“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes 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.”
When my own heart turns away from the Lord, it turns away for moments or hours at a time. A temptation will come calling, and in the crucible of desire, I lean to my own understanding. I turn away from the Lord because His ways—love, patience, self-control—seem scary and suicidal of the things I believe I need to make life worth living. Instead I choose the way of controlling outcomes. (It never has worked.)
Here is the curse that follows forays into turning away from God: I become like a shrub in the desert. A shrub in the desert is a pretty dry existence. It is mere existence, not living. On the scale of sentient life forms, the desert shrub is toward the bottom of the rung. In one’s unhappiness, one may think a new house or job or town will help. But geographical cure for malaise is to no avail. Wherever one goes, one finds oneself in places of no life and no fellowship.
“He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.”
Tragically, the person who turns away from God “shall not see any good come.” The pronouncement is intriguingly ambiguous. Does it mean that no good will come? Or does it mean that even when good comes, the person does not perceive it? God gives her a good job, or a beautiful child, or an excellent husband, but she does not see the gift they are because rather than being thankful she indulges in worry.
Continuing in the passage, the Lord invites such a person to a new life:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.”
No longer a desert shrub, the person who turns to the Lord …
“… 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.”
It is a life so tied in to God’s own life that the vicissitude of shifting fortunes cannot shake it.