We live in the desert.
Hot and dry, our part of West Africa is home to large areas of salt flats. The salt flats are natural, flat expanses of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white while the sun pounds down. There are random bushes, a few birds and generally a bloated carcass or two.
During our rainy season, you can’t cross the flats because water from the ocean floods back across them and makes a treacherous mush of mud, salt and sand. But as the rains end and the Harmattan trade winds blow over our country from the Sahara Desert, the salt flats become dry and passable once again.
For the most part, the flats remain empty, barren and rarely seen.
Few people attempt to live or work in the flats, instead seeking areas with better access to fresh water, farmable land and food resources.
Recently while reading, I realized that the salt flats are in the Bible. The words spoke volumes to me because I could so vividly picture the disparity between the two pictures Jeremiah is describing.
The first picture is found in Jeremiah 17:5-6 where we read about these areas of salt land.
5 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.
6 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.
And these parched places of the desert do indeed seem to be cursed. They are dry, uninhabitable and dangerous. The fact that Jeremiah describes a person to be like the salt flats is worth a second look.
This person trusts in man, draws strength from flesh, inwardly turns from the Lord, and can’t see good things around him.
Now, if we read a little farther in Jeremiah 17:7-8, we will see the second picture.
7 “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
8 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.”
Again, it is the last phrase that catches my eyes. There is a drastic difference between the salt land and bearing fruit.
The plant described in the salt land is a bush. We’ve learned since coming to the desert that a tree without water or pruning or nutrients will stay just a bush. But if this same bush had water, pruning and nutrients, it could grow into a great big tree.
A blessed tree that can dig deep roots, stay green during drought, and bear fruit all with no worries.
I don’t know about you but I do not want to live in the salt flats. I don’t want to inhabit a discouraging, dry, dusty place filled with disappointment.
Yet, sometimes I choose to be there. Sometimes I choose control, faith in things I can see and negativity. Sometimes I choose the bush over the tree.
How do we live in that second picture?
How do we become the well-watered, deep-rooted, blessed tree?
How do we learn to live with no fear, no worries and always bearing fruit?
It boils down to trust. It means giving up control with full confidence in the God who loves us.
In my Bible, I have Deuteronomy 33:26-27, 29 written in the margin.
26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides across the heavens to help you
and on the clouds in his majesty.
27 The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
29 Blessed are you, Israel!
Who is like you,
a people saved by the Lord?
He is your shield and helper
and your glorious sword.
We can trust this God. There is no one like Him. He rides across the heavens to help us. He is a refuge with arms strong beneath us. He is our shield, helper and glorious sword.
But catch what verse 29 says, “Blessed are you… Who is like YOU, a people saved by the Lord?”
Not only is there no one like God but also there is no one like His children! There is something very special and unique about being His. There is something amazing and telling about the blessing surrounding those who He saves, a real blessing that the world can see. Truly, there is nothing like it.
Yet, often, we still choose to live in the salt flats. We keep living in the dry, defeated, and dangerous place of trying to maintain control of everything by ourselves.
I desperately want to choose the blessing, the remarkable state of digging deep roots with no fear while bearing all kinds of beautiful Kingdom fruit. I want to accept the pruning and the good nutrients that will help me grow. I want to live in the blessing of being a child of God.
Even more than that, I want people to say, “Who is like you?” and see Jesus at work in me.
Do you find yourself living in the salt flats or by the water these days?
How is your identity as God’s child impacting your peace and vitality?