Are you cursed or blessed? Thursday, 2nd week in Lent – Jeremiah 17:5-10

We want the undivided attention, affection and loyalty of certain people in our lives and to safeguard them, we seal a deal. When we profess undying love to another, we seal it with the bond of matrimony. When we enter into an agreement with an employer, we seal it with a contract. God loved Israel. He was to be their God and they would be his people. To seal this deal, he entered into a covenant.

Israel, in time, decided to freelance her affections. Yahweh was often traded for another foreign god and his commandments were flouted in his face. He had threatened to punish his beloved-vine, Israel but she just laughed in his face and set off, as we are told in the prophet Hosea, like a prostitute selling herself off at the crossroads. Which spouse would tolerate this? Which husband or wife would not reign down the might of civil suits, damages in restitution, and for good measure call down curses.

Read the text of today’s first reading in this context. The prophet Jeremiah has pleaded with the people of Israel to mend their way and keep his commandments. They were to be his people trusting in him, yet they trusted in their own strength (verse5)

The writing was on the wall. The ‘heat’ (verse 8) of the Babylonian Empire could be felt on their necks. God warned the King and the people not to make an alliance with the Egyptians against the Babylonians but in God they would not trust (see verse 7) because their hearts had turned away from Yahweh (verse 5).

The text of today has a curse and a blessing. Cursed are those who put their trust in men, in their own strength, for they like the shrub in the desert shall live on parched, uninhabited salt land. This is the course that Judah took when they forsake their covenant with Yahweh. THEY CHOSE a curse; God did not pronounce one on them.

They could have chosen a blessing. The blessing is for those who “trust IN the Lord and those whose trust IS the Lord.” Is there a difference? I like to look at those who ‘trust IN the Lord’ as those who place their trust in him for a while. It may be temporary and for a reason. Then there are those whose ‘trust IS the Lord’ and that is when they live every breath trusting him; this is a permanent trust and not just for a reason but in every season.

It is they who allow themselves to be planted by God and not chose the wilderness. It is they that allow God to take the call to plant them by the waterside. God has a purpose that they may not see but they trust in the location that God has picked for them. The results are clear, for this is where they get rooted, this is where the water is free flowing, this is where the heat does not get them, and famine does not destroy them. It clearly teaches us that those close to the Lord are not exempt from heat or famine but having trusted in the place he chose for them, they have no need to ‘fear’ or be ‘anxious.’

Those who are blessed bear fruit, in fact they do not cease to bear fruit even in famine. (verse 8) Jesus in the Gospel of John tells us that when we abide in him (15:4) we bear fruit, more fruit and much fruit but apart from him we can do nothing (15:5). The reading of today ends with Jeremiah explaining to us the reason why Judah eventually chose the curse rather than the blessing. At the heart of the matter, was the matter of their heart. “The heart is devious above all else and it is perverse,” he proclaims. Many are taken in by the romanticized notion of faith and God and may have excellent liturgical expressions that glorify it and celebrate it. God SEARCHES the mind and the heart. He examines it, he checks it, he certifies it and then ‘accords to us, according to the FRUIT of our doing.’ (17:10)


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