Whom Do You Trust? 2016
O Lord God, in whom I put my trust and upon whom my life depends, watch over and bless me this day as I enter into Your sanctuary to worship with my fellow believers. Accept my prayers and my praises; open my ears and my heart; instruct and uplift my mind and my spirit, so that I might go forth as Your ambassador into a world that so clearly needs Your truth and Your mercy. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
God comforts us when we are downcast, especially when He leads us and others who have sinned to godly sorrow, repentance, and salvation.
When a sinful woman anointed Jesus’ feet with precious ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, Simon the Pharisee was upset. How could Jesus associate with such a sinner? Jesus told Simon the parable of the two debtors to explain how God’s loving forgiveness moves people to love.
Text: Jeremiah 17:5-10
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is 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 its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings."
In Christ Jesus, the One in Whom we can trust without reservation, dear fellow redeemed:
What do you think of the two major candidates running for President this year? Last Monday evening was the first of three Presidential Debates featuring Secretary Hillary Clinton for the Democrats and Mr. Donald Trump for the Republicans. 84,000,000 of your fellow Americans watched that debate. If you were one of them, did you walk away from the debate brimming with confidence that your candidate has just the right qualities necessary to serve our country’s needs at this point in its history? I am afraid, that I did not. I have never in my lifetime had the basic honesty of the two leading candidates for President questioned so many times, by so many people, and in so many ways. Yet, in just over one month we will be casting our ballots for President, and it is likely that one of those two candidates will be elected to the highest political office in our country. The personal choice for many of us will come down to the question, “Whom do you trust?”
Trust is a huge issue when it comes to our relationships with other individuals, and it is certainly an issue that goes far beyond the political arena. Where and in whom we place our trust can have both temporal and eternal consequences for us. Let us, therefore, ask ourselves the question and seek a God-pleasing answer: WHOM DO YOU TRUST? Our text tells us that it is foolish to put your trust in man, while it is wise to put your trust in the LORD!
Jeremiah lived at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem in the sixth century before Christ. In those turbulent years prior to that destruction, God’s people in Judah were not making good and proper choices with regard to those in whom they placed their trust. Instead of walking humbly before and trusting in the LORD God, as they had been encouraged to do by their prophets (cf. Mic. 6:8), they were looking to the Egyptians to save them from Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. They had made alliances with Egypt and had attempted to buy Pharaoh’s protection with their silver and gold. Instead of trusting in the LORD, they were relying upon men!
Jeremiah responded under the inspiration of his God by informing the people of Judah: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.’” There is an interesting play on words here that is lost in the English translation. Jeremiah used two different words for “man,” both of which have special meanings. He first refers to man as someone who is viewed as possessing physical strength, but then he refers to man as the one who was created out of dust and who will eventually return to dust. Such a man, while perhaps appearing to possess strength, is in reality frail and has no lasting strength at all! So “cursed is the (mighty) man (of apparent strength), who trusts in (mortal) man and makes flesh (that which is essentially dust and will return to dust) his strength!”
My dear friends, we are living in an unsettled time in our country’s history—certainly not as desperate as were the times of Jeremiah in Old Testament Judah but, nonetheless, unsettled times due to the threats of international terrorism, increasing social tension between various racial groups and the police, and a slow economy with rapidly increasing deficits. WHOM DO YOU TRUST to provide for your welfare together with that of your family and our nation? Your answer ultimately is a 1st Commandment issue!
Luther explains the 1st Commandment with the words: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” To whom do we ultimately look for the protection of our property and persons? Upon whom do we ultimately depend to create racial harmony within our society? Whose advice do you trust for financial counsel? Do you place your trust in people who are familiar to you, perhaps members of your family, or people whom your family members recommend or with whom you have had a long relationship? To a certain extent, no doubt, all of us would say, “Yes, I do that.” But we ought never do that in any absolute sense. Human beings are limited as to their strength, their wisdom, and their mortality. A man with great physical strength may well trot on to a football field this afternoon only to be carried off on a stretcher with everyone wondering whether or not he will ever walk again! A man with great intellectual gifts can be working one moment and slumping over his desk dead of a heart attack the next. It is absolutely foolish to put your trust in men!
Jeremiah provides a vivid picture of just how foolish such a decision is when he describes those who place their trust in men as a “shrub in the wilderness.” Such a shrub will never thrive; it will never grow; its circumstances will always be precarious, for there simply are not enough resources available to enable it to flourish. When you or I place our trust in men, we are like a “shrub in the wilderness.” We will ultimately wilt and wither away!
