Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 June 11, 2017
“God Knows His Plans for You”
Text: Jeremiah 29:11
What a high and happy day we have here today at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church. It is Scholarship Sunday—the day on which we recognize and congratulate the winners of the Cornerstone/Patricia B. Scott Memorial Scholarship. We also think of the good that God has in store for them as they complete high school and begin college. We again congratulate our 2017 winners—and their families—on this accomplishment.
Today is also a high and happy day here because God, once again, speaks to us in His Word. Today’s text—and its accompanying sermon—is not only for the graduates, though immediately applicable to them, but it is also for all of us who are in Christ by saving faith. Let us hear God’s Word today in Jeremiah’s Spirit-led prophecy.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
What a precious verse we have before us today—both in view with our eyes and yet ringing in our ears. God has encouraged and sustained me with this verse over the years, and I suspect that I’m not the only one for whom this is true. Let’s take a closer look at what God says, into what condition He first spoke it, and at how these words from God apply to our lives—both today and into the future.
First, let’s note what God says—and what Jeremiah writes by God’s leadership. God knows the plans He has for us. Hence, those plans shall come to pass. Be assured, then, that none shall arise to frustrate God’s good plan for us—or any component part of His good plan, though it appear tiny or insignificant.
God plans for us to enjoy welfare, or well-being. The underlying Hebrew word, shalom, often translated peace, most closely means it is well with me. Shalom includes peace, but it means much more. It includes adequate supply for our needs, adequate rest for our bodies and for our souls, good relations with others, and so forth. God, in Christ, through the Holy Spirit, intends for His redeemed to have this welfare in place of evil (or harm: Hebrew ra‘). This Hebrew word for evil or harm is a hideous-sounding word; it sounds like it should mean evil. Praise God, He does not intend this evil or harm for His redeemed ones; He intends for them—and He refers to His people in this verse in the plural—the diametric opposite of evil and harm. He intends our highest well-being in Him.
God, moreover, plans for His redeemed, one and all, a future and a hope. These two words relate closely. After all, hope is a positive expectation of good in times to come. Our hope is in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and, because of this, our future is assured (not to mention that our past is forgiven and our present time is confident). Consider our future well-being in two senses. We have eternal life to the full when we depart this life at God’s command, and we have abundant life here until the time God calls us Home. Hence, our well-being in the Lord is for today, and every day, unto endless days.
Now (second), let us note the circumstance into which God first spoke these words—and into which Jeremiah wrote them—and as we note this circumstance, the good design of God seems even more wonderful, if possible. Jeremiah wrote these words sometime after 597 B. C., though likely not long afterward. It was a low time in God’s Old Testament Church. God moved Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, to deport most the key people in Judah to Babylon—and that as part of God’s just sentence for centuries of corporate infidelity against the living God. As bad as this event is, things get worse in the short term. Jerusalem falls in 587-6 B. C., and Nebuchadnezzar puts both the city generally and the Temple particularly to the torch, thus ensuring the utter destruction of both. Then ensued the mass deportation to Babylon.
Yet, at this low point, after the first deportation but before utter destruction, God declares His goodness to His people. God will bless His people even in their captivity—contra certain lying so-called prophets, who tell the deported ones that their exile will be short. On the contrary, the exile will be of long duration. Hence, the people of God are to settle in Babylon. God commands them to build houses, to plant gardens and to eat the produce, to build Godly families by marriage and procreation, and to seek the welfare of Babylon. Thus, God will bless His covenant people in their captivity in a foreign land.
Yet, at the end of this captivity (about seventy years), God will bless His people by deliverance from captivity. He will deliver them from Babylon in the intermediate term—and God’s Old Testament Church, once again, will dwell in Canaan. In the long term God will deliver His people from a more fundamental captivity: from sin, Satan, the grave, and hell—and that through Jesus, the promised Savior, Who is the Mediator of a better covenant.
Today (third), we find ourselves full of hope, joy, and the like—and relatively devoid of worry, pain, and the like. Would that all our lives go as today appears to go. Alas, things in this life do not go this way. The case is not if we have trial, but the case is when we have trial (James 1:2). When trial comes, then (and, inevitably and inexorably, it will), remember God—and, thus, remember His good plans for you, even when little to nothing seems good around you. Do this, furthermore, in the context of His gathered people. Participate in the life of a local church, and in smaller, occasional fellowship groups as appropriate. In so doing, we encourage others and receive their encouragement that these things are true. His plans ever are for our good.
This word certainly applies not only to graduating high school seniors, but also to every believer in Christ as Lord and Savior. Hence, rejoice in our triune God and rest in Him Who knows the plans He has for us each and all and Who surely will bring those good plans to pass.