When God sets before you and me a pair of options, be blessed or be cursed, it really should not be hard for us to decide which we want. This is quite often the way that God speaks in Scripture, especially in poetic passages like psalms and Proverbs. God lets us know with simple clarity that one choice will lead to our life while another will lead to our death.
We see one such choice spelled out in Jeremiah 17.
5 Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
6 He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
8 He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
Look at the poetic opposites, the antithetic parallelism. We see a description of the difference between a man who is blessed and one who is cursed. The cursed man is compared to a dying shrub while the blessed man is like a flourishing tree. One lives well. The other meets destruction.
What is the difference in being blessed or cursed? This is a big deal, as knowing this is as important a bit of data as a person can grasp.
- ““Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD” (verse 5).
- “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD” (Verse 7).
Look clearly. Trust in man, and you are cursed. Trust in God, and you are blessed. Trust in your own strength, and you will meet destruction. Trust in the Lord, and you will find life.
All in all, this is the message of the Bible. We are weak. We are sinners. We are incapable of making it to heaven on our own. We are incapable of earning the favor of God through any of our actions. And when we trust in ourselves, our strength, our goodness, our power, our wisdom, we die.
God certainly owes us no explanation for why this is the case. God has every right to choose to save us or destroy us based on his own standards and his own reasoning. But this one is not hard to guess as to why God does things the way that he does. To trust in yourself, to try to do things your way, is for you to make yourself your own master and your own savior. To trust in self is to reject the authority of God over you. To trust in self is to say to your Creator that he must take a back seat to your own wisdom and your own will. This will lead you to death. It is not at all hard to see why trusting in self and walking in our own ways leads to destruction.
What is actually harder to understand is why the Lord would be so gracious to us as to allow us to trust in him for life. God has every right to simply destroy all the universe. God has every right to wipe out humanity and start over. After all, he is Creator. His creation is stained with rebellion from Adam on. But God has always intended to display his glory, not in simply making a perfect creation, but in rescuing from a fallen world a people for his glory. The honor of God is magnified in his choice to have mercy on a people, a people he draws to himself and grants forgiveness when they trust in him and not in self.
In Jeremiah, we see this principle spelled out for national Judah. If the people in the land trust in and follow God, they will be blessed. If they do not, they will be overrun by the Babylonians. But in our lives, the principle is more personal and more eternal. Trust in yourself, live only for yourself, and you will face the right wrath of God. But turn from sin and trust in the Lord by surrendering to Jesus in faith, and you will find eternal life and forever goodness.