Read: Jeremiah 28:1-29:32, 1 Timothy 1:1-20 Psalm 86:1-17, Proverbs 25:17
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
Relate: Imagine yourself a lonely traveler on the road heading from Jericho to Jerusalem. It’s a war torn land. All the wells have been stopped a few years back to keep the invader from having easy access to water. Combine that with the foraging done by the Babylonians when they did arrive and there is nothing. The land is desolate.
And off in the distance heading towards you is a dust cloud. Thinking it is the army and not wanting to be pressed into labor you quickly get off the road. From the vantage point of a nearby hill you see that it is the army… well, kind of. There are some soldiers but far outnumbering of them are captured Hebrews. This is the beginning of the forced resettlement of an entire nation. Marching in a bedraggled line are thousands of thousands of beaten, downtrodden men and women and children. They are little more than slaves in chains.
Then a few miles off in the distance, you see someone shouting something from horseback. You cannot hear what he is saying but you strain to hear anyways. Apparently he is shouting out something he is reading from a scroll. After a bit he finishes up and starts galloping in your direction. It is the oldest son of Shaphan, a former advisor of the last great king, Josiah. What is his name again?
Never mind, it looks like he is stopping a few hundred yards beyond you at the next hill on the far side of the road. Listen…
“A letter! From the prophet Jeremiah! Hear the words of the Lord! For seventy years I am sending you as captives to Babylon! Do not fight against this yoke! Rather than grow bitter, find jobs! Build houses! Marry and have children! Do not seek the harm but rather the well being of Babylon and it’s people!”
As he reads out the letter something inside of you boils with rage. These Babylonians are an evil people. They sacrifice their children in the fire. Their city is a cesspit of filth and all kinds of unspeakable evil. You have seen the product of what the army does when moving through a village. You can see around you the result of this war on the land. You can see before you the atrocities they do to the people themselves. The Babylonians do not just conquer land. They destroy cultures. They take the best and the brightest for themselves and then move almost everyone else to various distant lands to ensure that there will never be a threat from that people group ever again.
But the speaker is not done. He says something that breaks you from your reverie. It grips you deep in your soul and a tear comes unbidden to your eye. After a pause, with deep emotion in a faltering voice he says it again…
” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.’ ”
React: This is one of those verses that everybody knows and many people have as their favorite. I’m glad. It is a comfort. It is a great verse. But I’ve seen people use it almost as a charm against anything bad happening, or for whatever bad that is happening to end quickly. “I know God won’t let me go into captivity, after all hasn’t He said, ‘I know the plans…’ ” Or, “I’m in captivity now but God won’t let me stay here long, after all hasn’t He said, ‘I know the plans…’ ”
70 years. Captives. That’s the context in which we found this most beautiful of truths. God is far more interested in our position than in our circumstances, and the position He wants for us is to be right next to, and completely dependant on Him. That is our future. That is our hope.
God do whatever You want to do with me. If that means allowing me to go into captivity, bring on the chains. Whether in good times or hard, whether in worldly success or failure, the most important thing is that I am pursuing after You. Help me to want that more. Strip away any other desires that might be pulling away from that goal. Be my only hope. You are my only future.