Monday, November 19, 2012

Jeremiah 29:11 and America, 2012

One of the most popular verses in the western world these days is Jeremiah 29:11. It is on many t-shirts, bumper stickers, refrigerators and is probably highlighted in most of our Bibles. Many of us can say it from memory, and we remind ourselves of it whenever the future seems uncertain. It has become a major source of comfort for many believers, and rightfully so, as it contains very encouraging words directly from the Lord's mouth:

   "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" (NASB.)

This verse is definitely a great reminder of the Lord's goodness, and I think it is worth a closer look. To gain the best understanding of any verse of Scripture, it is important to understand its context. Researching the context can give us a much better appreciation of what a verse truly says. As many are aware, there was a time in Judah's history when the Lord's people were taken captive by Babylon. They spent seventy years in captivity, and this period has become known as the "Babylonian Exile."

When the Lord spoke through Jeremiah and told His people that He had good plans for them, Jerusalem had just been besieged and they had been taken into exile. He was reminding them of His goodness and that the plans He had for them were good plans, but from their perspective, they still had 70 years to go! Many of the people who were hearing this promise from the Lord would die in exile and never even see their children and grandchildren return to their homeland.

What happened to those "good plans?" They were about to spend 7 decades in captivity under a Babylonian ruler who required people to bow down to a golden statue of himself. He also threatened to kill his advisors if they couldn't tell him what he dreamed and what that dream meant! Before the people were allowed to return to Jerusalem, this leader, Nebuchadnezzar, would pass from the scene, his successor would be lose the kingdom and Babylon would be divided and ruled by the Medes and the Persians. As I mentioned, many would die while in captivity, and the ones who lived to return to Jerusalem would return to rebuild a city that lay in ruins. I think most people would tend to wonder about those "good plans."

So, what are we to make of this? Was the Lord mistaken? What He lying about His plans? We know that, unlike us, God is not capable of lying, so that wasn't the case (see Numbers 23:19). We also know that the Lord's ways are perfect, so He didn't make a mistake (see Psalm 18:30). Even though what transpired in the lives of the Lord's people during the Babylonian exile may not have seemed good at the time, the Lord worked everything together for their good. The Bible tells us that He will do the same for us (see Romans 8:28).

So, as we consider this common verse in light of its historical context, I believe we can draw from it some encouragement for America today. Thankfully, we have not been taken captive by a foreign leader who has burned our cities and put many of us under sentence of death for not bowing to his image - so, it could be worse. However, we have seen our great nation take some very big steps away from the Lord and from what He intends for us. Our nation was founded by God fearing men and women who acknowledged Him at every turn. Now, our children are not allowed to pray in school or, in some recent cases, even thank Jesus in their valedictorian acceptance speeches. Some of our leaders have announced to the world that America is no longer a Christian nation. Many of the freedoms that have been fundamentally interwoven in the fabric of our nation are now being compromised.

Our challenges may be different from those of the Jewish people who were held captive in Babylon more than 2,500 years ago,  but the battle we face, I believe, may be equally as important to our survival and prosperity in the days that lie ahead. The Jewish people have a special purpose in the plans of God. This has always been the case, and He was careful to watch over His word during their time of captivity. While they were in Babylon, the Lord anointed and raised up Godly, uncompromising men like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These men helped alter the course of history, not just for the Jewish people, but also for the entire world! These men shined as lights in the midst of a great darkness.

I believe the Lord also has a special plan for America, but we are currently witnessing a great darkness growing in our nation. Where are our Daniels? Where are the men and women who will be trusted to influence secular leaders? Where are the men and women who will refuse to compromise and, thus, alter the course of history? Those people can be found in our mirrors! We are the ones who must rise up and fight the battles that are right now facing our generation. Daniel never asked for the battles he faced. Neither did Joseph, Esther or Deborah. You and I may have not asked for the battles that are being waged all around us now, but just as the heros that have gone before us, we must stand and fight!

America's best days can still be yet to come. Our future can be greater than our past, and I believe the Lord intends for this to be the case. I also believe that it is up to us. Our victory in the Kingdom is guaranteed, but our victory as Americans may be up for grabs. We are in a moment when we cannot afford to compromise or give up any ground. We need to heed the battle call and fight. We must shine as lights in this darkness and lay hold of the good plans and bright future that can still be ours. Now is not the time to retreat, but it is the time to dig in our heels and be the victorious generation God has called us to be. The Lord knows the plans He has for us, and by His grace, we will live to see those plans become reality.    


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