Trusting Trees Rooted in God

Trusting Trees Rooted in God

While we’re still on hiatus from studying Moses, I thought it might be helpful to reflect upon the importance of trusting God as we prepare to embark on a new calendar year. Scripture speaks of trust in many ways but I want to focus on the image of a tree planted by water introduced by Jeremiah for, ultimately, the water offered us by our gracious Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is able to quench our spiritual thirst by enabling us to trust in him and thereby gives us strength.

In verse 7 of Jeremiah 17, he states, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” The “but” is there because in verses 5 and 6 Jeremiah presents a picture of the opposite of verse 17, stating “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” So we see that the one who trusts in man and turns away from the LORD is essentially lost. They are cursed. They are but “a bush in the wastelands” dwelling in “the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.” But the one who trusts in the LORD, being blessed, will experience the opposite of all of these.

Now to trust is to “believe in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of.” So if we trust in the LORD, then we’re believing in his reliability; we’re believing in his truth; we’re believing in his ability; we’re believing his strength. And, as Jeremiah notes, if we trust in the LORD, we are blessed. We are “endowed with divine favor and protection.” This is so because by trusting in the LORD, we’re committing our way to him; we’re seeking to live by the teaching he has left us in his Word, the Old and New Testament Scriptures that have been preserved for us. This is what it means to place our “confidence…in him.” Therefore, should someone tell us to do something that goes contrary to his Word, we are to reject it lest we become “cursed” like the one who “trusts in man” and “turns away from the LORD.” Our trust and confidence in the LORD should be so strong that we ever embrace the truth that his way, the way that he who made us has revealed to us in his Word, is the best way for us to live.

Such a blessed one who trusts in the LORD and places their confidence in him “will be like,” verse 8, “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.” Placing our trust and confidence in God makes it possible to persevere in life, come what may, for our hope is rooted in him who is ever-faithful and never-changing. Such a one can join with the psalmist in proclaiming, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”[1] This knowledge that the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth will ever be with us is what makes it possible for us “not [to] fear when heat comes” but instead grow “leaves [that] are always green;” this knowledge that the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth will ever be with us is what makes it possible for us to have “no worries in a year of drought” and “never [fail] to bear fruit.”

Now notice that Jeremiah doesn’t say that trusting and placing our confidence in the LORD means that we’ll never go through difficult times. No, difficult times, painful times, times of hardship tragically are part and parcel of earthly life since the time of the Fall. Therefore not even those who trust and place their confidence in God are spared these. No, the difference that trusting and placing our confidence in God makes is that we’re able to draw from his strength, from the stream of water that he provides, of which he is the source. Such a one, such a tree, “has no worries”—not even “in a year of drought.”

But how can this be? Doesn’t a tree without water end up dying? What is more, how is it possible that such a drought-afflicted tree “never fails to bear fruit”? These things are possible because of the tree’s access to the stream of water by way of its deep roots. In other words, Jeremiah is pointing out that it’s our connection to God, our union with him, that makes it possible to “have no worries” even in a time of drought. It’s our connection to God, our union with him, that makes it possible not only to survive but to thrive—to bear fruit under such conditions. The life-giving water that God provides is what makes flourishing possible even in the midst of such extenuating circumstances.

Jesus taught the very same thing concerning himself using similar arboreal imagery. As recorded in the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, he declared,

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.[2]

Our connection with and attachment to God, that is, our connection with and attachment to Jesus, is what makes it possible for us to bear much fruit. Such a union with Christ is what demonstrates that we are his disciples. Such a union is the only way we’re able to do anything that is pleasing to him; such a union is the only way we’re able to give glory to our Father in heaven. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul provides a partial list of the fruit that Christ-followers are enabled to and ought to bear: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[3] But, again, because these fruit are the fruit of God’s Spirit, they are only able to flourish among those who have believed and received Christ who then sends his Holy Spirit to seal[4] and indwell them.[5]

But Jesus spoke of himself not only as the vine who is the life of the branches who are attached to him, but also as life-giving water. As recorded in the fourth chapter of John’s Gospel, one day he, being tired from a journey, sat down by a well around noon—this well was called Jacob’s well being located on a plot of land that Jacob had given his son Joseph.[6] But next we see that, contrary to convention, Jesus asked a woman from Samaria for a drink from the well.[7] She responded by pointing out how unusual his request was, saying to him, verse 9, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?”—and, in case we missed it, John adds parenthetically, “For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.” She was right. No self-respecting Jewish man (or woman, for that matter) would have had any dealings with a Samaritan for Samaritans were Jews whose faith was viewed as being compromised due to their intermarrying with non-Jewish believers. Yet out of his love for this woman, Jesus continued to engage with her saying, verse 10, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” Hmmm. Let’s follow what just happened: Jesus asked this woman for water to slack his thirst but then told her that he is able to give her living water.

