“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.” God said that (Jeremiah 29:11). Have you ever felt like saying, “Yeah, right” when you hear it? Intellectually, we can say that we agree. We know God is in control and he knows what he’s doing and he’s working for our good. We can say that with our mouths….but do our hearts always buy it? Do we always live like it?
How hard do you think these words were to believe for “God’s people” in around the 6th century BC? Between 605 and 586 BC, they had been defeated and deported three times, the last one ending in total destruction of their city of Jerusalem. And right in the middle of it all – God made this promise. “I know what I’m doing.”
Yet God keeps promising. The key to this is noticing who God said took them into exile – not Nebuchadnezzar, not the Babylonians – God did it!
Think about that – God knows the plans he has for us – and sometimes they seem to stink. Sometimes, they don’t seem real pleasant. So tell me, do you regularly think about the setbacks in your life as orchestrated by your loving God – the one who loved you so much he gave up his Son?
Think about some of those heroes of Bible History. Noah had to live like a lunatic and build a boat in the middle of the desert, Abraham had to leave everything he knew and all he had built up at home, David had to live in hiding from King Saul and Paul spent plenty of nights bloodied in jail – all because God was in control and loved them, all because God knew the plans he had for them and was working for their good. And in hindsight, we see that really clearly – in how every one of those situations played out.
But when we are going through it?!? We don’t always see it. Apply this. What is God doing with you? When the job is suddenly not so certain, when sickness strikes, when the cancer comes back…When death takes a loved one, when the finances fail and relationships crumble… do you think about those times as opportunities from God for your good?
Or is your faith so weak that you think God doesn’t know what he’s doing? Or maybe he’s not powerful enough? Time and again in Israel’s history – God singlehandedly destroyed enemies much more powerful than Babylon. He easily could have destroyed Nebuchadnezzar too – but he didn’t this time – because he had plans.
And sometimes God doesn’t cure your cancer or fix your job situation. Sometimes he lets you suffer a little bit – not because he can’t fix it – but because he has plans. And when we don’t see that, when we don’t trust in this promise – he should send more than the Babylonian army to teach us a lesson. He should cast us away from him forever.
But God had a plan – a plan that actually included this whole Babylonian captivity thing, a plan that would involve some wise men coming from this area that the exile Daniel was taken to, wise men who more than 500 years later were studying promises learned from these exiles in the 6th century BC that would be fulfilled all those centuries later – it was a plan to send God’s Son. He had made it to Adam and Eve, to Noah and Abraham, David and all the rest – a plan to pay our price. That was at the heart of all of that Old Testament History. God was keeping his promise because he had a plan for you and for me – to forgive us when we failed in our trust, to strengthen us when we are weak, to celebrate with you in perfection forever. But to make that plan happen, it took what didn’t seem pleasant – the suffering and crucifixion and death of the perfect Son of God.
Think about what that tells you about God’s plan for you. He loved you so much that he organized all of world history to give you his Son. Could you really possibly think that he would do that for you and then let your sickness or loss, your bank balance or job, anything that you are going through….do you really think that if he could and did do what he did, that he isn’t in control over a little thing like cancer or war or politics or whatever it is we worry about.
Read the passage at the beginning of this article again. It’s frustrating when we don’t know the plans. We like to be in control, but when we’re making decisions, all too often, we don’t know how it will play out. But how comforting it is to know the planner! And look at what he says – he has plans to prosper and not to harm, plans of hope and a future. His plans always point to Jesus, they always point to our eternity in heaven, so when we wrestle with decisions here, whichever choice we make, when we make it with the Planner – he is with us to prosper us and not to harm.
And then look at verse 12:12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. He is there listening and answering. And, verse 13:13 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.
He wants to be found by us in Word and sacrament. When we gather together around his Word, he is with us. So come join your brothers and sisters in Christ soon and let’s celebrate God’s plans.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 8 & 10:30am. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.