Friday, November 22, 2013

If I Do X, Then God Will Do Y

Recently, I was reading in Jeremiah.  Judah had been so disobedient to God's warnings through the prophets that the ultimate punishment (Deut 28:36-44) must be brought against the nation.  After lowering the boom, he gives this promise:
For thus says the Lord, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear 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 I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” (Jer 29:10-14)
Certainly a wonderful passage of God’s grace to Judah, but what is applicable for us today?  I ask because there are any number of comparisons that have been made over the years relating to:
    My country My local assembly My family Me
Do you notice a pattern?  The Bible is written for and about me.  Christians have a fascination for continually doing this with scripture texts.  I know because I have been guilty of the same.  Is there something wrong with wanting God's promises?  No.  We just need to understand that there are things he has promised that do not affect us directly.

In the passage above, God emphatically states that he will be thrusting his people from one physical location to another with the promise that, at the end of a specific period of time, they will be earnestly seeking the Lord.  Conversely, today’s believers will recognize sin in their nation/assembly/family/being with its consequence and then cry out to the Lord, claiming that he promised his presence if they would just pray more earnestly.

Do you see the difference between the text and this application?  In Jeremiah’s prophecy, God is setting the timing and conditions.  He is working on his people for their ultimate good.  In the contemporary setting, worshipers are attempting to demonstrate their fervor so that the Lord will accept them into his good favor.

One might say, “But the Lord has plans for me, a future and hope.  He says so here and elsewhere.”  True, he does have plans for us—to walk in good works he has prepared; and he  does promise the Christian a future and a hope—that of the resurrection and being with the Lord.  Notice that these are not given based on our level of desire, but his sure word of promise causes us to cast ourselves on him.

The message given through Jeremiah is one of certain hope and full assurance that he will not abandon his people forever.  This is something the prophets and apostles continually bring before us.  We cling to the Lord’s faithfulness and ability to bring it to pass.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The problem is that the promise of a future, etc, in Jeremiah 29:11 is specifically directed at, and promised to, Israel.

The entire passage you cite is for no one but Israel. When people try to apply it to themselves, they can get really frustrated when God "doesn't hold to His promises."

Steve Bricker said...

And then they either turn inward to try and figure out how to do life better in order to turn God around, or they give up on him completely.