Thus says the LORD:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (Jer 17:5-8 NKJV)
The Vulgate Latin version renders it, “myrice”: and so the Latin interpreter of the Targum; but the word that paraphrase makes use of according to R. Hai, mentioned by Kimchi, signifies something that is thorny without, and eatable within; but this is not likely to be intended here. The Septuagint version renders it, “wild myrice”; it seems to be the same that is called “erice”, or “ling”, and “heath”; which delights to grow in wild and waste places; hence such with us are called “heaths”, whether this grows upon them or not. It is a low shrub, fruitless and useless; and, because neither bears fruit nor seed, is reckoned by Pliny among unhappy plants, and such as are condemned or forbid religious uses; and very fit to represent such persons as truest in men and in themselves, and not in the Lord:
Basil, whom the Catholics and Orthodox calls the Great, said, “Think again of the double life of the tamarisk; it is an aquatic plant, and yet it covers the desert.” What the ancient helps to point to is the clear comparison of those that trust in the flesh and those that trust in God. We have a tamarisk, something that should not be in the desert, but readily makes it home there. It has no roots and no supportl; it is literally born to die. The righteous man, however, the righteous man he is seen as a stout tree, something that is planted by the source of health, and is born to live.
So many times, we find ourselves in a desert land not because we got lost, but because we were led astray by those that we put our trust in. People, saints, those that crave water and need water (Spirit) to live, find themselves in the desert, a place that they do not belong. Some choose to stay there, perhaps out of apathy, while others stay in the desert out of pride.
I grew up at a Church in Louisiana in which we were led to put our trust only in the man behind the pulpit. When this man fell, so did my faith. Instead of having my trust in God, my faith was in flesh and thus I found myself in a desert place, left in the hot burning sun, near burning, and craving water. This is not to say that we do not need pastors and ministers, but they cannot save us. We trust them in as far as they follow God, yet our faith is not in the man or the position, but in God who called them. But then, for that man, he positioned himself as the sole arbiter of Truth. He chose to instill in us a separation that wedged us from the body of Christ so that his ego might be sustained.
So, he brought us into the desert and would have left us there, but for the grace of God who called us and gave this man’s congregation a second chance.
I had friends (yes, I actually had friends) that were not in Church, professing or non-professing, and I quickly followed them into those things that I should not have done. In college… well, I was a somewhat typical college student. I sought friendship and companionship above the things of God. I found myself always falling and failing. I never got my head on right and ruined some wonderful opportunities. I did things that declared openly my allegiance to flesh and each time, I lost the battle.
But when I began to trust in God, and place my faith in Him alone, I began really traveling with God. I was actually able to plant some roots and to begin to flourish, not just with my family and professional life but first and foremost with God.
If you are in a desert place, the first thing you have to do is to call out to God. Don’t worry about examining how you got there, but just get out. Did your friends lead you there? (Or did you follow them there?) Did you blindly trust the man, forgetting that God had to be followed first, and only faith in God inspires the man? Who cares, as long as you get out.
And when you do, if God allows you, then stay where you are planted, grow there, thrive there, serve God there.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
(Psa 92:12-13 KJVA)