Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"For I know the plans"

During my devotions this morning I was reading in Jeremiah 29 and came across a familiar and often quoted verse. In Jeremiah 29:11 we read, “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”

Often this verse is cited as an encouragement to a newlywed couple, a graduate, or someone starting a new career path. Certainly we would find such a promise encouraging, but as is always the case in scripture, context must be maintained. The context of this promise involves Judah’s exile into Babylon. God has just told them they will be exiled in Babylon for seventy years, but that after their exile they will be restored to the land. Why were they exiled? They were exiled because of their rebellion against the LORD. They chose to trust in other nations and people instead of the LORD, and the history involved flagrant idolatry.

So God gives this promise of a hope and a future after His people learn their lessons as captives in Babylon. Now let’s look at verses 12 and 13 that follow.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

God’s promise to His people is not open ended, but tightly bound to their pursuit of Him. After seventy years of exile, the people of Judah cried out to the LORD in genuine prayer and earnestly sought Him as the one and only true God. Their trust in foreign gods and nations dissolved away and their trust turned to the LORD God only. Out of that context the LORD restored His people to their land and blessed them.

So as I was thinking about verse 11, I began questioning whether or not we should ever quote verse 11 apart from verses 12 and 13. The three verses seem tightly bound to each other. God will bless His people, but in the context of trusting and seeking Him alone. And we must remember that God’s blessing might not be monetarily. The ultimately blessing is God Himself and He promises to be found by those who search with all their heart. Perhaps, then we should keep these verses together and remind those who hear verse 11 that the blessing of God is tightly bound to seeking and knowing Him.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart’.”

1 comment:

  1. It's amazing how much richer Scripture is when you keep it in context. I was in Romans 12 the other day and was reflecting on the "present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice.." One could take that openly and say that we need to sacrifice for causes, success or people. In context of Romans 6 and the Old Testament sacrificial system, the presentation is to God Himself and no other. That is the picture Paul was painting. In prayer, am I really saying, "Take my life and let it be, consecrated Lord to Thee"?

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