The Spiritual Facts of Life
O Lord, our precious God and Savior, we come before You this day in worship and praise. Lead us to genuine repentance over our sins. Instill within us a firm belief in your forgiving love. Help us to listen attentively to Your words of instruction. Move us to live our lives with confidence both in Your presence and Your protection. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Exodus 18:13-26, 1 Corinthians 15:12-20
Moses followed Jethro’s advice and appointed trustworthy men to help with the work of guiding God’s Old Testament people of Israel. Down through the ages God’s people have done the same thing-choosing trustworthy individuals to help carry on all of the different aspects of the Kingdom work.
In Paul’s day, as in our own, there were many people who denied the teaching of the physical resurrection of the dead. Paul explained that if the dead do not rise, then Christ did not rise. To claim such a thing is to undermine the entire Christian faith. Christ, however, did arise from the dead, and that means we, too, will one day arise!
After healing those who were sick and demon-possessed, Jesus pronounced His blessings and His woes during His Sermon on the Mount. To believe in Jesus will bring God’s ultimate blessing. To trust in oneself and to seek the favor of men will only lead ultimately to God’s judgment.
Text: Jeremiah 17:5-8
Thus says the LORD: “Cursed in the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but her leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
In Christ Jesus, whose deepest desire is to bring blessing into our lives, dear fellow redeemed:
Life gets complicated rather quickly, doesn’t it? In fact, seldom are the issues in our lives as simple as we might like them to be. What we see initially as being “black and white,” upon investigation often ends up involving various shades of gray. That is certainly true within our relationships—husbands to wives, parents to children, bosses to employees, and friends to friends. Yet there are times when issues can be reduced to simple basics and must be, in order that appropriate action can take place.
Jeremiah lived during a very complicated and difficult time in the history of God’s Old Testament people—a period of religious decline, enemy invasion, national devastation, and civil rebellion. In the midst of that situation, the LORD had Jeremiah reduce to simple basics the nature and result of man’s relationship with God. For Jeremiah and the people of his day, this was an absolute necessity, so that they might draw close to their God and receive His blessing.
When our lives likewise become complicated and difficult, it is important to remind ourselves of the basics that lead to a good relationship with our God, so that we might tackle any issue before us with confidence. Let us, therefore, consider THE SPIRITUAL FACTS OF LIFE! Those spiritual facts are simply that unbelievers will endure the LORD’s judgment, while believers will enjoy the LORD’s blessing!
Jeremiah writes, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed in the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD’.” The word “curse” means to abhor, to detest, and to call down judgment upon. Unbelievers will endure the LORD’s judgment! Why? They will endure that judgment, because they have turned away from God—His grace, His mercy, and His power—to trust in themselves or in some other man.
In the original language Jeremiah used two different words for “man.” The first word implies man at his very best and strongest, while the second word implies man at his very weakest as a product of the dust. The LORD suggests that we human beings, whom He originally created in His own image to be perfect and holy, strong and intelligent, unfortunately because of sin allow our hearts to wander and put our trust into men, who because of their sinful nature now are weak and destined to return to dust upon our deaths. How foolish it is for man to trade the power and grace of God for the weakness and instability of man.
Yet we can find ourselves doing this rather frequently! In the area of our finances, we can easily begin trusting in man rather than in God. We may well set aside time to read the Wall Street Journal, for therein we believe we will find the secret to gathering a vast fortune, yet we never seem to find time to read our Bibles. On the other hand we may become involved with gambling, hoping that shear luck will be the solution to our financial problems, rather than bringing those problems to the Lord in prayer and seeking to put in place principles of good Christian stewardship. In the area of our entertainment choices, we may well listen to men rather than to God. Our friends want to go out on a Saturday night to drink and convince us we ought to loosen up a bit. Then we end up drinking too much and severe problems arise within our lives. In the area of our moral choices, we can so easily choose to rely on ourselves rather than following the will of God. We can find ourselves in a situation requiring our utmost honesty, and yet we choose to lie our way out of a situation, rather than being honest with others and learning the lessons our Lord would teach us. The Lord has given us physical size, but instead of using it to defend those weaker than ourselves, we use that size to intimate and to get our way, because we are determined to get our due!
My dear friends, let us listen to our God—“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD!” God is not a boogeyman standing in the shadows and crying out, “boo,” in order to scare us into better behavior. He is our blessed Savior and our sovereign Lord to whom we are responsible and before whom we one day will stand. We do not want to be found with our heart given to someone else and our trust placed in someone or something else, for then we will experience His everlasting judgment.
