Be-Har and Be-Hukkotai
For the week of May 15, 2004 / 24 Iyar 5764
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 25:1 - 27:34
Haftarah: Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14
Originally published the week of May 4, 2002 / 22 Iyar 5762

Thriving in Hard Times

But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He 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 (Jeremiah 17:7,8).

Jeremiah provides us with a beautiful illustration of the results of trusting in God. Those familiar with the Scriptures would immediately see the parallel between this passage and the first Psalm. Both passages speak of a tree planted by water, but Jeremiah's illustration includes a thought not found in the Psalm:

It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8).

The Psalm speaks of a healthy tree bearing fruit in season. This is a good thing. Bearing fruit out of season could be a problem. But Jeremiah's tree bears fruit in drought. It is able to do so because of the depth of its roots. The threat of drought is not an issue to this tree, because it is not dependant on the normal supply of rain other trees depend on.

Not only does this tree survive drought, which may seem good enough, it actually bears fruit in harsh times. While other trees are dying, this one not only survives, but thrives. It doesn't just stand, but it gives life to others.

This is what a person who trusts in God is like. Whatever hardships may come, a person who trusts in God benefits others. It is in difficult circumstances that we see what we have been depending on, whether it be ourselves, others, or God. When the heat is on, it becomes evident where we have been sending our roots.

This picture of a tree helps us to see that the trust being referred to here is something lived out over time. Many plants can be planted and harvested within one season, but a tree takes years to grow and bear fruit. Some reduce faith in God into some quick little decision made in a time of crisis as if that alone ensures salvation. That is not to say that faith cannot begin with such a decision. We all need to start somewhere. But becoming someone who will bless others in times of difficulty is something that is developed over years of trusting God in all sorts of circumstances.

At first we may not possess this kind of confidence. Each time we face a difficulty, we choose between putting our trust in God or in other things. As we trust God and find him faithful, we are more ready to face the next challenge. But if each time life gets tough, we primarily look to ourselves, others, or other things for help, then when great difficulty comes we will wither.

According to Jeremiah this tree doesn't fear the coming heat or the year of drought. Why should it? It rests secure, knowing where its roots go. As we get to know God, putting our confidence in him, we will find a security begin to emerge in ourselves, so that we too can thrive amidst great hardships.

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