New Years Text

 

"I know the plans I have for you,”

As we enter this new year, the text that is before us, which is on our church calendar, will be on our monthly Tidings, is found in Jeremiah 29:11,

I have used the NIV rendering of the text, rather than our usual NKJV.

This however, is not alone in its use of these words, as at least 6 translations renders the text this way, [NLT, NIV, ESV,  CSB, NASB NET]

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.

Now before we seek to open this up, especially in relation to this Church, we must first, as always, look at its context, otherwise we are like the cults and false teachers who lift “proof” texts out of their context to try to prove a particular false teaching.

What does it say, and why does it say it?

Let's then read the passage in its surrounding verses.

Verses 10-14 
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.  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. Then you will call on 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 from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Now it’s interesting that during the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah when Babylon was on the increase, Zedekiah was a vassal king under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. At this time false prophet Hananniah rose up, informing the king that any defeat by Babylon would not last more than 2 years.

Jeremiah 28:3,4
Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin[a] son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”

However, when God spoke to His true prophet Jeremiah He told Him a far different story, [Jeremiah 28:10-17]

Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it,  and he said before all the people, “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.’” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.

After the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah:  “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron.  This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.’”

Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.’”

In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.

You see God had previously foretold  that Judah would go into captivity into Babylon for 70 years,  [Jeremiah 25:11,12]

Hananiah believed he could get favour with the people by giving them a shorter sentence.  However, wishful thinking never made it so and he brought judgement down upon his own head.  This then is the context we find our text in this morning.  Judah will go into captivity. and serve the Gentiles for 7 decades, however, they are not without hope. Yes, many will die in Babylon, but as a people, there is hope, God has not finished with them,  Judah had become a people of idol worshippers, defiling the Land God had given them, they neglected the Law of the Sabbath year,[the Shmita] when the land was to remain fallow every seventh year, not to plant but to allow the land to replenish itself. [Leviticus 25:1-7]

But this was neglected, so the period God took them into captivity was for a period of 10 sabbath years,  to enable the land to rest and be replenished, before being again occupied by Judah.

As we read in 2 Chronicles 36:21, following the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. [NKJV]

So we see even the period of captivity wasn’t arbitrary, but fulfilled a purpose in God’s economy. However, as time progressed and Hananiah’s false prophecy of a 2 years return to Jerusalem, it was easy for the people to think this was forever.  That the nation had no hope, there was no way forward. this is all there is captivity in a foreign land,  Some were born there, they knew no different, stories of the Land promised to Abraham, was like a fairy tale.  The old were discouraged, they had known better days, but now, even our young are happy in their lot,   We have no hope, no cry of “Next year in Jerusalem”

So God in His wisdom, and grace, lovingly told the prophet Jeremiah these words found in Jeremiah 29:10-14
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on 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 from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

This is very much like the words of Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah’s prophesying  to encourage Judah to look ahead to the promises of God, for a returning to the Land.  Here the people said they were like dry bones, worthless, good for nothing. Yet just as a valley of bones can rise again to its feet by the command of God through his servant, so Judah can again return to inhabit the Land promised to the patriarchs. [ Ezekiel 37:12 NKJV]

Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel.

God is a God of great encouragement,  often times, situations and circumstances may drive us to despair, to cry out “Where is God in this?”  But even then His promises keep us, they are yes and Amen,  [2 Corinthians 1:20]

They are true although circumstances seem to say otherwise.  The problems the difficulties, the lack of growth and movement, may well be being used of God, just as the captivity was to break the hold of idols on the Jews and to allow the land time to heal.  Just because we cannot see what God is doing, it doesn’t mean He is doing nothing.

Listen again to God’s encouraging words to Judah, and down the years to us.

 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".

While  they were in the midst of desolation, they were still in God’s plan, not forgotten, but elect to his purpose.  Remember Christ on Calvary’s Cross, there He was, to all He was defeated, broken dying, bleeding, yet He was fulfilling His Father's purposes.  [John 17:4]  Destroying the power of sin, and death and hell, trampling Satan’s head.

What appears to be so, isn’t necessarily so.  As a church, we cry to God week by week, and sometimes the heavens appear as brass, there is no answer forthcoming, yet we can rest in the same promises as Judah, when God whispers lovingly to us..  For I know the plans I have for you,” …“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And we can rest in this, for God keeps His own, but that does not mean we have no responsibility in the matter, read on in our text this morning… from verse 12 -14

Then you will call on 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 from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Then you will call on 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.

We are not fatalists, saying "what will be will be".

God gave His Word to Judah and some years later, Daniel is reading this prophecy of Jeremiah’s

"In the first year of [Darius the  Mead’s] reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem."  [Daniel 9:2 NKJV]

What is Daniel’s reaction to this promise of God, is it  to sit back and wait for the promises fulfilment?

No!

"Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments," [vs 3,4]

He then confesses Judah’s sin, and goes on to pray..
“O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us." [9:16]

What is He doing? Exactly what God had said to Jeremiah that needed to be done at that time, He is seeking God in prayer.

'Then you will call on 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 from captivity.I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'

Daniel is an example to us all, to seek God for the future, yes the future is as bright as the promises of God, but God requires us to be obedient and to show our love and devotion to Him by our prayers and our seeking Him.  Not a God somewhere up there, but a God whom we know, and love and are seeking with all our heart.

Dear friends, we can enter the new year confident that we do so, hand in hand with the Almighty God, who has a plan for each and every one of us, and indeed His local assembly, here at Southern Cross.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
[Romans 8:28 NKJV]

For I know the plans I have for you,” …“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Scripture taken, unless otherwise stated from
The Holy Bible, New International Version®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society.
used with permission of International Bible Society.

NKJV - NEW KING JAMES VERSION®
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc
Used by permision.
All rights reserved

 

 

 


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