Tuesday of Epiphany VI – Jeremiah 17:5-8

Thus says the Lord:
“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.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is 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 drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

After revising the constitution of ancient Athens, Solon, considered the wisest man of his time went on a ten-year vacation. He had forced into the revised constitution that it could not be emended, except by him, for the next ten years. He was determined that the fickle people of Athens should live with their new constitution before they made any changes.

In his journeys he came to the fabulously wealthy kingdom of Lydia and its powerful king Croesus. Today this kingdom would be found in the country of Turkey. The earliest coins we have ever found are Lydian coins. We think they invented money. Croesus, aware of Solon’s wisdom and travels, showed him the magnificent wealth of his palace and land. Then he turned to the famous philosopher and asked him, “Who is the happiest man you have ever met?” Croesus was expecting to be that man. Solon thought for a moment and mentioned some guy nobody ever heard about in Athens. This man, explained Solon, had fought honorably in defense of his country, succeeded in business, was happily married, and welcomed his grandchildren to his lap before he died. Somewhat crestfallen, Croesus asked, “Well, then, who is the second happiest?” Solon went on to discuss twin boys who had died in service to the god Apollo. Croesus was not getting the point. Finally, Solon enlightened the king. He could not declare a man happy until he knew his whole life. It might change in a moment. The happy man might be undone, reduced to poverty, shamed, or something else.

In fact, this is exactly what happened to Croesus. His great wealth attracted the attention of the Persian empire, his kingdom fell, and he became one of the many kings who meekly begged for daily bread within the court of the Persian emperor. This was one of the emperor’s bragging points: He had a whole gaggle of former kings who begged him for food every day. Jeremiah records a word of the Lord which speaks another sort of wisdom than that of Solon, for it would let us declare a man or woman blessed today. The man who trusts in the Lord is blessed and will be blessed. It may not look like the sort of blessing that Croesus or Solon expected, but it will be the real blessing which showers upon the man or woman who trusts in the Lord. We even know how the story ends for them – eternal life in the pleasure of God’s kingdom. They endure droughts and suffering, but they are never really overcome by them. God is the source of their joy and their blessing. Nothing can take that away.

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