Jeremiah explains exactly why that is the case. To begin with we must understand that human beings were not meant to have limited mortality when they were first created by God. His intention was that we live and thrive within the world and under His governing hand forever. Satan introduced sin into our world, however, through his successful temptation of our first parents. The presence and consequence of sin changed both the world and God’s plan. Man now dies because of sin, and that sin has a deep root in every man’s heart. Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It is difficult for any human being, even those who are under the guidance of the Spirit, to admit this truth. We have a problem and it runs deep! Our hearts are by nature in a state of sinful rebellion against God, and without the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit they remain so. Even when we come to faith, our old, sinful flesh remains and afflicts us on a daily basis. This leaves every one of us struggling with a corrupt mind filled with selfish thoughts that lead ultimately to unkind words and destructive actions. Consequently, we ought never place our trust in natural man, for inevitably he will be found to be in opposition to God.
Even at his best when man tries to be religious, he will not get things right unless guided by the Holy Spirit. In our Religion 11-12 class, for instance, we are currently studying the non-Christian world religions. This week we will consider Hinduism. Hinduism bases its belief system upon the writings of the Vedas, which in many cases are as old as our Old Testament scriptures. However, when you study the Vedas you find that its teachings have varied over the years and have often contradicted themselves. That is because rather than being a religion revealed by God, it is a religion conceived within the heart of man—the sinful, deceitful, and wicked heart of man! Let us, therefore, dear friends, not place our trust in man—what foolishness! Rather, when answering the question WHOM DO YOU TRUST, may we all be led to recognize that it is foolish to put your trust in man!
It is wise, however, to put your trust in the LORD! Jeremiah writes: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD!” We are blessed, that is most fortunate and happy, when we place our trust in the LORD.” Why is that the case? First of all, this is true because our LORD God is the one, true God—the all-powerful God who created this world and rules over it right now. He is in a position to respond to us right now!
Secondly, the “LORD” is our God who has taken an interest in us personally. If you ever doubt that fact bear in mind that you are the only person in the world with your fingerprint and genetic code. You were, as Scripture testifies, uniquely created by your Savior God, gifted in accordance with His will, and are now protected by His governing hand. In view of His personal interest in us, He has seen our problem with sin and its consequence death, and God has devised and fulfilled a plan of redemption to deliver us from this evil world with all of its trials and tribulations to Himself in heaven! That plan, of course, involved the life and death of His dear Son, Jesus.
When we are led by the Spirit of God to confess our sins and to rejoice in the forgiving love of our Savior, we become His children. We are, as Jeremiah says, just like a “tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” It is interesting, is it not, that Jeremiah does not say that when you trust in the LORD there will never be any “heat” or that there will never be a “drought.” Rather, he says that when such times come, and they will for Scripture has predicted they will, we need not fear for our LORD will be present with us. He will guide and bless us so that we can still be productive members of His kingdom even in the midst of the trials and troubles!
There are times, dear friends, especially when the “heat” and “drought” come, that we might be tempted to complain. Yet it is then, even more than at other times, that we must trust in the LORD! There was an incident in Jeremiah’s life, which demonstrates this rather effectively. At one point Jeremiah, whose messages of pending judgment were unappreciated by the rulers of Judah, was thrown into an empty cistern within Jerusalem’s prison. We are told that he sank down into the muck of the cistern up to his armpits. His situation was aggravated by the fact that he apparently received little or no food and water while there. Who would come to his rescue? Was he to die—a prophet of God—in such a miserable way? No, he was not, yet help came from a most unexpected place. An Ethiopian servant in the king’s house went to the king and pleaded with him to allow Jeremiah to be rescued from the cistern. The king amazingly granted his permission in spite of his hatred for Jeremiah. The servant, whose name was Ebed-Melech, promptly pulled Jeremiah out of the cistern and so saved his life. Later, when Jerusalem fell, the LORD saw to it that Ebed-Melech was spared his life when many around him lost theirs! Truly, as Jeremiah states at the end of our text, the LORD “give(s) to every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings!”
My dear friends, this past week we laid to rest the mortal remains of Marjorie Krause. The text for her funeral sermon was John 3:16 and its theme was “Rejoice, for Marj is now in heaven!” Why could I say that so confidently to her mourning family and friends? It was because Marj was led by the Spirit of God to place her trust in Jesus the Son of God! Whom you trust in life and in death makes all the difference in the world!
As stated in the introduction to this sermon, such trust has both temporal and eternal consequences. WHOM DO YOU TRUST? As we look ahead to the upcoming elections, the answer to that question will no doubt play a big role in determining for whom you will vote for the office of President. But in so doing and in connection with everything else in your lives, I would encourage you first to place your trust in the LORD, for it is foolish to put your trust in man, while it is wise to put your trust in the LORD! Amen.