Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thoughts Of Peace

  How many times have I seen Jeremiah 29:11 printed out on mugs, journal, bookmarks and picture frames?  It is a very encouraging verse.  One that makes me smile.  One that brings hope.  It is often quoted in the NIV:

" 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."

Oh, goody!  It says right here, "It's all good"!

So, I was reading Jeremiah 29 yesterday.  Sometimes I get lost in the Prophets.   Repeated messages of impending doom and repeated responses of rebellion on the part of Israel can be really depressing.  It's easy to lose my train of thought and just cruise for awhile...  So far, the book of Jeremiah has been warning after warning.  "If y'all don't repent and seek the Lord,  you will be carried away to Babylon.  If you try to put up a resistance and fight, you will be killed and turned into fertilizer."   Pretty stark.

By chapter 28 it is clear that judgement had already fallen and many captives had been drug off to pagan Babylon. (although they should have been comfortable there, since these were the same gods they had forsaken Jehovah for)

But, it wasn't just the "carnal" Hebrews that were affected.  There were Godly people in there that were suffering too.  This is the time of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego.  Surely they didn't deserve all this brutality.  You would think that maybe there were some patriots, freedom fighters, preppers, if you will, that were plotting an insurgency.  Maybe they were looking for the next Moses or Joshua to lead them back to freedom.

But God said no.

Stay put, unpack your bags and get comfortable.  You're going to be here awhile.  This is my plan to prosper you.  

Here it is, lined out in KJV:

"Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I HAVE CAUSED TO BE CARRIED AWAY...  

Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;  Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.  

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace...  

For thus saith the Lord, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.  For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. 

 Then shall ye call upon me and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  And I will be found of you, saith the Lord: and I will turn away your captivity...and I will bring you again into the place whence I CAUSED YOU TO BE CARRIED AWAY CAPTIVE." Jeremiah 29:4-14

I guess that is a little much to fit on a coffee cup...

What strikes me is how often verse 11 is construed to mean nothing bad will ever happen to us.  And if it does it is either
a. the devil got one over on God   or
b. it's all my fault

I think there is a "c" in the context.  Sometimes God sends us into the wilderness for our own good.  It may be we are innocent bystanders, swept up in general catastrophe.  It may be that we had lost sight of God and wandered out of the path on our own.  It may be, like Job, that we were doing everything right.  But whatever the circumstance, God knows where we are.  He cares about us.  He has a plan.  And it's all right on schedule.  Thoughts of peace and not of evil does not mean that we won't go through rough times.  It means God has a path for us that will bring us out on the other side.

This seems to be the proof text for "Bloom where you are planted"!  Instead of frantically trying to escape uncomfortable situations, maybe we should unpack and settle in to stay awhile.  Make the best of it.  Do what we can with the materials on hand to beautify our cells, like Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom   It may be this will be the time of your greatest growth and blessings.  And the Lord promises to be near at hand.  He will hear you.  He will answer you.  He will lead you out at just the right time.  It will all come together, just as He has planned.