Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Hope of Planning

“For I know the plans I have for you – this is the Lord’s declaration – plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

The great message of hope in Jeremiah 29:11 was sent to a people in deep despair. This verse was contained in a letter Jeremiah was instructed to write to the exiles of Judah who had been force-marched to Babylon. In their midst were several false prophets who kept telling the people that God was going to destroy Babylon and take them back home shortly. These were the same prophets who told them the Babylonians would never take Jerusalem and would soon be broken by the Lord. We might imagine the Babylonian battering rams breaking through the wall of Jerusalem as they spoke. To counter their on-going bizarre prophecies, the Lord instructed Jeremiah to send a letter of real hope. When you read the entire message, it does not give what the people wanted to hear, however.

Jeremiah told them to settle down, to put down roots. He told them to build houses and live in them, plant fields and gardens and live on the produce, marry and have children, and increase their population. He even told them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon. That one didn’t likely set well, but it had to make logical sense to them, since the prosperity of Babylon would mean prosperity for them.

God did promise judgment on Babylon for their atrocities, but He told them that would not happen for another 70 years. At that time, the exiles would be invited back to Judah and Jerusalem. Of course, many of the older ones would die in Babylon. But their descendants would return to their Judean homes.

So, what future? And what hope? It almost sounds like they would one day in the future have some hope maybe, but not now. How was this message a word of hope?

What makes this a message of hope is in the word “plan.” The Lord said, “For I know the plans I have for you.” This was God’s plan for restoring right living, His plan for giving the people 70 years to think about why they were where they were, 70 years to put things right, and 70 years to put the world leaders in place who would then carry out His redemptive plan for Israel. It was the fact of God’s plan that was to give them hope. The fact of His plan meant that they actually had a future and would not simply be absorbed into Babylon and totally lose their identity. It meant that God was not finished with them. What they had was the hope of redemption. That hope was found in God’s planning.

God has plans for each of us in our futures. Some of those plans may come soon, and some may be yet far off into the future, but His plans are there. His call to us is to, therefore, put our hope in Him and trust Him to lead us into the future He has for us, while also being faithful in the present to act and speak in His name the message of His love and of the hope He gives to His people.

Lord, We thank You for the plans You have for us, and we commit to move forward day by day in trust, as we look for the ways and the time You will fulfill those plans. Amen.

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