What of our life here, when we choose to separate ourselves from our God. Jeremiah writes, “For he (the unbeliever) shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.” The LORD says the unbeliever will be like a scraggly shrub, deprived of water, living in uninhabitable land and failing to see the good, even when it comes.
But, you might say, that does not appear to be true in this world. Many unbelievers, even open blasphemers, rich and powerful. They enjoy the good things in life! It is true that there are unbelievers whom God has permitted to accumulate many material possessions. Yet, let us remember the LORD’s question, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36) Things do not bring ultimate happiness, nor do they lead to contentment. Many of the world’s wealthiest people are also among the loneliest and most miserable, for they have given their hearts away to someone or something other than their God and man has an innate need for a relationship with God.
What is required, my dear Friends, is that we take the broad view, understanding that our lives in this world are only a small portion of the eternal existence we will either enjoy ultimately in God’s presence or regret eternally in His absence. Let us learn THE SPIRITUAL FACTS OF LIFE! Unbelievers will endure the LORD’s judgment!
On the other hand, believers will enjoy the LORD’s blessing! Jeremiah write, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD.” Why is a man “blessed” when he hopes and trusts in the LORD? It is because the LORD loves such a man and is committed to blessing such a man. The Psalmist David tells us, “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass” (37:3-6). Our God has loved us with a deep and abiding love. He has taken us poor, rebellious sinners and declared us righteous for Jesus’ sake. He has called us into His family by the gospel and sent His own Spirit to bring us to faith and to live in our hearts.
What does this mean for us? Jeremiah writes, “For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but her leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” Any plant needs water and light to thrive and to grow. Jesus, the Son of the living God and our dear Savior, declares Himself to be the “the Light of the world” (John 8:12) and promises to provide us with “water” that will become a “fountain…springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:14). When we draw close to Jesus in faith; when we listen carefully to Him and become students of His word; we will find that our lives will be blessed. When problems arise within our lives, we will find ourselves turning to the Lord, committing those problems to His care, and enjoying a peace of mind and heart that we have never experienced. When we turn over those problems to the Lord, recognizing that we are so limited, while He is limitless, we will find that the Lord Himself can and will work out those problems as we are led by His Spirit to follow His directives. The result will be a happier, a more confident, and a more productive life. Truly,believers will enjoy the LORD’s blessing!
In closing, I would like to share with you the examples of two men, who lived in Jeremiah’s day, whose lives illustrate the two simple and basic facts outlined in this text. The one man was a king—Zedekiah, while the other was a slave—Ebed-Melech. King Zedekiah lived in a palace, enjoyed great wealth, controlled many people, but had fallen into unbelief. He trusted in himself, rather than in the LORD. He refused to listen to the LORD, he persecuted Jeremiah, the prophet of the LORD, and at one point even had Jeremiah thrown into a dungeon in a prison with instructions that he should be allowed to die of starvation. Ebed-Melech was an Ethiopian slave. He had nothing of his own, he served in the king’s palace and was subject to the king’s unrighteous decrees, yet he was a believer. We are told that when Jeremiah was thrown in the dungeon, Ebed-Melech approached the king—something that took great courage for a slave to do, and pleaded for Jeremiah’s life. The king finally relented and Ebed-Melech was able to rescue Jeremiah and save his life. Now, while the world would no doubt suggest that King Zedekiah certainly lived a more enviable life than his slave Ebed-Melech, what was the final disposition of these two men? Jeremiah records that history in his thirty-ninth chapter. He writes, “In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nechadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army came against Jerusalem and besieged it…. Then the king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes in Riblah; the king of Babylon also killed all the nobles of Judah. Moreover he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, and bound him with bronze fetters to carry him off to Babylon…. Meanwhile the word of the LORD had come to Jeremiah while he was shut up in the court of the prison, saying, ‘Go and speak to Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel…I will surely deliver you, and you shall not fall by the sword; but your life shall be as a prize to you, because you have put your trust in Me” (39:1,6-7,15-16,18).
THE SPIRITUAL FACTS OF LIFE are here demonstrated—the unbelieving Zedekiah endured the LORD’s judgment, while the believing Ebed-Melech enjoyed the LORD’s blessing! So it has been and will continue to be until the end of time. Dear friends in Christ—may we learn these simple facts and cling to our LORD and in faith enjoy His blessings! Amen.
Soli Dei Gloria!
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting