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Jeremiah 17:5-10 - According to the fruit of their doings

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[5] Thus says Yahweh:

Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals

and make mere flesh their strength,

whose hearts turn away from Yahweh.

[6] They shall be like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see when relief comes.

They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land. [ס]

[7] Blessed are those who trust in Yahweh,

whose trust is Yahweh.

[8] They shall be like a tree planted by water,

sending out its roots by the stream.

It shall not fear when heat comes,

and its leaves shall stay green;

in the year of drought it is not anxious,

and it does not cease to bear fruit.

[9] The heart is devious above all else;

it is perverse--

who can understand it?

[10] I Yahweh test the mind

and search the heart,

to give to all according to their ways,

according to the fruit of their doings. [ס]


This is the Old Testament selection to be read aloud on the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. It will precede a singing of Psalm 1, where David wrote: “Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful!” That pair will be followed by a reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Christians, where he wrote: “We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ--whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from Luke, where Jesus told the crowd that which is called “the Beatitudes,” one of which is this: “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.”

There seems to be no reasoning behind the Episcopal Church’s decisions to either number verses or remove the numbers. This song of Jeremiah is one where they have been removed. While this prevents them from changing the numbers to suit their needs [not advisable in divine texts], it becomes confusing to those interpreting the original language [in this case Hebrew] into English for the purpose of study and reflection. For that reason, I have added the numbers in bold type, surrounded by brackets, so no one will think the Episcopal Church did that. I will then refer to the verses by number in my following observations.

In these six verses, five times Jeremiah wrote the name “Yahweh” and five time the NRSV [et al English translation services] has mutated that proper name to a generic “the Lord.” One can only assume that the great fear that keeps Christian owners of Holy Bibles from uttering the proper name of the God they profess to worship is this is the name only allowed to Jewish folk. This is what would be found in the Holy scrolls of the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets. That reasoning must be from demonic possession, because Yahweh did not create clubs of humans to cheer for Him. Yahweh chose souls in human flesh to submit their souls to Him in marriage, so those souls would each and all take on the name of Yahweh, which can be seen as “Israel.” One does not take on the name of “That place in the Mid-East” when one worships “the Lord” one’s soul is afraid to say aloud in a Christian church service.

As a little touch of detail, at the end of verses six and ten are found the mark known as a “semekh.” That is the fifteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet, but it is used as a mark that denotes completion of a “setumah,” which is: “A closed parashah (a section of a book in the Hebrew text of the Tanakh), set apart by a space in the middle of the line of text, with the previous portion ending before the space, and the next portion starting after it.” [Wiktionary] I have added them to show a need for pause, to reflect on that presented as separate.

The NRSV gives the first thirteen verses of Jeremiah 17 the title “Judah’s Sin and Punishment.” My Hebrew reference – BibleHub Interlinear – gives them the title “The Sin and Punishment of Judah.” The first two-plus verses set up this song by stating, “The sin of Judah is written with an iron pen; with a diamond point it is engraved on the tablet of their hearts, and on the horns of their altars, while their children remember their altars and their sacred poles, beside every green tree, and on the high hills, on the mountains in the open country.” This needs to be seen as turning the attention of the after the Epiphany time period to the alternative to a soul having married Yahweh, given birth to His Son Jesus, and entered ministry as one Anointed by Yahweh. Those who do not make this life change are sinners; and, sinners will always pay the price for their rejection of Yahweh in their souls.

Verse three [not read aloud] completes this thought, where Jeremiah spoke as Yahweh, telling all those who had faith they could do no wrong, as the beloved chosen children of Israel, the one’s Moses freed from bondage in Egypt, “Your wealth and all your treasures I will give for spoil as the price of your sin throughout all your territory.” He then condemned them as having any rights to claim favor from Yahweh, by writing, “By your own act you shall lose the heritage that I gave you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.” That “forever fire” is eternal damnation of their souls. Only Yahweh is a forever gift of favor. Wealth in the material realm only lasts until death separates a soul from its dead matter.

In these six verses there is no mention of Judah. That name only appears once in the entire chapter of Jeremiah’s book. The name Jerusalem appears three times, all well beyond the scope of the verses read today. When “Judah” is seen to mean “Praised” or “Let Him Be Praised” [meaning Yahweh] and “Jerusalem” is seen to mean “Teaching Peace” or “In Awe Of Peace,” then everything written in this chapter applies to all people, at all times, as the punishment for sins [those rejecting Yahweh and His Covenant] applies to all people, not just the Jews of Judah. This is why this reading is read during the after the Epiphany time period.

This reading selection from Jeremiah is only scheduled to be read on the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C, with one other possibility being Proper 1, Year C. The problem with that is the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany only occurs when Easter is later in the year [allowing for more than five Sundays after the Epiphany], but there is only a Proper 1 set of readings, when Easter comes early in the year, reducing the period after the Epiphany to less than six. So, the plan is an either or, not a both. So, addressing the punishment of sins is an issue rarely put forth, through this reading from Jeremiah.

Verse five states the proper name “Yahweh” twice. Jeremiah begins by saying, “Thus says Yahweh,” which only a true prophet of Yahweh can state truthfully. Simply by seeing that presence within Jeremiah can the assumption be made that Jeremiah was not a sinner, because Yahweh spoke through him. To then follow up that statement of divine possession by saying, “cursed the man who trusts in mankind [“ha-adam”], this says “a man cursed” is not possessed by Yahweh. Instead, those souls have put their faith in themselves or others like them. For Jeremiah then speak as Yahweh, saying “flesh is the strength [that mankind counts on, which] puts Yahweh out of their heart,” the aspect of “heart” [“lib·bōw,” from “leb”] is the love that marries a soul [“leb” means “inner self”] to Yahweh. It is thus divine marriage to Yahweh’s Spirit that possesses the non-sinners, allowing Yahweh to speak through them. The “curse” placed on “man” is the same self-inflicted “curse” that Cain took, when he rejected Yahweh and killed his brother Abel.

Verse six then has Jeremiah speaking still as Yahweh, when he compares the souls of those who place their faith in the abilities of the flesh to bring them great rewards [rejecting the promise of salvation from marriage to Yahweh]. That is said to be like a shrub that grows from the soil [earth, ergo the dust and clay of “flesh”], which is dependent on rainfall to grow [another natural element of the earth – water]. This dependence on self or other selves will always lead to a “wilderness” environment, where the lack of inner emotions [the dew of heaven] will “parch” one’s soul, making life on earth become a “desert” condition. The use of “salt” [from “mə·lê·ḥāh”] means the “land” [more metaphor for “flesh”] will be “barren” and the lack of “inhabitants” [from “ṯê·šêḇ”] means the material realm is the only place one can “dwell.” There will be no giving birth to the Son of Yahweh; thus, there will be no promise of eternal salvation, when a soul can count of “dwelling” in heaven after the death of the flesh [an inevitable occurrence].

Verse six ends with the semekh, so one can see that Yahweh’s comments through Jeremiah are completed at that point. This mark then denotes that the voice of Jeremiah has returned to the text, still with the understanding that Yahweh leads his words at all times. The mark lets the reader know that Yahweh’s direct quote is ended.

Verse seven is then a short statement, but it too states the proper name “Yahweh” twice. In the NRSV translation, which says [“Yahweh” corrections made], “Blessed are those who trust in Yahweh, whose trust is Yahweh,” the word translated as “blessed” is “bā·rūḵ,” from “barak.” While the translation as “blessed” is certainly true, the deeper meaning says “kneeling are those .” The act of “kneeling” is found at altars, in rites where two are joined in holy matrimony. The word translated as “those” is actually “hag·ge·ḇer,” which was written in verse five, stating “the man” [used prior as “the man cursed”]. Here, instead of being curse for rejecting Yahweh in marriage, “the man kneels” in a sign of submission to Yahweh, which means that soul has become the possession of Yahweh, as His spiritual wife. The element of “trust” can then be seen as the true “faith” that comes from a personal experience of Yahweh – one knows His power and glory. Through absolute submission of self, “Yahweh is” [from “wə·hā·yāh Yah-weh”] in the man’s soul, becoming the “hope” that is the promise of salvation.

In verse eight, Jeremiah then says the soul in a body of flesh that marries Yahweh and receives His Spirit will be like a “tree” [not a shrub] that is planted near a plentiful source of “water” [“mayim”], such as a “river” or “stream” [“yū·ḇal”]. This addition of the “water” element then symbolizes the inner emotions that relates to the love bond of marriage. The “flesh” that is a “tree” is given the ability to grow tall, due to the inner flow of living “waters,” which symbolizes the inner presence of Jesus’ soul. Whereas the “shrub” was “barren,” the tree is able to take the heat and drought and produce “leaves” and “fruit,” which becomes that which helps others to survive. The “tree” can then be seen as the “vine” that produces “good fruit.”

The NRSV turns verse nine into a question, which is not posed by Jeremiah. Verse nine is a statement, which is relative to the “fruit” produced by the “tree,” nourished by the flows of “water.” The literal translation of this verse is this: “tracked by footprints the heart above all and desperately sick it ; who can know it .” While the Hebrew word “” can translate as a question asking “who?” the fact that Jeremiah did not make this be stated as a question says “who” is Yahweh, as the one knowing one’s “heart” – meaning one’s soul. By reading “‘ā·qōḇ” as being relative to the “footprints” one leaves in one’s history, it is then the path taken by the sinners of the world – those who reject marriage to Yahweh – that invariably leads one from the “sickness” [from “wə·’ā·nuš,” form of “anash”] that is the near death lack of “water” and spiritual food. It is the pains of their souls, from having been driven by the soul’s own poor life choices to a state of despair, that they seek the “fruit” of Yahweh’s wives – His ministers – who feed those confessing their sins, realizing that Yahweh is “who knows” what is best for a soul.

In verse ten, Jeremiah turns the pen over to Yahweh, who again speak through the prophet, beginning verse ten by saying, “I Yahweh.” In this, the Hebrew word “ani” is a statement that says “I,” which is the first-person singular pronoun that states “self.” While it can be read as Yahweh speaking of Himself, the deeper value of this word’s usage says all whose personal self-identification is “Yahweh,” and their “I” has been willingly and lovingly placed in His “trust, so Jeremiah becomes an example of one whose “I” is “Yahweh,” making it possible for Yahweh to speak through Jeremiah.

Following the end of verse nine, where the seeming question was asked [as a statement of truth], “who can know it,” where “it” is one’s “heart” or “inner self,” the answer now becomes all who submit to Yahweh in marriage, so their souls can allow Yahweh to speak through them, saying, “I Yahweh.” Yahweh then said through Jeremiah that this presence as divine possession comes from a “search of hearts,” or Yahweh knowing what secrets are hidden within one’s soul. Not only is a soul “tested” for sincerity, as expressed in sincere confession, but Yahweh also wants the “mind,” where the influences of worldly desires linger, purged. It is the “mind” [from “kə·lā·yō·wṯ,” meaning “kidney,” implying “heart, inward parts, and mind”] that demonic spirits begin ‘live-in relationships’ that sway souls to follow the desires of the flesh. Yahweh knows what demon spirits try to hide deep within the convolutions of ‘big brains.’ A soul cannot fully submit to Yahweh, when it retains love of self, in any form, fashion, or shape.

This must be purged in confession, because without a soul coming to terms with why it is in great despair in the first place, the seeds of sinful thoughts will again take root and grow. Thus, Yahweh said He knew “the ways” and “the doings,” which is “the fruit” of the “shrubs” of the earth. While some berries might well feed the evil birds [dark angels] that enjoy the taste of a soul’s production of sins, those berries can be poisonous and useless to others of mankind. As the saying goes, “A tiger cannot change its stripes,” the same can be said of human souls in marriages [possessions] with demonic spirits [unclean spirits]. Those souls must absolutely divorce themselves from those unfruitful relationship; and, such a legal proceeding can only come with the help of Yahweh. This is how Jesus was able to cast out demons who possessed human souls.

Because this was Yahweh again directly speaking through Jeremiah, this verse ends with a semekh. Yahweh will speak at other times in this chapter, but those are not part of today's reading selection.

As a reading for the sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, the point is to see even more the reason why one has been allowed to marry a soul to Yahweh. It is to give birth to His Son and enter ministry. One is expected to produce the good fruits of spiritual food, which will draw the true seekers to one. This is the ministry of a Christ, where Jesus speaks through one, just as Yahweh spoke through Jeremiah. The truth must be heard, so a lost soul can be found and come to the altar of marriage with Yahweh.

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