25 February 2016

Jeremiah 17:5-10

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord.” (v. 7)

Psalm: Psalm 42


After reading these verses from Jeremiah, it is worth comparing verses 5-8 with Psalm 1 and verses 9-10 with Psalm 26:1-3, noticing both the similarities and the differences.

One of the key words in this passage, another of Jeremiah's laments, is 'trust': "those who trust in mere mortals" (v. 5) are compared with "those who trust in the Lord" (v. 7); the former are said to be like "a shrub in the desert" (v. 6) and the latter like "a tree planted by water" (v. 8). Since the verses just before this passage speak of the people of Judah engaging in idolatry, losing their God-given heritage, and serving their enemies in an unknown land, this matter of trust is as much a political matter as a personal one. In this context, trust has a sense of allegiance and we know that Jeremiah was highly critical of the alliance with Egypt against Assyria (Jeremiah 2:14-19, 36-37).

Another key word is 'heart' (vv. 5, 9, 10). In the Old Testament, the heart is the source of thought and reflection as well as being the centre of emotions. In a very famous verse - verse 9 - a very negative view of the heart is expressed: it is devious above all else and perverse. The question is, 'Who can understand it?' The divine reply is that God tests the mind and searches the heart (see Psalm 139:23), and that God gives to all according to their ways and the fruit of their doing.

To Ponder

  • What would you say to someone who pointed to examples of those who do not trust in God but appear to flourish and those who do trust in God but suffer?
  • The prayer called the Collect for Purity acknowledges that to God "all hearts are open" and "all desires known", and that from God "no secrets are hidden". How do you respond to these acknowledgements?
  • The second part of that prayer asks, "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". What particular thoughts of your heart do you long for God to cleanse?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Stubbens

Neil Stubbens is a Methodist presbyter who is currently the connexional ecumenical officer. Previously, he has served in the Barnsley, Southport, St Helens and Prescot, and Sankey Valley Circuits.