Trusting Delusions

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The prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Judah time and again that God was angry with them and that he was going to send Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon against them in judgement. While the people loved hearing Jeremiah preach, they did not heed his warnings. Instead, they responded, “This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD” (Jeremiah 7:3–4). The threefold repetition of this phrase suggests that it was their source of ultimate confidence. They felt that they could safely ignore Jeremiah because the Jerusalem temple guaranteed God’s favour. The book ends with multitudes slaughtered and many more carried exile to Babylon.

Diagnosing the problem is not difficult. It was a straightforward case of misplaced confidence. The word of God warned the people that things were not right but they ignored that and, looking at the temple, assumed all was well. It did not end well.

David learned this lesson long before Jeremiah prophesied and even longer before you and I were born. Psalm 62 is an expression of well-placed confidence. “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken” (vv. 1–2). He was once again under attack from his foes (vv. 3–4) and needed somewhere to find confidence. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God” (vv. 5–7).

David understood also that God’s ability to provide refuge for his people was not exhausted to him. He urged, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us” (v. 8). His exhortation to you, the reader, is to place your confidence firmly in the Lord.

Too often, we misplace our confidence. Sometimes, we find our ultimate confidence in our family or our friends. It is good to have reliable family and friends, but David warns against people as our ultimate source of confidence because “those of low estate are but a breath” while “those of high estate are a delusion” (v. 9). God has created us for community and calls us to live out our faith in community, but ultimately we must recognise that people may fail us, while God never will.

Sometimes, we find our ultimate confidence in our abundant resources. Again, David warns that this is folly. Whether our resources are obtained illegitimately through “extortion” or “robbery” or our “riches increase” through legitimate hard work, he warns, “Set not your heart on them” (v. 10). Wealth is an unsteady saviour.

Though David does not focus on this, we can learn from Jeremiah’s contemporaries that superstition religion is an equally shaky messiah. The temple of Yahweh was unable to secure divine favour for Judah. Your church attendance, Bible reading, prayers, and religious observances are equally impotent when they are divorced from trust in the living God. These things are good, but only as an overflow of well-placed trust.

As you reflect on Psalm 62 today, examine your life to see whether you are being tricked into putting confidence into delusions. Is your trust firmly placed in God alone, or have you divorced your object of trust from the living God so that your source of trust is “lighter than a breath” (v. 9)?

Identify where your trust has been misplaced, cast off those delusions, and rest in the truth “that power belongs to God, and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love” (vv. 11–12).