Friday, April 9, 2010

Blessed to Prosper in Difficult Times

In Jeremiah, God describes the judgment that was about to fall on the nation of Judah because the people had turned away from Him and put their trust in false gods and foreign alliances.

The sin of Judah is written down with an iron stylus;
With a diamond point it is engraved upon the tablet of their heart
And on the horns of their altars,

As they remember their children,
So they remember their altars and their Asherim
By green trees on the high hills.

O mountain of Mine in the countryside,
I will give over your wealth and all your treasures for booty,
Your high places for sin throughout your borders.

And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance
That I gave you;
And I will make you serve your enemies
In the land which you do not know;
For you have kindled a fire in My anger
Which will burn forever.
(Jeremiah 17:1-4)
Historically, this was the time when the southern kingdom of Judah was carried off into Babylonian captivity. The idolatry of the people ran so deep that they even sacrificed their children to their idols. They revered the altars on which they shed the blood of their sons and daughters to their Asherim, the carved totems of their pagan god.

Because of this, God said that all their wealth and treasure would be taken away from them, along with their lands, including the high places where they looked to their idols for protection. They were going to lose all the inheritance that God had given them. They were giving it up of their own in turning away from Him! They would become the servants of their enemies in a land that was no longer theirs, a land they no longer recognized.

This is what would happen to the nation as a whole. But then God breaks it down to an individual level. For there were those who remained faithful to Him even in the midst of those who turned away. Of the latter, He says,
Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.
For he will be like a bush in the desert
And will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness,
A land of salt without inhabitant.
(Jeremiah17:5-6)
Those who turn from the Lord and put their confidence in men will end up like the dry, barren shrubs of the salty wastelands. Even when prosperity comes, they will not see it. They will have no faith and be too full of bitterness to recognize when and how and where it comes. Instead, they will be anxious and envious, railing and complaining against those who seem to be better off than them. It is a curse of their own making. They turn away from good by turning away from God.

But God has something different for those who continue to trust in Him. They will be blessed to prosper, even in the difficult times.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD
And whose trust is the LORD.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8)
God pronounces good upon those who trust in Him. They place no confidence in anyone or anything else. Their expectation and refuge is in Him alone. Consequently, they will be like the trees “planted” by water. The word in Hebrew actually means to be transplanted. God lifts them out of the parched places and establishes them in well-irrigated places where they can stretch out their roots and receive all they need.

Even when the heat comes, they will not “fear.” The word here is raah, which means to “see.” In fact, it is the word used for “see” in verse 6. Those who trust in men and idols will not see when prosperity comes. Those who trust in the Lord will not see when the heat comes; they will be so richly watered that it will not harm them. Indeed, their leaves will be “green.” This word is raanan, which means to be fresh and luxuriant; figuratively, it speaks of prosperity. There will be no anxiety, no worry, no fear, not even in drought. For there will be life — not merely surviving, but thriving.

They will not cease to yield fruit, their harvest will not dry up, nor will their crop fail. They will be blessed to prosper even in difficult times. They will have more than enough for themselves and out of their abundance they will be able to help others. They will not hold back but will have enough blessing to share. For their trust is in God, who is “able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).

This is not the promise for a time far off in the future. It is for here and now. Just as it was true for those living in Jeremiah’s day, it is still true in these days.

Do you see your prosperity?