by WALT WALKER — Many years ago, a man gave me a scripture verse as a prophetic word (i.e. he felt God had inspired him to share a verse as a specific message from God to me). It was kind of like a text message from God — short, cryptic, to the point, and without a lot of explanation.
The verse was Jeremiah 29:11:
“I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
I had always thought that to be such a beautiful and comforting passage; that is, until a few months ago, when I listened to a sermon by an Old Testament seminary professor. His message popped that bubble and caused me to see Jeremiah 29:11 in an entirely different light.
__A future and a hope after I’m dead… never really thought about future and hope in that context.
The story of Jeremiah and that particular verse goes like this: Israel and Judea had been invaded and many of the people had been carted off to Babylon as slaves, Jeremiah among them. As on so many such occasions, prophets of doom and judgment began to speak out, as did the prophets of optimism, who proclaimed that there was going to be a great and mighty move of God that would save them. This went on for some time until Jeremiah finally weighed in with (what in time proved to be) the real word from the Lord. He said several things in the first eleven verses of chapter twenty-nine:
1) All those prophesying about eminent deliverance, prosperity, and victory were actually false prophets. Evidently, they were speaking out of their own hopes and desires, or perhaps out of their own theological preconceptions.
2) You Jews should settle in, plant your gardens, and build your houses in Babylon because you’re not going anywhere.
3) Since you’re going to spend the rest of your lives in Babylon and will raise your children there, make a difference where you are. Pray for and seek the welfare of Babylon because the welfare of that pagan city will be your welfare.
4) Finally Jeremiah said that “God has plans to give you a future and a hope” (29:11) because after you’re dead and buried, you children will return to Zion and Jerusalem will be restored.
A future and a hope after I’m dead… never really thought about future and hope in that context.
Jeremiah’s prophetic message is sobering but insightful. God sees a bigger picture, a much bigger picture. There are at least two things we can learn from this story of promise and fulfillment.
LESSONS LEARNED FROM JEREMIAH
__We tend to think of God’s promise and fulfillment within the context of our own lifetime.
First of all, the story God is telling is like an epic novel that transcends many generations. We’re used to stories on screen that begin and end in thirty-minute to two-hour time frames. In that span of time, the scene is set, the problem arises, and the situation is resolved. Similarly, we tend to think of God’s promise and fulfillment within the context of our own lifetime. Obviously, that’s not the way God is telling His story. It was not that way with Jeremiah’s generation, with Abram and his seed, with the Children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, nor with the early church. And it may not be that way with you either. In each case mentioned above, the complete fulfillment of God’s promise to a person(s) was or will be fully realized in a future generation.
The second thing to learn from Jeremiah’s prophecy is that many of our blessings may have been promises of God made to previous generations and fulfilled in our lifetimes. At the same time, many of the promises of God to us may only be realized by our children or by our children’s children.
Some like to think of those blessings as a natural consequence of a godly heritage, while others prefer to see them as the sovereign fulfillment of promises across multiple generations. Either way, the only sure thing is that very few of us look at things from God’s perspective. We tend to be so caught up in the moment or even in our own lives that we have difficulty seeing beyond it.
__The significance and dramatic climax of that story emerges in your children, your grandchildren, or those you have won to Christ, discipled, or served.
As a writer, I constantly talk to people about their stories. Not surprisingly, some don’t think they have much of one to tell. Not much excitement. Nothing dramatic. However, that may or may not be true because God sees things quite differently than we do. It also could be true that your story is simply Chapter One. The significance and dramatic climax of that story emerges in your children, your grandchildren, or those you have won to Christ, discipled, or served.
God is telling a very big story. If we want to think God’s thoughts, discern God’s will, understand God’s purpose, we need to stop for a moment and think about the bigger picture.
Walt Walker is a freelance writer and serves as the editor of Every Nation News—North America.
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