GOOD NEWS AND BAD NEWS
You’ve seen this verse on pictures, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. It’s a verse of hope and inspiration, but do you know the context in which this verse appears?
For 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. (Jeremiah 29:11)
It’s a great verse of good news! Jeremiah delivered that verse right after he told the people the bad news that they would be going into exile for seventy years,
For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. (Jeremiah 29:10)
Jeremiah had the unenviable task of delivering a message of judgment to the nation of Israel for their blatant disregard of God’s commandments. The nation was going to be conquered by the Babylonians and their people sent into exile. As we consider Jeremiah 29:11, it can be tempting to claim specific promises made to the nation of Israel without regard for the context.
The Israelites were facing a difficult time and Jeremiah did not soften the message. Even though the Israelites would lose everything that they thought was important, they would ultimately discover that which is most important – God.
We face times of adversity in our lives and we must realize that those can be the times of our greatest growth. There are certain lessons that we learn only through hardship. A. W. Tozer writes, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” There is a depth of communion with God that comes through the crucible of adversity. We want to enjoy the harvest without going through the hardship of planting and cultivating.
As God was preparing the people for the exile, He encouraged them to make the best out of their situation. They would learn some significant lessons during this time of hardship, they would learn to pray and seek God with a desperation that they had not known before,
“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)
You may be facing a troubling time right now. God is faithful, but His timing may not be according to your timetable. Eugene Peterson reminds us, “When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential – and the essential is God.”