Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

Do We always Rightly Divide the Word of Truth?


Jeremiah 17:5-8  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 Curse and The Blessing

In reading this passage without looking at context, I would assume that if we trust in the Lord things should go well in this life.  If we trust in men things are not likely to go well with us.  Now we all trust in men for some things.  We trust our auto mechanics, our dentists, our doctors, our lawyers and we should be able to trust our parents, our friends and the elders and deacons in our congregations.  But I think that trusting in this verse has to do with worship since those who trust in men have hearts that depart from the Lord.  Here the trust in man seems to be in opposition to trusting in the Lord.


But even if we understand that trusting in the Lord is the trust that means we worship Him and that trusting in man is a trust that is substituted for trust in the Lord, how can we explain martyrs and the persecuted church today?  Why are those who have left all to follow the Lord persecuted and not prospering?


Usual Explanations

I asked my friends for help with this problem.  Maybe these verses are only a problem for me because most of the people that I thought would have good answers didn’t even try to answer this question.   Others spiritualized their answer.  That is, they basically felt that martyrs were having an inner joy and peace that we don’t know about.  It is also true that down through the years, martyrs have often been the means of spreading the Gospel.  They didn’t see the results of their dedication but those following them did.  So the fruit that didn’t cease for them was for eternity and not necessarily for the here and now.  And that is how I have looked at this promise over the years.  Yet, when reading the promise, it seems that whether the fruit is practical or spiritual, it still should be fruit in this life.  A righteous person should be like a tree planted by the waters and should not cease bearing fruit. 


New Testament Promises

The New Testament promises to the righteous do not seem to be the same as this Old Testament promises.  Following the Lord involves a cross which is a place of death to this world.  That place of death is spiritual for all as well as literal for many.   The Lord says in the world we will have tribulation, but to be of good cheer because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).  Even in trying circumstances, He will give us peace.  Many religious leaders and politicians want us to put all of our hopes in them but those who want us to follow them rather than to the Lord are charlatans, wolves and Antichrists.  Revelation 13 describes one such man who is going to come on the scene after the rapture of the church.  He will be both a religious leader and a politician.  People do follow men even today to their shame and ultimate eternal destruction. Mobs followed religious leaders in the Lord’s day and they cried for the Lord’s crucifixion.  But following the Lord does not necessarily bring blessing in this life. That was even true for King David in Psalm 37 and for Asaph in Psalm 73.  The blessings of the true believer are eternal.  There is an afterwards when it comes to our relationship with the Lord and that afterward is where our reward, our hope, and our Lord is. 


So what is the Interpretation of our Passage?

First of all, the passage is written to the remnant of Judah.  The northern tribes are already in captivity because of their idol worship.  Judah is being promised that if they will worship the Lord as He asks to be worshiped then they will be blessed.  Their blessings will be national and practical. Of course they didn’t do that and they too were taken into captivity.  So the promise is primarily to Judah and not to New Testament Christians.   As we have seen it wasn’t always true individually with Old Testament believers either.  If we assume that trusting in the Lord is going to keep the wind at our back, and that the road is going to always be downhill and that there will be no sickness or illness, and that our children will always be bountiful and will prosper, then I think we are going to be disappointed.  But the Lord will not have failed us; we will just have failed to understand the context of the promise being made.


We can’t take Judah’s physical promises as our own.  But trusting in the Lord for time and for eternity will always bring ultimate blessing and is the right thing to do—even if our cross becomes a literal cross.


Bruce Collins


Meditation for the week of October 29, 2017

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