Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. — Jeremiah 17:7-8
“You are accused of collaborating with the murderer of Dr. Kao . . .”
This bombshell accusation and the consequent deportation was the way the Communists chose to close their dealings with Arthur and Wilda Mathews. Little did they know that this “punishment” was an answer to prayer! These two missionaries, along with their little girl, were among the last of the missionaries to leave China after the Communists assumed control of the country.
The two years leading up to that point were woven through with a pattern of menace and hatred calculated to break the faith and spirit of this godly couple, and spoil their testimony before the watching and wondering Chinese people. Isolated in their bare kitchen in far northwest China on the Tibetan border, they were driven to desperate straits of poverty, and sorely tested on every hand. At home, a faithful band of believers watched and prayed.
In a prayer meeting back on the homefront one morning, one of the women holding them up before God was led to pray, “O Lord, keep their leaf green in times of drought!” God answered that prayer, and the missionaries proved the truth of Jeremiah 17:8. Through days of hardship and suffering, there was an unseen Source of spiritual nourishment. Instead of drying up “when heat cometh,” they learned priceless lessons as they leaned on God.
At a time when their circumstances seemed most desperate, Arthur wrote home, “Our ‘leaf’ does not wither for we are His ‘planting.’ And planting includes a lot of preparation of site with a view to constant supply of water. It means selection of the tree, its type, its maturity, etc. Our planting beside these waters means that for our leaf to wither, there must be a denial by us of supply sources. May that never be true of us!”
Communism may not be the cause of your “drought,” but the specific cause of the drying up of life’s joys is incidental. When the heat comes and our surroundings are dry and desolate, we can find a secret Source of nourishment that the deadly drought cannot reach. God can and will sustain us. Arthur and Wilda Mathews, and many others, have proved that — and we can too!
In this seventh sermon, Jeremiah used the “pen of iron” and “point of a diamond” to illustrate how deeply ingrained Judah’s sins were. Just as diamond tips were used to engrave the toughest surfaces, wickedness had etched itself on the hard hearts of the people of Judah. Jeremiah also stated that Judah’s sins were engraved on the “horns of their altars,” indicating that their sins had become embedded in their religious rituals as well. Because Judah had corrupted the Law and Temple worship with its idolatry, the children were no longer able to recall the appropriate way to honor God, and only had knowledge of the high places and groves where pagan gods were worshiped.
“O my mountain in the field” may have alluded to Jerusalem, which was a mountainous city in the center of Judah. God stated that Judah’s possessions and land would be given as plunder to the invaders, and because the people had angered God with their perpetual sin, they would forfeit the heritage that He had given them and be forced to serve their captors in a strange land.
God emphasized that those who put their trust in man rather than God were like a parched shrub (heath) in the barren desert, referring to Judah’s dependence on other nations rather than turning their hearts to God. In contrast, God said He would bless those who put their trust and hope in Him. They would be as well-watered trees with deep roots, and in difficult times, they would not be overwhelmed or anxious, but would continuously bear fruit.
Jeremiah referred to a familiar proverb regarding a partridge which stole the eggs of another bird and nested on them until they were hatched, after which the hatchlings deserted the partridge in favor of their true mother. Jeremiah paralleled this proverb with those who had obtained their wealth unjustly, stating that their ill-acquired wealth would desert them, leaving them to be counted as fools.
Jeremiah declared that the lofty Throne of God was the true place of sanctuary for the people of Judah, and all who forsook God, the hope of Israel, would be obliterated like writing in the dust. Jeremiah appealed to God for vindication from the onslaught of those who doubted his words, stating that he had not fled from the task of delivering the words that God had given him, nor had he desired to hasten the calamity declared on his people. Affirming that God was his hope in time of trouble, Jeremiah pleaded with God not to abandon him, and requested that his persecutors be destroyed with “double destruction.”
God told Jeremiah to stand in the gates of Jerusalem and instruct the king and people of Judah to observe the Sabbath as set forth in the Mosaic Law. God had established the Sabbath as a day of physical rest and a time to honor God, but Judah had treated the Sabbath as any other day. Jeremiah’s pleas fell on deaf ears, indicative of Judah’s overall moral decay and rejection of God.
God promised the inhabitants of Jerusalem that if they would “diligently hearken” to His commandment concerning the Sabbath, Jerusalem would continue forever and God would bless the kings and inhabitants of Judah. On the other hand, God warned that if the people of Jerusalem refused to hallow the Sabbath and continued to regard it as any other day, God would “kindle a fire” that would destroy their beloved city.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
A. The condemnation of the prophet
7. The seventh sermon: The sign of the unmarried prophet
d. The description of Judah’s sin (17:1-11)
e. The plea of the prophet for vindication (17:12-18)
f. The petition for Sabbath observance (17:19-27)
(1) The plea for Sabbath observance (17:19-23)
(2) The promise for obedience (17:24-26)
(3) The result of disobedience (17:27)
God was there for the people of Judah who trusted Him, and He will help those who trust Him now. His promises have not changed.