Summary: God will not always do what we desire but He will always do what He decides.
Plans to Prosper You
Rev. Brian Bill
June 3-4, 2017
Some verses that are taken out of context make us smile, like this one from 1 Corinthians 15:51 often found above changing tables in church nurseries around the country: “We shall not all sleep, but we all shall be CHANGED.”
Other verses taken out of context should make us shudder when we realize who said them, like this one from Luke 4:7: “If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.” This is what Satan said to Jesus when he was trying to tempt Him.
That reminds me of a pointed post called, “Beware the Instagram Bible” by Jen Wilken. Here’s part of what she wrote:
Beware the Instagram Bible…those filtered frames festooned with feathered verses, adorned in all manner of loops and tails, bedecked with blossoms, saturated with sunsets, culled and curated just for you. Beware lest it become for you your source of daily bread. It’s telling a partial truth…
Its perfect squares are friend to the proverb, the promise, and the partial quote, leaving laws, lists, land allotments, and long-stretching lessons to languish off-screen.
It comforts but rarely convicts.
It emotes but rarely exhorts.
It warms but rarely warns.
It promises but rarely prompts.
It builds self-assurance but balks at self-examination.
If the prosperity gospel offered us all the things, the Instagram gospel offers us all the feels. It preaches good news in part, but we need the whole. It may move us in the moment, but it cannot sustain us through the storm.
My fear is that while our text for today from Jeremiah 29:11 has been copied and calligraphied on plaques and posters, it has not always been clearly understood in context: “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.”
God has used this verse in many of our lives to fan our faith to help us hang on with hope in hopeless situations. No doubt these words are a literal lifeline for many going through tough times. My aim today is that by considering this text in context, our understanding and appreciation will grow in depth and breadth so we can apply this text to our individual contexts.
But first, we might need to do some deconstructing before we can reconstruct what it really means. Check out what God wanted Jeremiah to do in 1:10: “See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Instead of plucking this verse out of context, we’re going to plant this passage in the garden of God’s glorious grace.
Here’s a summary of what we’re going to learn today: God will not always do what we desire but He will always do what He decides.
This is sermon #7 in our series we’re calling CONTEXT – and we have seven more to go! This is a good time to go back to the foundation we laid in week one: Work hard at handling the Word of God because how we handle God’s Word determines whether we’ll be an approved worker or an ashamed wanderer. If we want to get it right, we must go after it with all our might – by staying hungry and working hard.
Considering the Context
In the first sermon of this series we established the importance of asking who, what, when, where and why questions. Let’s do that now.
We’ll start with Jeremiah himself. Jeremiah was both a prophet and priest who ministered for 40 years during the reigns of 5 different kings. He’s been called the “weeping prophet” because of all the pain he experienced while proclaiming God’s message. His refrain was one of repentance but the people rejected both the message and the man. In fact, we know of only two converts. The book that bears his name is considered one of the “Major Prophets.”
We’re also introduced to the Babylonians, who were a ruthless and barbaric people. They were the superpower and the terrorists of the ancient world, functioning much like ISIS does today. Their leader’s name was Nebuchadnezzar. Because of the idolatry of God’s own people, God used the Babylonians to discipline and destroy Jerusalem.
The Book of Jeremiah reads more like a notebook or scrapbook of news clippings that are not necessarily chronological. The book is part sermon and part satire, containing both prophecy and preaching. Jeremiah calls for repentance over 100 times in his text as he warns people of impending judgment while offering grace and mercy if they would but turn back to God.
I should give full disclosure – this is one of my favorite books! Shortly after I got saved, I remember being out on my parent’s patio reading about how Jeremiah preached faithfully and was pummeled as a result. After being put in stocks and thrown into a dark and dank well he thought briefly about just giving up. But then he wrote these words in 20:9: “But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name,’ then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.” I committed this to memory in the NASB and have made it my life verse.