Monday, January 5, 2009

God Had a Plan, Jeremiah was Cast into a Cistern

God had a plan. Jeremiah was cast into a cistern.

Jeremiah was a prophet, but most of the people didn’t care for the words he spoke. Such doom and gloom coming out of the mouth of one claiming to speak for God. Away with him, we will hear no more of this!

Jeremiah 38:1-5
1 Now Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashhur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashhur the son of Malchijah heard the words that Jeremiah was speaking to all the people, saying,
2 "Thus says the LORD, 'He who stays in this city will die by the sword and by famine and by pestilence, but he who goes out to the Chaldeans will live and have his own life as booty and stay alive.'
3 "Thus says the LORD, 'This city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and he will capture it.'"
4 Then the officials said to the king, "Now let this man be put to death, inasmuch as he is discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people, by speaking such words to them; for this man is not seeking the well-being of this people but rather their harm."
5 So King Zedekiah said, "Behold, he is in your hands; for the king can do nothing against you."
6 Then they took Jeremiah and cast him into the cistern of Malchijah the king's son, which was in the court of the guardhouse; and they let Jeremiah down with ropes Now in the cistern there was no water but only mud, and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

But God did have a plan, and Jeremiah was rescued from the cistern. As for the people, they were taken captive by the Chaldeans, and went into exile in Babylon, just as Jeremiah had prophesied, just as God had said.

In reading the account from the book of Jeremiah, you might find it interesting that Jeremiah, as a prophet, didn’t simply foretell the future. He delivered the marching orders of the Lord God Himself to the people – but many of them refused to listen and obey. How could it be right, that God’s chosen nation would be forced to live as slaves to a nation who did not know God? Not that their deaf ear was unusual. Not listening to the words of God was what had brought God’s judgment upon them in the first place. Now, again, many chose not to hear, and those who refused to be taken captive by the Chaldeans were destroyed – again, just as Jeremiah prophesied.

One of my favorite scriptures comes from the book of Jeremiah, and indeed it is one that many Christians look to and love to quote. I wonder, though, how many of us truly know the context of the verse.

Jeremiah 29:11 - '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.

If you read just that entire chapter, you will find it was given after the people had been taken into captivity. Was the sentence from God to be short, then? Did He plan to rescue them at any second? Not at all, the captivity was to last for seventy long years. Still, God’s provision and care for His people is evident, even in the duration of their captivity.

Jeremiah 29:4-14 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon,
5 'Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.
6 'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.
7 'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'
8 "For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.
9 'For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,' declares the LORD.

God’s plan for His people after the completion of the exile is also quite evident, as seen in verses 10-13.

10 "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.
11 '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.
12 'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
13 'You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
14 '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.'

I’m glad God always has a plan and provision and a future for His people. I find the words of the book of Jeremiah to be on a similar parallel to the times of today. We might not have what we could perceive as a godly government. We might not have the future we had envisioned for ourselves. Some of our own personal goals might never come about. We ourselves might fail in our attempts to produce something we could consider great and worthy of note.
But if God already has a plan for me – why would He need me to dream it up? Isn’t finding out what His plan is, and how I fit into it, more significant than personal dreams and goals? You see, from scripture I find that the plan of God never has had to do with personal, self-centered ambition in the first place.

Philippians 1:17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
Philippians 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
James 3:14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.
James 3:16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.

That the plan of God for our lives has nothing to do with personal, self-centered ambition is actually summed up rather uniquely in the last chapter of Jeremiah. You see, Jeremiah had a word of admonition from the Lord for his faithful scribe, Baruch.

Jeremiah 45:1-5 –
This is the message which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written down these words in a book at Jeremiah's dictation, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying:
2 "Thus says the LORD the God of Israel to you, O Baruch:
3 'You said, "Ah, woe is me! For the LORD has added sorrow to my pain; I am weary with my groaning and have found no rest."'
4 "Thus you are to say to him, 'Thus says the LORD, "Behold, what I have built I am about to tear down, and what I have planted I am about to uproot, that is, the whole land."
5 'But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,' declares the LORD, 'but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.'"

Checking my personal motivation on a daily basis is important even as I remember that yes, I am a child of the King – but also, that it’s not an earthly kingdom. And it’s important to be thankful – He has given me life, not a temporary mansion on a hill which will come down. Praise Him and be thankful and joyful forever!

Job 42:1-2Then Job answered the LORD and said, "I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. [ALL SCRIPTURES NASB]

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