Tag Archives: hope

As Long as There is Breath

In the ancient lands what often took place was that the people would find a mountain, or if there were no mountains a hill, and they would use that as their capital city and the main place of worship.  They would build a temple to their greatest deity or deities as if to proclaim to all the other peoples around them or traveling through their cities that their god was watching over them.  Jerusalem was no different.  They had chosen Mt. Moriah, the mountain where Abraham had nearly sacrificed Isaac, also known as Mt. Zion to be their temple mountain and capital city (Jerusalem).

They had made a beautiful temple built at the instruction and care of Solomon.  It was one of the finest temples ever built in the ancient Near East.  It glittered in the sun. It shined in the night.  It could be seen for miles away.  It was a magnificent sight to see.  It is understandable why the elders of Jerusalem wept bitterly after coming back from Babylon and seeing the new temple that had been built.

If you have read Micah, you’ve probably noticed that he had proclaimed that the people of Judah were horrid people.  The government was corrupt, the prophets and priests were corrupt, and God was going to judge them.  They would lose everything.  They would be exiled and their lands would be destroyed.  The temple mountain would grow bushes and weeds because it would be torn down and abandoned.

But Micah, like God, loves the people too much to leave them in despair.  “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it,” (Micah 4:1).

This is what we would call poetry parallelism: highest of the mountains = above the hills. Micah’s point here is simply that God’s mountain, Mt. Zion, His house, the temple will be greater than the others. God is establishing His greatness above the other gods.  The palace of God, the temple (both the same word in Hebrew) would be not only restored to its original greatness and popularity, but even greater than it has ever been.  The debate over who has the stronger, more powerful God will be over.  God will be the undisputed champion of the world!  Everyone will know it.  No one will doubt it. People will be coming from everywhere!

That’s what Micah tells us, “And many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’  For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem,” (Micah 4:2).

What’s that?  People all over the world, nations, which to the Jewish listener would mean Gentiles were coming to worship Yahweh, the God of the Jews.  In other words, God would not simply be the God the Jews but the God of the world.  His kingdom would be over everyone!  Not in some God created everything so He is the king of everything kind of ways, but people are coming from all over the world and worshiping God because they long to do so!

The word of the Lord is no longer confined to the people of Judah, but is spread all over the world.  It began in Jerusalem, but from there is spread like wild fire to the ends of the earth!  Does that sound familiar?  “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth,” (Acts 1:8).  By the time everything is said and done we will see what John saw:

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! (Revelation 7:9-10).

What began 2,000 years ago will continue until Christ returns.  There is no limit it would seem to the people who come into this kingdom.  Nations, peoples, tribes, languages.  Think about those who are being persecuted in places like North Korea who have buried Christians alive, Afghanistan where people have put bounties on their own family member’s head because he/she became a Christian. People from those nations that seem like no one would ever believe (and every other nation) will come to know Jesus!  What we generally look at as a lost cause and a hopeless situation will turn around by the very gospel that we hold!  For the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.  No one is outside the power of God’s gospel.  As long as there is breath there is hope.

Please leave me a comment; I’d love to read what you have to say. If you found this encouraging please feel free to share.

Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 Is For You, Christian (Just Not in the Way You May Think)

I love life-verses, but only in such a way that describes what one aspires to be or do or perhaps even find hope. I have a life-verse: Proverbs 27:23 – “Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds.” This is my life-verse as a pastor. It is that which I aspire to do. I want to make sure I am staying in contact with the flock under my care. That doesn’t mean I am perfect or even great at doing so, but it is what I aspire to do. I want to know how they are doing spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

One life-verse that often gets thrown around is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” The issue that I have with using Jeremiah 29:11 is that people tend not to understand it in context. Misunderstanding (or not knowing) the context can absolutely lead to misunderstanding the verse itself.  That being said. . .I am not one of those people who say something like, “Jeremiah 29:11 is not for you.” Because of this verse being taken out of context for so long and so often, many have swung the pendulum way to far to the other side, declaring that this verse is not for Gentiles. I can get that mentality if they mean (and only mean) that this was written to exiled Jews in Babylon. But even still, to me that’s like saying, “2 Corinthians 2:17 is not for you; it was written to the Christian church in Corinth.”

Quickly, I want to take you into a better understanding of how you can “claim” Jeremiah 29:11 correctly. As with every verse, one must understand the context. It isn’t hard to get there; it’s explicit in verse 4 of the same chapter. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Notice three major points in this one verse: a) God is the LORD of hosts (as Chris Tomlin would say, He’s the God of angel armies), thus indicating that God is sovereign and almighty, b) This was written to those in exile, as already stated above. The question is: why are they in exile? That isn’t explicit in this verse. The reason for the exile is that the people had become completely disobedient to God and full of idolatry. The exile was God’s discipline. c) God did this (“I have sent”). This was God’s doing; God’s work; God’s discipline as a loving Father.

In the next few verses, God instructs the people to live life as close to normal as they can. The discipline is harsh, and no one is going to enjoy it, but seek to continue on in life. Get married, have babies, work, play, seek the welfare of those around you in exile (love your neighbor). But he also said not to listen to the false-prophets and diviners. Those people were telling the Jews that they wouldn’t be in exile very long. The truth is, they would be: 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10 – you know the verse right before the famous life-verse).  Having been told that this wasn’t going to be easy, but painful, but to carry on as best they can and to be careful that they ignore ungodly men because this discipline would last 70 years, God reassures them with the words, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The exile was not to bring evil upon the people, but it was for their good. It was all part of the plan. It is often said that God loves you just the way you are. Yes, He does. But He also loves you too much to leave you in such a condition. His plan to take the Jews in and through the exile were good plans even though they were painful plans. Discipline was necessary in order to make the people into the people they were to be. Ultimately, He paved the way for their Messiah, their ultimate good. Their future good was delivered only through the exile. Their future hope was buried beneath the surface of discipline.

This verse was a verse of assurance so that the people in exile would know that this was not the end, but a portion of a greater plan. This is not the end of the Jews and not the end of God’s love for them. In that way, we can say, “Yes, Jeremiah 29:11 is for you, Christian.” As a believer, there will be times where we get off-track. We will not see our folly or we may ignore the clear warnings that we are in sin. There will be a time where we need to be disciplined, but take heart, that is not the end of the story. God still loves us. He is not abandoning us. He is not leaving us in our suffering. There is a future and a hope, but that comes only by way of discipline. We, therefore, ought not to give up, but keep going.

Jeremiah 29:11 (or perhaps Jeremiah 29:4-11) sounds similar to Hebrews 12:5-13. God disciplines those whom He loves so that we bear fruit of righteousness. Therefore, we accept it (though not enjoy it) and keep moving forward.

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
    nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

I love Jeremiah 29:11 in its context. I hope you do too. If you are a nay-sayer to Jeremiah 29:11, please let me know why. I’d love to read your comments. If this article was a blessing to you, please share that with me as well, also feel free to pass it on through social media by sharing.

All verses are from the ESV Bible, published by Crossway.