Jeremiah 17:5-10, also Rev 6 and John 15:4-9 July 16th 2023

Jeremiah 17:5-10, also Rev 6 and John 15:4-9 July 16th 2023

Jeremiah shares God’s words.

A contrast between two types of people – we heard Natalia read: Cursed is the one and then in v7. ‘But blessed is the man.’

Your heart.

This is about heart, what is at core of you, and the choices you make.

From v1 of Jer 17 until v10, heart is a dominant theme.

Judah is condemned in a strong manner. At the end of chapter 16, the nations will come to the LORD. Yet v1 Jer 17, his own nation, Judah has rejected him.  ‘Judah’s sin is engraved or etched – with an iron tool – inscribed with a flint point, on the tablets of their hearts.’

The hearts of the people are like stone, and nearly impossible to remove.

The image reminds us of Exodus – the Law of God engraved on the stone tablets,

here the sin of Judah is engraved on their hearts.

V5 – the cursed one who turns away from Yahweh. His ‘heart’ the core of who he is – is wrong, set in a wrong place.

V7 But Blessed is the man … the heart that is properly placed, established…

V9 – the human heart is deceitiful above all things and beyond all cure…

V10 – Only the Lord God can probe, search the heart.

Two choices.


Judah, in general, has become an example of someone cursed by God. Judah has turned away from God, and now relies on human strength – on political cleverness and alliances.

God says, that Judah by doing so – will be like a bush in the desert, alone, without fruit, soon to pass away.

But there is still hope.

God through Jeremiah wants to persuade.

If Judah turns to Yahweh in trust, it will flourish like a tree by the water.

There is a chance to change.

So we hear the words:

 “Cursed is the one who trusts in man,
    who draws strength from mere flesh
    and whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 That person will be like a bush in the wastelands;
    they will not see prosperity when it comes.
They will dwell in the parched places of the desert,
    in a salt land where no one lives.

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.
8 They 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.”

OUR SCRIPTURE divides all humankind into two categories, there is an either / or contrast. 

We see, there is no third category, no half and half.

A person is declared by God, to be either ‘cursed’ or ‘blessed’ that means under God’s disfavor or under God’s favor.

One image is the bush in the Arabah – that is the word for ‘wastelands’ – Arabah, the desert land south of the Dead Sea.  It lives alone, in a place scorched by the sun, a salt land which is uninhabited and uninhabitable. 

Such a bush, in such a place, does not flourish. It may have temporary flowers, and yield berries in good times, but in a parched and salty wasteland it will soon dry up and die. It will not endure long enough to see and experience the rains if and when they come.  That is what a person is like, who does not trust in God and draws strength from human resources alone.

There is another image – a tree planted by water and with roots extending to a stream. The tree remains leafy, green, even in a severe drought it will continue to bear fruit. We only need to pay attention to the weather in the Mediterrean, to think of such severe weather and yet in such weather conditions, the promise is that tree will bear fruit.

There is a word play of sounds, the cursed one, the one outside God’s favour will not see or experience the benefits if and when the rains come. The Hebrew word ‘yir-eh’.

In contrast the other will not fear ‘yira’ when the hot winds come, or the times of drought come. It will be healthy and vibrant.

Two roots.

Why is the bush in the desert so fruitless? And transient?

What makes the tree so fruitful and enduring?

I mean a shrub is not bad, a tree is not awesome…

We need to go to the roots of the issue, the heart of the issue.

We want to look more at this key distinguishing feature…

The bush lies in parched dry land. It lies in salt lands. It has no continual source of water to nourish and sustain it.  Without water, it can only expect to wither up and die.

Contrast the tree.

The tree does not plant itself.  It has been planted or transplanted by someone else?  It is located near a water source, and with roots in that source, the tree flourishes.  The water is what nourishes it, gives it life, and makes it fruitful even during a drought…


Jeremiah declares a few lines later:  

‘’A glorious throne exalted from the beginning, is the place of our sanctuary. O LORD the hope of Israel, all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.’

This is not the first time God has used this image – in Jeremiah’s first message which he brought to Jerusalem, someone was an 18- 25 year old,

‘’My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’’

It is the roots of the tree which allows it to flourish.

Not surprisingly as you heard this you would have recalled another scripture. Psalm 1.

Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

This psalm starts the psalter. As Israel’s book of hymns, prayers, songs, begin, the image is cast – what will you hold in mind, as we read and hear about a relationship with God and about worship and prayer.

The promise shared here. If we delight in God’s word, and meditate on scripture day and night, our life will be blessed.

We can say happiness comes from what happens to us ….

