[From Oct. 24, 2012]
"For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope."
This passage has given hope and encouragement to so many over the years. Confirmation that God knows and cares about us... and has a plan for our lives. It's beautiful, really. But it's even MORE POWERFUL when we see the context in which it was written.
Hundreds of years of sin and unfaithfulness has finally caught up to the people of Israel. God has allowed the superpower nation of Babylon to march into Jerusalem, destroy the temple, trash the city, and take many people away into captivity. Jeremiah has been fighting a "PR battle," too. So many false prophets were counseling the king & people to stay and fight: "God will save us!" they predicted. But Jeremiah knew otherwise. He told people to surrender and submit. It was not a popular message, as you might imagine.
Now in captivity, God sends the exiles a message via Jeremiah: build homes in Babylon, plant gardens, get married, have children, etc. In short: LIFE LIFE TO THE FULLEST! Don't lament & feel sorry for yourselves. Make the best of it. Then God tells them to pray for their new land. Seek its welfare! Rather than resentment, offer blessing! This must have been a shocking message. Pray for and bless the very people who ruined your homeland and took you close to 1,000 miles away into captivity? Yes.
It is into this "new reality" that God tells the people he has a PLAN for their lives - a plan for their benefit, not their destruction. God will give them a FUTURE WITH HOPE! It must have been one of the last things in their mind at that time. How amazing!
God used the period of Babylonian captivity to bring the people's hearts back to him. When everything was taken away, all they had left was God. But that was enough. They'd forgotten what it meant to trust the LORD with all their heart, soul, and might. This was like restoring a computer back to the factory default settings.
I believe that God has dreams and plans for each of us. The question is whether we'll submit & follow... or dig our heels in and fight for what we want? Its' a plan for our benefit. To give us a future and a hope. Sometimes when it seems the darkest (ie. Babylonian captivity!), that's exactly where we need to be. So don't be resentful and bitter. Pray blessings on those around you. You just might be amazed at where it leads. AMEN.