What is God’s word for us at this time?
For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray,, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 NLT
This verse is often quoted without much thought about its context, but over the centuries it has been God’s word of encouragement to millions facing difficult circumstances.
The apostles in the early church knew God’s word, the logos, meaning the written and enduring word, but as the Holy Spirit brought it to them afresh, they took it as God's rhema, His 'now' word of encouragement speaking to them in the present. We can do the same.
Originally Jeremiah was addressing Jewish exiles in Babylon, who were paying the price for Judah’s longstanding disdain for God and His covenant. The exile was forecast to last for 70 years — about two generations — before they would be allowed to return. Their faith in God, such as it was, would be further assaulted by the influences of a pagan land. Tempted to resent God for the hardship they felt He had brought on His chosen people, the question was whether they would have a change of heart, and turn back to Him and seek His grace and goodness.
We as a nation have abandoned much if what we have been given. We hear Christians from the developing nations who speak in glowing terms of the British missionaries who brought the Good News of Jesus to their country in past years. Now we are seeing some of them return to the UK to plant churches here — as pioneers of ‘new churches’, not bound by the traditionalism attached to a building, not weakened by liberal theology, or restricted to any particular ethnicity.
They are less precious than we might be, about bringing a forthright message of repentance before God. Sometimes as churchgoers we question whether such a message applies to us.
Even committed Christian believers, who know the power of repentance in a submitted life, can baulk at the idea that we, as a country, need to get right with God. Whatever our stream or denomination, we like to think ‘our way’ holds the high ground of the truth — and God’s favour.
This pandemic is a wake-up call which confronts such pride. The virus doesn’t care what we recite, or even what we believe. Our community (let alone the nation, and the nations of the world) is under threat. And God is looking to see... patiently looking to see, if people will turn to Him for His help. Not that we deserve it, but we can appeal to His grace and forgiveness.
Jeremiah’s word encouraged the people of his time to seek God afresh. They would experience His favour in a new start, if they were wholehearted in looking to be God’s people again.
That’s an important “if”. It is reasonable to assume that there would be a condition, and there is. The verse continues:
If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me
This is as much for those who are churchgoers, as for those who have distanced themselves for various reasons.
Let’s look at this condition a bit more closely:
“In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you," says the LORD. "I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes...”
What does that “if” mean? “If you look for Me” means having a change of heart: turn back to God, seek Him prayerfully -- and wholeheartedly.
How willing are we, to identify with the faith of a nation having been let go? The good news of Jesus and His kingdom being allowed to become a gentle, unchallenging religiosity, and unchallenging religiosity being allowed to fade from what people view as relevant and necessary? Are we willing to own our share of the decline, and come before God to seek His forgiveness?
As believers enjoying new life in Christ Jesus, each one of us is part of His royal priesthood, representing God to others (praise and evangelism) and representing those of unsure faith to Him (intercession). It’s up to us to give a lead others can follow.
When others start to do that, it’s called revival!
From 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 and Jeremiah 29:11-13
As Solomon prayed, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We are Your people, Lord, and we repent on behalf of our unbelieving country and government, and seek Your face afresh.
We are deeply sorry that the beacon of hope in the good news has been allowed to grow dim. We pray for a move of Your Spirit which will rekindle it again, especially in this season of fear and uncertainty.
You have plans for our good, to give us a future and to give us hope. We humbly ask that the gospel You gave us long ago, that has been stirred up in revivals century by century, may be enlivened once again in a widespread turning to trust Jesus. And that we might play our part. In His name, Amen.