The Bible talks a lot about how God blesses those who follow the path of righteousness. In passages like Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17, we’re told that the one who trusts in God will be blessed. But when I look at the world, it seems that, more often than not, the good guy loses. Meanwhile, the deceptive seem to win. I'm going to ask a risky question: Why trust God when the wicked prosper? And how do I seek God’s blessing in a world that feels unjust?
It is this precise issue that Jeremiah the prophet addresses in the book of Jeremiah 17:5–13. Writing in the late seventh century and early sixth century BC, to the southern kingdom of Israel (called Judah), Jeremiah teaches us three things about how to seek God’s blessing.
Echoing Psalm 1, Jeremiah provides a principle of how things should work.
This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD. 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.
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, 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” (Jeremiah 17:5–8 NIV).
Those who trust in people (flesh) over God will find themselves withering away in a desert. But the one who trusts in God will be like a tree with deep roots. That one's roots go all the way to the stream, so that no matter what may come his or her way, there is a stream of water to draw upon. In drought, the one who trusts in Yahweh will endure.
Jeremiah explains that God knows the hearts of those who trust in the ways of culture.
“I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.
“Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay are those who gain riches by unjust means. When their lives are half gone, their riches will desert them, and in the end they will prove to be fools” (Jeremiah 17:9–11 NIV).
God sees the injustices. While many may be deceived, God knows. Trusting in God also means trusting in his knowledge of the injustices.
Furthermore, riches will desert us in the end. While our culture may prioritize material gain—at nearly any cost—God does not. And justice will come to those who exploit others in their journey to so-called success.
Jeremiah tells us that those who trust in Yahweh are putting their trust in the true "place of sanctuary ... the hope of Israel ... the spring of living water” (Jeremiah 17:12–13).
Blessings are intended for those who trust in God. Those who seek the path of deception or exploitation should experience the bareness of their decisions. But we’re still left with a problem: Why, then, does the world not work that way? Yet that could be the wrong question. Jesus would suggest that what’s needed to understand God’s blessings—and how to seek them—is a different perspective.
Blessing can come in material gain, positions of authority, and relationships, but blessing is first and foremost the deep well of relationship with God. This is at least what Jesus believed. Jesus says,
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 6:20–23 NIV).
Jesus' view of the blessed life should confront us. It demands that we reevaluate what blessing means. The poor are blessed because they will receive the kingdom of God. The hungry may be hungry now, but they will be filled by God. Those who weep and mourn will laugh in the end.
God’s blessing is about realizing here and now that while the world may favor the deceptive and greedy that God will make all things right in the end (see Revelation 21). This means changing our view of what it means to be blessed. It means learning to be a blessing.
Jesus and Jeremiah both call us to trust in God to provide the blessing. Pick any of Jesus' sermons and you find echoes of this. Jesus’ life also demonstrates this. Jesus did not look to the praise of people, wealth, or power for blessing. Jesus looks to God the Father. Jesus proved, in how he lived, that God's blessing—even when all hope seems lost—comes to those who seek righteousness. There is nothing that shows this more than the hope of resurrection on the other side of death on a cross.
This is why Jesus lovingly looks at the Rich Young Ruler and says, “One thing you lack. ... Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mark 10:21). The Rich Ruler, like the people Jeremiah addressed, had placed trust in the wrong place.
To seek God’s blessing, we must place trust in God—in belief that he will make all things right—and we must act as if we really believe what we say. That means self-sacrificially answering the call of justice for the poor, the hungry, and those who weep. It means having resurrection hope with a willingness to give of any and every resource that God has provided to better our world. We are blessed to bless.
Are you too trusting in your wealth and security? I ask you now to change that. What do you need to give up and trust God with. Consider it practically: is it wealth, a relationship, even an occupation? What are you prioritizing over God?
My challenge to you is to place your trust in Yahweh and watch him bless what he calls you to do. In this life, or in the day that he makes all things new (Revelation 21), we will see it. Blessed is the one who trusts in God.