misguided and misplaced belief. It was a form of ‘backsliding’ (5b). Where do you go for your strength? Where are your roots?
A life turned away from God is a barren, shrivelled up life (6). No-one in their right mind would choose to live in a spiritual desert. Such is the life Jeremiah called people away from.
The alternative he called them to is found in (7, 8; see Psalm 1:1-4; John 15:1-17). It was also his own experience, as we saw recently (16:19a). Where would you prefer to live? In the desert (6), or in a verdant, abundant, flourishing place (8)? Only those who trust in God live there. This is a verse full of luscious promise. It speaks of a life of stability, peace and continuous fruit-bearing. These are the alternatives held out in the gospel message: emptiness or fullness. Why would anyone choose the former over the latter? The answer is found in (9, 10). Someone said, ‘’The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.’’ We may wonder why, if (12, 13) are true anyone would forsake God. But they do; we do. Again we find the answer in the state of the heart: ‘’The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.’’ The Message. The ‘’heart’’ refers to the very centre of a person’s life. It includes mind, will and emotions. Everything flows out from this Centre. Many years ago, a leading newspaper ran a series asking , ‘What is wrong with the world?’ The shortest reply to the editor said, ‘’Dear sir, I am. Yours sincerely, G.K.Chesterton.’’
It remains the case that we can only be saved by faith (in the Lord Jesus); and ‘by faith’ is the only way to live. Let’s make sure our trust is in the right place; or rather, the right Person. We may not be able to change our dark, deceitful and deceived hearts, but God can fill them with light. There is a ‘’cure’’ with Him. In the meantime, we can’t pull the wool over His eyes. He knows us thoroughly.
‘’There follows a contrast (very like that of Ps.1) between the person who depends for well-being on human strength and the person who trusts in God (5-8). The ‘cursing’ of the one and the ‘blessing’ of the other are covenantal (cf. Dt.28). The covenant has a paradox which is abidingly true: the attempt to put one’s life on a secure footing by a selfish reliance on one’s own abilities brings undoing; trust in God, which implies obedience and may involve acting against one’s own interests, is the way to life (cf. Mt.10:39).’’ Gordon McConville: ‘The New Bible Commentary’, p.686.
Prayer: ‘’Create in me a pure heart, O God.’’ (Psalm 51:10).