“’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 hop and a future. 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 seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile. ‘”
This is a famous passage among Christians. It is often used at graduations and times of life change claiming that the LORD has Good in store for those who follow him. It is not a promise that should be used casually.
This passage is taken from a letter from Jeremiah the prophet in a time when the people of Judah and Israel were exiled in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 27 Jeremiah prophesized that it was the will of the LORD that Judah would serve Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was in fact a servant of the LORD. This was a part of the Plan the LORD had for them. I can not imagine that the people who were in exile felt that exile was a part of prosperity from the LORD. They were a foreign people in a foreign, PAGAN land. They were the Chosen people of YAHWEH- how could HE allow this? 70 years in exile is a long time. Yet they were not merely to endure but to live life in the fullest. In Jeremiah 29: 4-7 the exiles were told “build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it because if it prospers, you too will prosper."
This was a part of the promise given to those who seek the LORD with all their hearts. The “good” did not necessarily fit their definition. Yet, the LORD was faithful and the trials and difficulty of living in a foreign land were, very purposefully, a part of his plan for their life. When we claim this promise we often think of “good” as plenty of money, no problems, a good job etc. It is a “good” defined by our culture. We would be wise to see that his plan is often not ours, that his good may be defined differently than ours. We may absolutely trust that he loves us and has a plan for us, but at the same time, it may not be a comfortable good. Even more important to understand is that this is the promise given to those who sought the LORD with ALL their hearts. To those who did NOT turn their hearts fully to the LORD was a far more chilling promise.
Jeremiah 9 17-23, “yes, this is what the LORD Almighty says- ‘I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like poor figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth and an object of cursing and horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them, for they have not listened to my words,’ declares the LORD, ‘ words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,‘ declares the LORD. “
These are not the words of a God who believes all faiths are equal-there is ONE true God and He is a Jealous God. These are not the words of a God who turns a blind eye to sin- this is a Righteous, All Seeing God. This is not a God who punishes unjustly for Sin, but a Just God who hates sin yet at the same time has made a way for the redemption of those who seek him whole heartedly.
Do I believe that God has plans for his people? Absolutely! I believe with all my heart that God has good in store for those who seek him. Yet I am appalled at what we as the Church define as seeking him. We must listen to His word. We must turn from the World. I John 2:15-17. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of is eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
As I look at the Church through the eyes of Christ, I see very little difference between the Church and the World. We dress with the same immodesty, we live the same self-absorbed lives and we do not seek Christ whole heartedly. There is no distinction. There MUST be a distinction. May those who love the LORD repent, may we turn to Him and seek Him with all our hearts. May we be the means to call our Church, our City, our Nation to repentance.
Forgive our apathy oh my King, forgive our lack of faith. May we hear Your voice, do not be silent in this time of need. Holy Spirit, anoint your people that we may live a life that honors you. Move among your people in this City that we many know the blessing of your presence.