Blessing, psalm 1 is saying, what happens to you through knowing God and meditating on his words.

God promises ‘fruitfulness’ – which yields fruit in season.

Vitality – whose leaves do not wither

Prosperity – whatever they do ‘prospers’ – though that does not mean necessarily material prosperity.

The key, to lasting- and ultimately eternal –  fruitfulness and vitality lies in your relationship with God.

The Bible

Psalm 1 connects delight in the Word, and on his Word he regularly spends time with, with being that tree.

So, that link, as a simple application, it makes each of us ask – as we enter the vacation time, how are we doing with our bible reading?

For some of us, do we need a new approach to reading and meditating upon the bible?

An approach I’d suggest would be to try out the Lectio 365 app, which some here at All Saints use. A way to engage with the bible in small portions, following a theme for the week.

Or for some of us, we just need a plan, structure, as we don’t know what to read from day to day…  There is many bible reading plans out there – but if I could suggest one ‘the Bible in One Year app’ – which comes from the same church which created the Alpha course. Over 12 months you read the bible through – portion of the psalms, proverbs, portion of the NT and portion of the OT. You can start that plan at any time.

Or is it why we read the bible?

The Bible in One Year App models, as does Lectio 365,reminds us that Bible not only shapes our thinking, our knowledge, but also is meant to draw us into dialogue with God. That we talk to God about how the passage has spoken to us, and about others. And we listen for his voice about what he wants to say to us.

If that is a new idea for you, again, Lectio is a good model into that dynamic…

Two Choices.

Jeremiah, as well as Psalm 1, presents two choices. We live in a culture which really values being independent and self sufficiency. We are warned about adopting those values in any life defining ways. Self reliance, self sufficiency, self autonomy amount to self idolatry – and self idolatry is a recipe towards burnout.

We can endure and bear fruit only if we can sustain ourselves and nourish ourselves. And we cannot do that. If we rely on ourselves, we cannot give ourselves life, cannot save ourselves or help ourselves in any significant way, certainly not when the trials of life come around.

But on those who trust in Yahweh, who have Yahweh as our source of strength and hope, our text pronounces a blessing. When Yahweh is the object of faith, there is a continual source of water, to enliven and nourish, come what may. Yahweh is the ‘fountain of living water’ that never drive up, the living and life-giving water.   As Jesus said in another metaphor– he is the vine, we are the branches. We are meant to be connected to the vine, and that is how fruit is produced. We are to remain in him.

It is important to note. That Jeremiah’s declaration or promise, is not that the faithful have an easy life, uncomplicated by challenges or problems. They have to face heat, droughts – but God promises – when heat comes, it will not fear; when drought comes, it will not worry, and in all these challenges it will never fail to bear fruit.

Jesus when he says ‘remain me, and you will bear much fruit’ it is a promise – yet less than 10 verses later, Jesus says ‘if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.’ As Jesus then said:  I have told you these things, so that in me, you may have peace. IN this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.

Our Revelation reading. The scroll is having its seals opened, before the scroll can be read / revealed. Many struggles in the world, as the Lamb permits, directs the judgements. Christians are martyrd for their faith – as the fifth seal reveals. And at the end of the sixth seal, the question – who can stand ? they want to hide from the lamb and the one who sits on the throne. Who can stand – Revelation 7 – those sealed – those saved by grace through faith. Those redeemed. Despite the heat, the drought, the challenges, they can stand and will stand…for Jesus has overcome the world.

A final warning.

The passage ends with a challenging statement. Jeremiah says: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure, who can understand it? God responds: I, the LORD, search the heart and examine the mind.’’  At times we do not know our own minds, at times what people say cannot be trusted.  There is an Indian Tamil proverb – ‘through you can fathom the depts. Of water, you cannot fathom the depths of a heart.’

We can make these choices to be that tree, yet as Paul reminds us in Galatians 5, we are walking civil war – we do not do what we want, we have inner battles.

But there is One who knows the heart – he who sees the obedience of Jeremiah despite his struggles, the one who saw the difference in heart between Saul and David, the one who knew the hearts of the two people to be chosen as apostles.

And so, we decide who are we?

Two choices, bush or a tree?

But in such a choice, we recognizing our own weaknesses and struggles.

So the old Anglican prayer for collect of purity is a suitable one to pray…  

So a verse to consider:

7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
    whose confidence is in him.

A thought to consider:

What or who are you relying upon, day by day?

An action to consider:

How does your bible reading help you put down roots into God the spring of living water.

And we finish with that collect prayer…

All Almighty God,

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord.