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. – Jer. 29:11 NIV
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Just as the Israelites of the Northern kingdom were carried away in captivity by the Assyrians to Assyria, those of the south were also handed over to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon by the Almighty God due to the refusal of the people to change permanently from their evil ways. Like their kinsmen in the North, they seemed to have resolved to take the Almighty God for granted by pretending to be remorseful when under punishment for disobedience only to quickly go back to their old ways as soon as they become comfortable and begin to enjoy the reward of forgiveness and restoration – Jer. 29:19
Like anyone else, they were obviously uncomfortable in their captivity in Babylon and thus, decided to seek the thoughts of the Lord about their intention to find their way out of Babylon, based on prophecies that seem to encourage them to do so, by the prophets who were with them in captivity, hoping to seek greener pastures elsewhere – Jer. 29: 8-9. It was with this in mind that they approached the Prophet Jeremiah to help them seek the view of the Lord on their escape plan.
Their response came in a letter written and sent to them by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 29:3), but its contents was definitely not expected. The contents of the letter which can be divided into two parts had a first part, Jer. 29:4-14, touching on the issues of the exiles in Babylon whilst the second part, Jer. 29: 15-19, contained the plan of God for the those who remained in Jerusalem, refusing the judgement of God for them to go on exile in Babylon.
The first part of the letter, which remains the focus of this ministration, has the following highlights;
1. The Almighty God made it known to the exiles in Babylon that He it was, that took them in captive to Babylon and not King Nebuchadnezzar – Jer. 29:4. This implies that if they had any anger about their situation, they should know where to direct it as Nebuchadnezzar is just a beneficiary of the wish of God to punish them for their disobedience.
2. They were to therefore make the best of that situation by doing all it takes, to make themselves comfortable and live normal lives – Jer. 29: 5-6a. Any other approach will only lead to more pain for them in exile.
3. They have to increase and not decrease – Jer. 29:6b. That was not a choice but an expectation of the Lord, of them.
4. They have to prayerfully seek the peace and prosperity of their captors because, in there lies their hope for comfort – Jer. 29:7.
5. Like everything under the Sun, there is an appointed time for the captivity which must be completed, only after which they can expect relief – Jer. 29:10.
6. All these is based on a plan that he has, to bring them to an end which he only knows – Jer. 29:11 (the scripture for today).
What an unexpected and greatly discomforting response from the God that they have always known to be loving, caring and always forgiving but then that is the reality for that moment.
Christians today are quick to reference this scripture but choose to ignore the background events and the realities of its contents. A people who choose to ignore several warnings from the loving God concerning their unholy and disrespectful life style should expect to see the negative side of His love at some point, more especially if they are considered beloved by Him. Love, because it is not His intention to kill them with the penalty, but to make them pay for their disobedience, disrespect and dishonor for his personality in expectation that they will permanently change from their evil ways – Heb. 12:6. The period of chastisement has to run its course unless the great God decides to be merciful (Lam. 3:22) else, until the fulfillment of that period, it will be impossible to get freedom from that situation. With this awareness, such Christians are better off, making the best of the bad situation, as attempting to vacate that judgement before its due period will only earn the anger of the Lord and the possibility of an extension of the sentence.
Christians need to always remember that the Almighty God, although is slow to anger will surely not acquit the wrong doer (Nahum 1:1-3) and will sometimes visit the iniquities of parents on their children – Ex. 34:7. So when those difficult times come, not all can be wished away or avoided. Like it is said, “if you do not want to do the time, then do not do the crime”. One who constantly transgresses the laws of God without remorse and believing that the Lord, being a forgiving and merciful God, will not at any point seek vengeance, will be living in a fool’s paradise. God indeed takes vengeance – Deut. 32:35.
However, the beauty of the Lord’s anger especially with regards to His beloved people, is that it will end and will be replaced by an act of love and restoration. He will not keep his anger forever – Ps. 103:9; Is. 57:16. In the midst of anger of the Lord for His beloved, hope should never be lost. The reason for that is revealed in the scripture for today.
1. There is always a divine plan, even in that situation, which may be hidden from men, as God did not put you in that situation to forget you. No matter the extent of the discomfort that the Christian may be going through during this period of chastisement from the Lord, God has a plan of taking you through it. You are better off allowing His plan to play out rather than thinking of an escape route out of his chastisement.
2. The divine plan has prosperity and not harm as its ultimate objective. No matter how it may seem to you, there is the need to trust God that whatever He is doing to you today will turn out well in your favour. Continuing to trust in Him in times like this remains a major indicator of your acceptance of His judgement as true, and your willingness to go through them as a sign for penitence. Attempting to avoid the penalty is a quiet way of disagreeing with his judgement or non-willingness to pay the price for those negative acts. Both ways, it will always be a futile effort as His judgement cannot be appealed by anyone. There is no doubt that willingness to go through it will make you a better person going forward, as all it will produce is godly sorrow which the scripture says leads to repentance without regret – 2Cor. 7:10.
3. His plan is to give hope of a great future. The pain that his chastisement will bring cannot be compared to the joy that the future holds – Rom. 8:18. Every indicator points to a greater joy in the morning, no matter how long it seems that sadness tarries into the night – Ps. 30:5.
Stay calm under his rebuke and chastisement knowing fully well that He has not forgotten and will not forget you there. He has a time-based plan which will be revealed in due season. He will activate His plan for your escape very soon. In the interim, spend your time now reviewing your several acts of disobedience and determine not to take Him for granted again because He will definitely re-visit you in that situation and you will enjoy a restoration that will take you into greater comfort in Jesus name. Amen.