“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
“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” (Jeremiah 17:5-6).
The first time I saw the fruit of the arara tree it looked scrumptious. It was morning. The cool of the desert night along the Dead Sea was quickly being replaced with the heat of the rising summer sun. It was only 7 a.m. We knew it would be another very hot day.
We walked a short distance and there was the beautiful green arara tree. Who knew that something so green could grow in such an inhospitable place? The fruit of the arara is similar in shape to a lemon. Its size is comparable to a large orange or a small grapefruit. The green fruit fits in an adult’s hand like a softball.
Our teacher picked a fruit and cut it for us with a pocket knife. As the knife pierced the peeling, a puff of dust appeared from the fruit. As the fruit was sliced completely open, we were surprised to see that it was hollow. The arara was nothing more than an attractive, but empty, shell.
Clustered in the middle of the fruit was a small clump of black seeds. We were told that they are poisonous.
Jeremiah says that the man who relies only on himself, the woman who trusts only in herself, and every person who turns from God is like the arara bush. The person, like the bush and its fruit, looks great on the outside. A weary, famished desert traveler would certainly find it appealing from a distance. The fruit draws the hungry and entices the thirsty. But the arara is a fake. It looks good on the outside, but it is hollow and poison on the inside.
So it is with everyone who does not trust in God. He or she may look pretty good, but cut through the superficial exterior, and there is nothing.
“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: 7-8).
Jeremiah contrasts the arara bush to the tree planted by streams of water. The psalmist teaches us about this tree in Psalm 1. It is the acacia tree.
Acacia trees grow along dry river beds called wadis. Wadis are not good locations for most trees. When wadi floods come, most trees are not able to withstand the rushing water and are quickly swept away. The acacia is created for the wadi.
The uniqueness of the acacia is its tap root. Those who know tell us that the tap root of the tree grows as deep as 100 feet into the ground. The root enables the tree to withstand wadi floods. The root also enables the tree to drink from underground water that humans in the desert could never see or reach.
Jeremiah and the psalmist compare humans who trust in God to the acacia. Like the acacia, they are rooted. The tap root of those who trust in God goes down to the bedrock. The bedrock is God and his holy Word. It is the rock-solid anchor for the believer. When the wadi floods of life’s desert journey hit the believer, the believer is shaken but not uprooted, because he or she is anchored to the rock.
The leaves of the acacia are always green, because the deep roots are able to reach underground water far below the surface. The acacia is also adaptable. It can lie dormant for ten years, be refreshed, and still bear fruit. It is always attached to its anchor. It will always bear fruit.
Leaders are like either arara bushes or acacia trees. Some are beautiful on the outside and hollow on the inside. Some are well-anchored, faithful, and always bearing fruit.
You are called to lead in various ways in God’s kingdom. Always remember that our outward appearance is meaningless to God. It is what is in our hearts that counts. If our hearts are hollow, then we are poison to the work that we are called to do. Trust in God with all your heart. Rely on him and not on yourself. Keep your eyes on Jesus and never turn away.
If you are more like an arara, it is time for a transformation. We are called to be like an acacia. Be true to the rock that anchors you. Become an acacia for God!
Devotionals are written by Jeff Blamer, Vice President of Member Services