Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore your homeland. 11 For I know what I have planned for you, says the LORD. I have pans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope..'”
Jeremiah 30:10 “So I, the LORD, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Jacob, my servants. Do not be terrified, people of Israel. For I will rescue you and your descendants form a faraway land where you are captives. The descendants of Jacob will return to their land and enjoy peace. They will be secure and no one will terrify them. 11 For I, the LORD, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you. I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you. But I will not completely destroy you. I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure. I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished.”
We all fondly cherish God’s promises, in particular the very popular verse found in Jeremiah 29:11. We all want to believe, especially in dire times, that God does have a future and a hope for us. Yet we often ignore the context of such promises. Just before the wonderful promise of Jeremiah 29:11, God is letting Israel know that they are about to get a big spanking (ok, that is greatly minimizing being made eunuchs and taken into captivity 70 years). In that moment of promised retribution, He also injected encouragement and a promise of good things to follow the hardship about to visit His chosen people.
This reminds me of how much I detested punishing my children when they were young, but the folly bound in their hearts had to be purged, in order to get to the blessings in store for a child who would walk in wisdom. My heart deeply desires blessings for my children, but sometimes the road to blessing is paved with discipline. The one who disciplines is often viewed in a harsh light. Why can’t sin just be overlooked and we still get our reward? Because God knows that treasuring sin will ultimately destroy us. If we excuse sin, we allow it to live in our members and grow. Dealing with sin as it should be dealt with is actually a kindness and brings life.
Discipline is never meant to be rejection, but rather restoration of our relationship to God. Living in the moment, we can neglect to see the larger picture of God’s activity in the lives of His people. Perspective of hardship is altered when we recognize it is but one piece of fabric in the large quilt of our lives. Herein lies a bittersweet truth: We cannot claim the promises of God without claiming what precedes and follows them. Will we be a sunshine Christian, only praising God when blessings come, or a faithful follower, during blessings and hardships? Trusting His character, we can have eyes to see that what He permits is truly always for our good and achieving something far greater than what we see on the surface.
This morning, I was contemplating the fourth poor soul awaiting execution by ISIS, displayed for the world to see. Wanting to cling to God’s promises through this crisis, I asked my children to pray with me for this man and for God to show Himself strong in this situation. I asked that God would strike the executioner dead and inject a fear of God in this vile enemy. My daughter then injected a prayer of her own – “can we pray that they would be saved, too?” I was at once humbled. Could I pray that? Is it possible that even this wicked organization could be saved? God knows. But while we wait for God’s deliverance, we have to trust that even these difficult times serve a purpose – God will not waste this suffering. On the other side of every atrocity in history, there is a plan of redemption all for God’s glory. That is where I place my hope this morning – in the context of God’s promises.
Oh Lord, just as You were sovereign and Almighty when Paul was murdering Christians, You are the same All-powerful, All-seeing, All-knowing God who can convert a murderer into a man of God used by You to save many. Lord, I want to see You glorified in these times. Help us to understand and endure all hardship as discipline from a loving father. Please defend your people all for Your magnificent glory!!