Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Proper nourishment for the roots

The thing about scripture is that it is always getting to the root of things. (Heb. 4:12-13). This is obvious once you understand that (1) God is concerned with the root of your heart's worship, and (b) from the root springs the fruit, either good or bad. For this reason Jesus constantly hounded the Pharisees for their religious practices, which sprang from unbelieving, unrepentant hearts. This is also why God rejected the sacrifices of His people in Jeremiah: outwardly they gave lip-service to God, but inwardly they loved their sins.

It is not surprising then that the Bible teaches us much about the root problems and their effects. Sometimes it even mentions roots specifically, which is a double-win. We should pay attention here. One of those "let's-talk-about-roots-for-real" places is in Jeremiah 17. Drawing off of Psalm 1, Jeremiah paints a picture of two different roots; an antithesis, if you will. First, the bad root:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes his flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 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. (Jer. 17:5-6).
That the curse springs from man's trust in his own flesh (as opposed to in the Lord) is fairly obvious here, but the nature of things is clearer once we see the curse in relation to the blessing. Jeremiah continues:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is in the Lord. 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 the drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jer. 17:7-8).
What we have here is an explanation of the relationship between a person's root and the fruit thereof. One is a curse, the other is a blessing. And as it always is with roots, there's not much middle ground.

All of this, of course, can be traced back to the ages-old battle against self-idolatry. Either we are rooted in God, the fountain of living water, or we are rooted in ourselves, a parched place of wilderness. A life rooted in the fountain of living water will continually be a blessing to those around it, even in times of distress. The leaves remain green, and the fruits of the Spirit keep growing. There is nothing that can destroy the man whose roots are planted in the living waters of Christ. Nothing. The man who trusts in himself, however, worships himself as his own provider. He will become a shrub in the desert, a blessing to no one. Eventually he will wither and die.

This is a promise and a blessing. The blessing comes from the Lord, and it is promised to those who plant their roots in Him, the fountain of living water. We would be foolish to plant our roots elsewhere.

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