10 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. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 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.”
On Monday we looked at the verses that precede today’s Bible Reading. If you will recall the message of the preceding verses was to “Bloom where you are planted,” and that God through Jeremiah said to his people to put down roots and pray for the city in which they have been exiled, pray for its prosperity and peace. As the City prospers,God said, his people would prosper.
It is following this teaching that we read our passage for today. Most of us have memorized Jeremiah 29:11, “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.” It is a great verse with a great promise, but to understand the weight of this verse we need to pay attention to the context of verses 4 – 14. God says to his people to set down roots in exile, because this experience is going to last a generation, yet I will make good on my promises and plans for you. It may feel like I have left you on your own but do not listen to such thoughts, I have a plan for you, that offers hope and a future.
God seems to say to his people that “this time in exile will be for your good, because through the experience you be drawn closer to me, your creator and covenant God. In this time of exile, you will seek me, and find me, and my plan is to restore you but first you need develop or re-develop your awareness of your need for me."
Looking back over our lives we can no doubt see places in which the Lord had plans for our lives, plans to give to us a hope and a future. This promise is personal, to be sure. We often miss the fact that these words were God’s words in a letter from Jeremiah to the community in exile. So, in my view, these are words are for us as a Community of Jesus, as worshipper of Jesus in Windsor-Essex, who meet together and serve together at Ambassador Community Church. So, let us recognize that these words and promises are for our community of faith.
In recent times, we have seen the challenges for our Church community. Challenges from the outside, external events like a pandemic, that rearranged and reshaped how we are a community of Jesus. We also have known challenges, from the inside of our community too. This reality could lead us to a “Doom and Gloom” mindset. Our verses today would counter such thoughts with what Author Len Sweet calls a “BOOM and BLOOM” mindset. That is what a promise of restoration and the promise of a future and a hope calls us too. Scripture reminds us frequently, that the Lord is faithful: a remnant always remains. The Lord is still working His plans (not my plans, not your plans). Though we are only allowed to see part of His plans, He will reveal them in His perfect timing. We must take comfort, for our God is always with us, in the short and long times of exile. And in those times, no matter the duration, we are called to be “faith-FULL.”
In the past several months, we have seen numerous opportunities to trust God. Communally, even though we could not worship together in a pew, creativity allowed for worship time together through other means. Listen to some of the things that have been said to me over the last little while by fellow worshippers,
Personally, disruption of routine has caused me to pray and seek Jesus more.
This pandemic has made me pay attention more, listen more to the Word, I want to read my Bible more, listen in prayer more ….
I take walks more, cherish my family more, touch base with friends more.
I long for more of God so that I am full of Him and can therefore be “faith-FULL” to Him.
These verses today make me want to say, this is the time to reach out and seek the prosperity and peace of the city and be the church. But That’s me. I hear God saying something different, something more like “You cannot do this, until you have more of Jesus. Simply stated, at ACC, we must first be all about Jesus. Perhaps as we are formed ever-more into the image of Jesus, we will see more opportunities to seek the peace and prosperity of our city and county.
Perhaps we are all in a time of preparation in this Lent season, just like God’s People in this Jeremiah passage. Perhaps these words at the end of our reading are for us today. “you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 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.” Ah, RESTORATION!! Thanks be to God.
Promise making God you come to us with the vision beyond our wildest dreams. May we wholeheartedly believe in your promises. Today God, we pray in the words of Psalm 130, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.” AMEN.