I drove my husband’s car yesterday. The radio was on and I’m not sure whose program was on, but it was talking about decisions that are coming before our Congress, and this man’s opinions were scary. Couple that with Beauty Beyond Bones post about what is happening on the streets of New York City, and I was feeling very pensive last night. And then I remembered Jeremiah 29:11.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
This is not a foreign verse. If you move in Christian circles, even a little, you’ve heard it. If you have watched Bethany Hamilton’s true story, Soul Surfer, you’ve heard it. But I wonder if you are familiar with the back story?
This comforting verse came to Israel at one of the lowest points in their history. After years of sliding deeper and deeper into idolatry and self serving behavior, and ignoring a loving God’s warnings to return to Him, hefty consequences were finally upon them. The Assyrians had invaded, destroyed their cities and their belongings, slaughtered many, and carried most of those remaining off to slavery in Babylon. These Assyrians were some of the first terrorists. They led people away with hooks in their mouths and noses.
Israel suffered terrible atrocities; even the righteous remnant suffered alongside the wicked. You know who Daniel was? The Babylonians changed his name from Daniel, which means “God is my judge,” to Belshazzar, which was after a Babylonian god. Historians say he was most likely castrated to make him a eunuch. The Babylonians did everything they knew how to do to convert their captives to their culture.
It was in the midst of Israel’s world falling apart that God sent to them through the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “I know the plans I have for you.” In the midst of this horrific punishment, designed to bring their hearts back to God in repentance (for their good), God desired to give them “a hope and a future.”
They wanted to go home, but the promised land was a long journey away and had been decimated…. the temple, the wall, their homes. Even the temple treasure had been taken to Babylon. Those who had been left behind and not gone into exile were to suffer war, pestilence and famine (Jeremiah 29:15-19). So what did God tell these survivors to do?
“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.” (vs 5)
Don’t hide. Don’t run away. Don’t be depressed. Give thanks for what you still have. Make the best of this. It’s going to last awhile. Seventy years, in fact, but God is still making His plans come about.
God told them to get married and have babies, and give their children in marriage so that they would continue to multiply in number and not decrease. (vs 6)
How many times do we hear people talk of how they don’t want to bring anymore children into this messed up world? But God said, “have babies.” Can you imagine how the world would be different without a single person you know? I attended a funeral this week. I heard story after story of how this neighbor and friend impacted others for 74 years. “Every life matters.”
God told them to seek the welfare of the city where He sent them into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, “for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” vs. 7
Oh, wow. Even when we are disappointed and discouraged, knowing that we are living in a modern Babylon, we are supposed to seek good for our cities and nations because it’s when they prosper that we prosper. Speak life. Pray for our cities and leaders. Do something that benefits everyone. Sitting by and complaining isn’t going to bring about welfare, but being different from the darkness around us will. Daniel was elevated to a very powerful level in the Babylonian and Persian empires because he honored God and sought the welfare of the city where he was a captive.
“For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.” (vs. 8,9)
There it is. Governments are creating laws that seek to quiet truth. Schools are propagating “alternative theories” which are contrary to biblical truth and historical facts, and they are encouraging children to explore immoral “lifestyles” rather than allowing families to transmit the morals they are convicted to adhere to. We send kids to google for answers to everything under the sun, rather than nurturing relationships where the older generation teaches the younger generation. Churches are being plundered by false teachers. Witchcraft has become such a normal thing that many people do not even recognize what it is. I am only skimming the surface.
God said not to be deceived. Don’t listen to the lies. God didn’t send them.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29: 11-14
Daniel read the letters from Jeremiah, and he realized that the 70 years were almost complete… within about 3 years, historians say. He began to seek the Lord and repent for his nation. (Daniel 9) God sent an angel to Daniel to tell him He had heard his pleas, and to tell Daniel that he was “greatly loved.”
Have you ever repented for your nation? For your city? For your family? Do you practice personal repentance on a regular basis? We need to be turning away from what is wrong to pursue what God has for us. Like Daniel, we need to be in God’s Word to understand God’s plans and the times we are living in.
Israel was released, in waves, to return to their home. God fulfilled His promise to them, but the promise is for us too. God’s promise is a “when you___________, then I will_________________.
When we pray to Him, He will hear us.
When we seek Him with all of our hearts, we will find Him.
Add to that the New Testament promise is to be with us always, even until Christ returns.
He didn’t promise the righteous wouldn’t suffer. We’re in the world, we’re just not of it anymore.
Build homes, build families, seek the good of your city, don’t listen to lies… Seek God.
Don’t be discouraged. You are greatly loved, and He has great plans for you.