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May 13, 2023: Haftorah - Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

This week's Haftorah reading is from Jeremiah 16:19-17:14. Join Dr. Jeffery Myers as he helps illustrate the vivid descriptions of two symbolic trees that the prophet Jeremiah uses to depict the difference between a lack of trust and trust in ELOHIM!

Follow along in the AUDIO PODCAST, by clicking on the play button below, and reading along with the notes, as you listen to today's Haftorah Portion:

Lion of Judah Speaks: Haftorah Portion – Jeremiah 16:19-17:14

In this haftorah let’s focus on Jeremiah 17:5-10 verse by verse. The Book of Jeremiah has a reputation for prophecies of doom and gloom, but these messages are offset with equally positive words which we certainly don’t want to overlook. We find an interesting example of this fact in the prophet’s simile of two trees. He draws a vivid picture of the difference between a lack of trust and trust in Elohim—using two symbolic trees as examples. Jeremiah 17:5 says. ‘Thus said Elohim; Cursed be the man that trusted in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departed from Adonai.” “Cursed be the man that trusted in man.” When we set our hope for success, protection and wealth on a man or ourselves rather than Elohim it leads to a curse. Israel had forsaken Elohim by entering into military alliance with pagan nations, an act compared to abandoning fresh springs of water in order to dig a faulty, useless well that retains no liquid. We see that this was one of the reasons for the Babylonian exile. We cannot stop Elohim’s punishment for our disobedience by aligning ourselves with the enemy…we will be doomed to fail.

Jeremiah himself had been warned by Elohim not to trust the people in his own hometown, even his own relatives, for they were plotting against him and would come under the punishment of Elohim. Where is our alliance? Who do we trust? Jeremiah 17:5 continues by saying, “And makes flesh his arm.” The arm is a symbol of strength, flesh a designation for man, therefore: “Cursed be the man that trusted in man, and seeks strength in man.” Man and flesh stand in parallel, as do trusting and arm. Jeremiah 17:5 continues, “And whose heart departed from Adonai.” The Hebrew is “to turn off or away from.” Wow…can you imagine “turning off” your heart from our Creator? So, now in Jeremiah 17:6, he makes his first analogy: “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.” We see that shrubs in the desert barely cling to life and when faced with desert winds they soon die. A dead tree in the desert cannot experience the goodness of rain, neither can a cursed man who trusts not in Adonai see when good comes from Elohim. His fate is to remain dead in a parched and salt waste.

The prophet compares the one who turns away from trusting Elohim to a stunted shrub—not a full-grown tree, but a “bush in the wastelands” that can never flourish in its harsh environment. We see that Jeremiah points to 4 reasons this “tree” will not grow: it is in infertile soil, it suffers from a lack of water, it suffers temperature extremes, its growth is stunted by salinity. This picture accurately portrays factors that limit plant growth. This tree will not see “tov” of any kind.

In Jeremiah 17:7-8, we see the contrast, “But blessed is the one who trusts in Adonai, whose confidence is in Him. They will be like 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.” This tree, Jeremiah tells us by means of multiple Hebrew idioms, is “planted by the water” (an idiom for nourishment), spreads its “roots” (an idiom for family members or descendants), and does not fear when heat comes (an idiom for persecution or affliction). Its leaves are always green (an idiom for health), it has no worries in “drought” (an idiom for times of need), and it never fails to produce fruit (an idiom for both descendants and also for good success in life). What a difference trust makes! The man who trusts in Adonai has no need to seek anything else from any other source.

Jeremiah’s simple analogies are based on profound truths. The prophet does not compare righteousness and unrighteousness, good and evil, or make any broad general comparisons. Instead, he focuses purely on the matter of trust and tells us that the life that does not include trust in Elohim will always be limited and will not flourish and grow abundantly. However, Jeremiah’s two trees also are a symbolic study in spiritual contrast, just like the two trees Genesis tells us grew in the Garden of Eden. The two trees teach us that spiritually, we only grow to the extent that we learn to trust Elohim. As believers that seek transformation, we tend to look to spiritual exercises such as prayer and study as our primary means of growth. But Jeremiah reminds us that spiritual growth is not just based on activities, but on actively and continually increasing our trust and faith this is the one who gains growth.

Jeremiah 17:9-12 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, Adonai search the heart, test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.” We most often translate this as teaching that the human heart is by nature sinful and that even though a man may be “born again”, yet his sinful heart still remains wicked. Is this a correct interpretation? Let’s look at this from several angles: 1. What does the original Hebrew text say? Could this be translated differently? 2. Once we are confident about the translation, could the statement be understood in more than one way? Are we being influenced by other ideas? 3. What does the immediate text say? We should not pluck this verse from the surrounding context. Our interpretation must fit in with what Jeremiah is speaking about in the overall passage. 4. Is the interpretation consistent with the overall teaching of the Bible? Jeremiah could be speaking only of the wicked and not the righteous. It could be true that the deceitfulness, bent-less or wickedness has resulted not from the nature of the heart, but rather from persistent choices to do evil and refusal to obey Adonai.

We see in Jeremiah 17:7 what appears to be a variation of Psalms 1, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Adonai…”. We see that a contrast is being made by Jeremiah 17:7 and Jeremiah 17:9. The man who trusts Adonai will be blessed and be fruitful. However, the human heart is deceitful—we don’t even understand our own motives and desires. Therefore, we need to trust in Adonai because He does understand the heart. In fact, He searches our hearts and deals with us according to what is there.

The main point of what Yeshua is teaching here is that we must trust Adonai. Only as we abide in Him, are we able to escape the deception that arises from relying on the independent human heart and for its wickedness to be healed. Jeremiah is not saying anything about human nature nor is he saying that all hearts are wicked; he is saying that the human heart that is alienated from Elohim is sick and unreliable. Paul tells us that “all have sinned”, so it is true that everyone has experienced this corruption of the heart. However, the Bible teaches clearly that Elohim will give us a new heart and that as we trust in Adonai; we are being freed from this corrupt heart. The work of Yeshua makes us a new man! A heart that follows after Yah. He has given us a new heart and put a new spirit within us; He has taken away our heart of stone and given us a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). If you find yourself still struggling with the old heart…Repent and take hold of the provision that Yeshua made on the cross for you. There is no need to live with a wicked heart. Be the tree planted by the waters…it’s time to yield fruit.

Shabbat Shalom Mishpocha,

Join us every Wednesday night at 7 pm for Bible study and every Saturday at 11 am for Sabbath service at:

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Walk in the power of His glory! Plant your tree beside the streams of living water so that you can be fruitful and become like Yeshua! Have a blessed and sweet Sabbath.

See you at the altar!

Shalom Aleichem

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