Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “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.” (NIV)
This is the Word of the Lord, thanks be to God.
Good morning it’s great to have our Dominican Republic (D.R.) Mission Team back home! I am excited to hear how God is working in and through the team. I am also excited for us to jump back into The Story series.
Let me get us caught up and recap where we are in The Story.
The nation of Israel is split into two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Over a two-hundred-year period of history, nine different prophets were sent by God, like Elijah and Isaiah, to warn the people.
Now where we are in the story, we find the prophet Jeremiah giving this warning that judgment is coming! If you don’t change, if you don’t go a different direction, you’re going to experience some really severe consequences because you have chosen to worship idols, false gods and rejected The God of Israel. For two hundred years God’s prophets warned His people, “Its coming! It’s coming! Judgment is coming!” Then, Finally judgement comes.
The last time we were in The Story we saw the Assyrian army come into the Northern Kingdom and they just destroy it. One hundred and eighty-five thousand Assyrian soldiers attack and knock out the Northern Kingdom. Next the armies fix their eyes on the Southern Kingdom. They had one secret weapon, king Hezekiah. He ruled the Southern Kingdom and was known as a man of prayer! Hezekiah had the reputation of also being a man of humility, and purity.
In the Bible you will read that during Hezekiah’s lifetime God’s judgement was withheld from His people in Judah. So, instead of judging His people and disciplining them, He brings salvation because of Hezekiah’s faithfulness. God rescues the people from the Assyrian army.
If you keep reading you will see that Hezekiah eventually dies and his son Manasseh takes the throne, he is only 12 years old. But there was something you must know about Manasseh, unlike his father, he was an evil king. I mean EVIL! He rejected the spiritual legacy of his father. He comes in and he starts putting up these false gods of Baal again. Remember them from Elijah’s day’s?
Manasseh is an evil king and God has had enough of this! He’s had enough! So God allows Nebuchadnezzar, king Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army, to come in and they attack Judah. They take Manasseh captive and severely torture him and enslave him. During his captivity something happens.
It reminds me of the line from Dr. Suess book and movie, The GRINCH, “And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”
Maybe you could say Manasseh’s heart grew bigger from being broken, it drove him to repentance. Because of his heart change God restores him as king. When Manasseh dies and his son becomes king, his son follows the sin cycle of his father’s earlier years and does evil in the sight of God. Then the tied changes and a new king takes the throne, Josiah, king at age 8. He cleans house and restores Judah back to a kingdom focused on the one true God. Josiah’s faithfulness prolongs the judgment of God, but then the kings that follow we hear the same line, but they “did evil in the eyes of God.”
In 586 BC the Babylonians take over Jerusalem, and destroy the temple. Most of those who survived were taken captive. And just a few left in Jerusalem surrounded by destruction. Here is where we find the prophet Jeremiah. He has the daunting task of preaching during uncertain times of Judah.
At first he struggled with what God has called him to do with his life. Jeremiah was shy and timid. He didn’t think he could ever obey God’s calling on his life, because he could not speak to the people. But God touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said, “I have put my words in your mouth, and I have set you over the nation to do a great work for me.” I guess you could say, Jeremiah’s fear was zapped right out of him!
God promised to be with Jeremiah as he preached to the sinful nation, the people refused to listen to his message. Yet as long as Jeremiah lived he faithfully warned the people according to all the words that God had spoken to him. It’s no wonder he was called the “weeping prophet.”
In Jeremiah 29:11 we read these encouraging words, “God has a plan…”
After all the destruction of Jerusalem, these words served as encouragement and a reminder of God’s sovereignty during a time of uncertainty. Seventy years after the destruction of the temple, God would bring His people back. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to be Jeremiah!
But what I do know is that I have faced moments in my life during uncertain times.
When I was in college I struggled with knowing what to do with my life. I wanted to really follow God. I was seeking how to do that and understand God’s will. But sometimes I would feel frustrated and lonely just waiting to hear an answer from God. In those times I found it difficult to follow God when my circumstances seemed like He isn’t interested in being followed.
Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt uncertain of the outcome in a situation? Have you ever felt confused in how to approach God?
Do you find yourself asking why is He so quiet, why is He still and seems so distant? Have you ever wanted to end your prayer by asking God, “What do you think?”
What about the times you ask God to change…
…your job situation – Lord help me find better pay, or something I am happy doing!… What do you think?
…your spouse – Can you make him be more loving, or can you make her show me more respect? What do you think?
…your child’s behavior, or his or her heart – Lord open my child’s eyes so they can stop doing_____.
Have you ever told God that you don’t want to be single for the rest of your life?…
…and there is no answer. Just silence.
When things aren’t going great, when your life is not going according to your plan, it’s tempting to think that God is not interested in your life details.
But that is not true!
Matthew 10:29-31, “What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”(The Message Version)
James 5:10-11, “Take the old prophets as your mentors. They put up with anything, went through everything, and never once quit, all the time honoring God. What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.” (The Message Version)
Even if we don’t feel like God cares. He does!
What I have learned, through experience and reading the Bible, is when God seems quiet He is up to something. Our response is to follow Him in faith and obedience.
If you are a Christ follower and you don’t understand what God is doing and you feel like God is quiet when you call on him, just keep faithfully following Him.
If you are not sure what you believe about the Bible and about God, and you feel like God has not answered you. Keep seeking Him. The fact that you’re here today tells me He is listening to you even if you don’t feel like he is.
From The Story I have seen this reoccurring theme. I want you to hear this,
God’s greatest work in our lives happen during uncertain times.
The book of Lamentations is believed to been birthed during the destruction of Jerusalem from the eyes of the prophet, Jeremiah. Psalms is an account of the struggles and uncertain times during the life of King David.
These times served as pivotal transitions in the life a prophet and a king and one thing is certain, God was not absent!
God was active and from His perspective, if we can imagine that for a moment, we would see that uncertain times become open opportunities for God to do something in us and through us.
Uncertain times become open opportunities for God to do something in us and through us.
Take the nation of Israel for example. They had a problem with idol worship. The king’s hearts were hardened and they leaned on the gods they created. Much like the god’s we create today. Like our job tenure, our businesses, investments, our friendships, our family, our good health.
All those things are not bad in and of themselves, but when they consume us, when they become comfortable. We depend on these things we created to… live.
Then we are pulled from a dependency on God, The Father to a dependency on stuff, people, securities or fears. That is idol worship!
When we get lost in this idols worship, we need those idols we created to be shaken up by God…
… So God can have our undivided attention,
… So we are in a position to grow in our faith relationship with God.
How would someone in your uncertain situation act if he or she had the confidence that God was with Him?
Here is the Good News! When you feel uncertain of where God is in your life, remember that He is in the same place He was when His son, Jesus died on the cross. He is in control on his throne. Trust in Him. Be confident that God is with you!
Just remember that uncertainty is not evidence of God’s inactivity in your life. This may be the moment when God is most active and you will want to follow Him even closer.
Let us pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
As we face times of uncertainty as a nation, a church, and individually, please remind us of your presence. Even if we feel like you are far away, remind us to draw near to you. Give us the confidence to follow you faithfully.
Thank you for having a plan for us to know You and place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Thank you for calling us softly and tenderly. Calling us, sinners to place our trust in You.
In Jesus Name,