Understandably, she was confused as indicated in her reply, verses 11–12, “11 Sir,…you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Now having her full attention, Jesus responded with the words recorded in verses 13–14 read for us earlier in the service: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” As an inveterate water-drinker who ever keeps a glass of water nearby, I find what Jesus states here mesmerizing. I keep a water glass by me because I’m often thirsty. Yet the water Jesus offered the Samaritan woman isn’t the H2O kind that we need to constantly replenish to remain hydrated. No, the water he offered her is qualitatively different because, first, if we drink from the water he gives, we “will never thirst.” We will be forever sated and satisfied. But, second, the water Jesus offers does more than simply sate our spiritual thirst. As he tells this Samaritan woman, the water he gives “will become in [us] a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Therefore, not only does the water Jesus give satisfy us but it will also multiply—and grow—and well up into a spring of eternal life! Such water will uphold us as our souls drink deeply from it, like the tree planted by water spoken of by Jeremiah; such water will allow us not to fear when the heat comes, allowing our leaves to remain ever green; such water will allow us not to worry for not even in a year of drought will we fail to bear fruit.

But wait—there’s more! In the seventh chapter of John, Jesus connects the life-giving water he so graciously and generously gives with the Holy Spirit he sent after having died, risen from death, and ascended to heaven. As recorded in verses 37–39 of John 7, “37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” As Jesus offered the woman from Samaria water that, should she receive it, would result not only in her never thirsting but also becoming “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14), so now did he declare and offer to “anyone” at the festival. “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.” If “anyone” comes to Jesus, that is, if anyone believes in Jesus, then “as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[8] Again, this is the very thing he had told the Samaritan woman. But this time John connects the dots by explaining that these “rivers of living water” that “will flow from within” refer to none other than the Holy Spirit who, at that time, was yet to come on the Pentecost celebration recorded in the second chapter of the Book of Acts. Ever since that Pentecost celebration when God’s Holy Spirit was first given to followers of Jesus in order that they mighty continue his work on earth as it is in heaven, this very Holy Spirit continues to be given to anyone who believes in Jesus, accepting him as their Savior and LORD. By this very Spirit, we too are enabled to continue Jesus’ work on earth as it is in heaven.

Now for those of us living this side of heaven, we need the Holy Spirit’s “rivers of living water” to “flow from within” in order that we might be like the tree spoken of by Jeremiah. For God’s Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to have ever-green leaves and “not fear when heat comes;” God’s Holy Spirit is the one who enables us to never fail to bear fruit even in a year of drought. This union with Christ by his Holy Spirit is what brings us blessing, his divine favor and protection, as we trust in the LORD and place our confidence in him. God’s indwelling Holy Spirit, sent by Christ to those who believe in him, is the one who enables us to thrive and flourish through thick and thin.

But in the Book Revelation John also speaks of a future vision given him by God. As recorded in Revelation 7:9–10, this future vision is of “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’” To these who were clothed in the robes of righteousness given them by Christ, it was said, verses 16–17, “16 ‘Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them,’[9] nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’[10] ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’[11]” This future joyous vision of Christ-followers finishes spelling out the destiny and final deliverance of those who trust in God for:

although this side of heaven, we’re enabled by Christ’s Holy Spirit to trust and place our confidence in him;

although this side of heaven, we’re enabled by Christ’s Holy Spirit to be “like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream” that doesn’t fear “when heat comes” and whose “leaves are always green;”

although this side of heaven, we’re enabled by Christ’s Holy Spirit to have no worries “in a year of drought and never [fail] to bear fruit,”

one day all who have believed in and received Christ will not only never again thirst, but neither will they ever again hunger. The sun will no longer “beat down on them nor any scorching heat” because our dear Jesus, the Lamb sent by the Father to take away the sins of the world;[12] the Lamb who, after he was slain having taken upon himself the punishment for our sins rose from death, now lives forevermore. And it is he who will be our shepherd.[13] It is he who will not only lead us “to springs of living water” but will also “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes.”[14]

Dear brothers and sisters, trusting in the truth of what God has disclosed to us in his Word is how we can become trusting trees who are rooted in him. Therefore, let us this morning and always trust in him; let us this morning and always

believe in his reliability;

believe in his truth;

believe in his ability to carry out what he has promised;

believe in his strength.

For if we do these things, we will be blessed; if we do these things we’ll be endowed with his favor and protection.

We’ll be like that tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream, having ever-green leaves and not fearing even when heat comes. Even in a year of drought, we’ll never fail to bear fruit for God’s Holy Spirit, the source of rivers of living water, will flow from within us for by his Spirit we are united to Christ Jesus, eternal Son of God, who so generously and graciously provides his life-giving water both now and forevermore!

Let us pray.

Benediction: Philippians 4:4–7:Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

[1] Psalm 121:1–2.

[2] John 15:5–8.

[3] Galatians 5:22–23. Conversely, those who don’t have the Spirit of God may yield to the flesh and produce its fruits as listed in Galatians 5:19–21: 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

[4] Ephesians 1:13–14: 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

[5] 1 Corinthians 6:19–20: 19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

[6] John 4:4–6: Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

[7] John 4:7–8:When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

[8] As noted in the Reformation ESV Study Bible note on John 7:38: “What follows is not an exact quotation from the Old Testament, but there are several Old Testament passages that connect water with the end-time gift of the Spirit…and the blessings of the present (messianic) age.” References provides are: Isaiah 44:3: For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.; Ezekiel 36:25–27: 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.; Isaiah 12:3: With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.; Isaiah 58:11: The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

[9] Isaiah 49:10: They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

[10] Isaiah 49:10: They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

[11] Isaiah 25:8: he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.

[12] John 1:29: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

[13] John 10:11, 14–15: 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….” 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep;” See also Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

[14] See also Revelation 21:5–8: He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”