Health, Hope and Healing.

The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah a second time, while he was still shut up in the court of the guard: “Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the houses of this city and the houses of the kings of Judah that were torn down to make a defense against the siege mounds and against the sword: They are coming in to fight against the Chaldeans and to fill them with the dead bodies of men whom I shall strike down in my anger and my wrath, for I have hidden my face from this city because of all their evil. Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.

“Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord:

“‘Give thanks to the Lord of hosts,
    for the Lord is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever!’

For I will restore the fortunes of the land as at first, says the Lord.

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says the Lord.”  Jeremiah 33:1-13 ESV

While Jeremiah was still locked up by Zedekiah, God visited Him a second time. And this time, He commands Jeremiah to pray to Him and promises to answer when he does.

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. – Jeremiah 33:3 ESV

The term, “hidden things” in the Hebrew is a single word that is most often used to refer to the defensive capabilities of a city. It can actually be translate as “fortified” or “inaccessible”. It is somewhat ironic that God uses this word, because it can mean the walls of a city that are impenetrable. Here was Jerusalem, surrounded by Babylonian troops, with siege walls and ramparts set up all around its perimeter, and it’s fall eminent. But God said He was going to tell Jeremiah things that, unlike the walls of Jerusalem, were impenetrable or unknowable. Man could lay siege to God, demanding to know His will and His ways, but unless God determined to reveal His mysteries, man would remain ignorant and in the dark. The prophet, Isaiah, also recorded the words of God declaring His plan to reveal new and hidden things.

“From this time forth I announce to you new things,
hidden things that you have not known.
They are created now, not long ago;
before today you have never heard of them,
lest you should say, ‘Behold, I knew them.’
You have never heard, you have never known,
from of old your ear has not been opened.” – Isaiah 48:6-8 ESV

Unless God makes Himself known to man, He remains unknowable.

Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways! – Romans 11:33 NLT

Behold, God is great, and we know him not; the number of his years is unsearchable.
 – Job 36:26 ESV

He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. – Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

God is unknowable, unless He chooses to make Himself known. While He has revealed His divine nature through His creation and men are without excuse who refuse to acknowledge His presence, they can only know Him in a limited sense. God had chosen to reveal Himself more intimately and deeply to the Israelites. He had chosen them as His own and revealed Himself to them in incredible ways. But they had chosen to reject Him and treat their relationship with him with disdain. So, now God was going to give Jeremiah a glimpse into the unknown, the hidden things of God. He was going to reveal to His prophet the incredible future of Israel and Judah. While He was going to bring punishment on them for their sins and allow the Babylonians to defeat them, He said:

“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion.” – Jeremiah 33:6-8 NLT

God was going to do something remarkable and unbelievable. Just when things appeared to be catastrophic and the fate of Judah was sealed, God promised that their future would be bright. They would experience hope and healing.

“…in the empty streets of Jerusalem and Judah’s other towns, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will be heard again, along with the joyous songs of people bringing thanksgiving offerings to the Lord.” – Jeremiah 33:10-11 NLT

The future. We can’t see it. We can only hope for it. Oh, we can worry about it and attempt to do things that we think will improve or impact it, but when all is said and done, we have very little influence over how the future will turn out. There are far too many things that can derail our plans and destroy our best intentions. But God knows the future. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are all the same to Him. He is not bound by time. And His plans for the future are not speculative, but predetermined. They will happen just as He has planned them. No wishful thinking. No hoping for a good outcome. What God says will happen, will happen, with the same degree of certainty as if it had already taken place. And we know from history, that the people of Judah did return to the land, seventy years later, just as God had said they would. So, we can also know that His plans for His as-yet-fulfilled promises regarding their future will also take place. He has proven Himself trustworthy and faithful. And one of the things God had in store for the nation of Judah was the future coming of the Messiah, the descendant of David. It would be hundreds of years before Jesus appeared on the scene. And when He came, He brought with Him the revelation of God’s plan for mankind: Salvation from sin and restoration to a right relationship with Him. Sadly, the people of Judah did not receive Him when He came.

The true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created by him, but the world did not recognize him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children—children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God. – John 1:9-13 NLT

But as John reveals just a few verses later, Jesus came to make God known and to reveal yet another impenetrable mystery regarding God’s plans for mankind.

No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us. – John 1:18 NLT

And John would later declare the true nature of Jesus’ arrival on earth.

Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! – John 1:29 NLT

God’s ways are beyond finding out. There was no way Jeremiah could know that God had a rich and fruitful future in store for the people of Judah. God had to tell Him. And there was certainly no way that Jeremiah could have known that one day God would send His Son, as a man, born to a woman from the tribe of Judah, who would die for the sins of men. It was a mystery. But in time, God revealed His plan by sending His Son. And His Son revealed the Father, proving the incredible love of God for sinful men. Hope and healing were going to come, but in a form that no man could have envisioned, including Jeremiah. For Jeremiah, sitting in jail as the Babylonians laid siege to his beloved city of Jerusalem, the future looked grim. But God was revealing something mysterious and unknowable to mere mortals: His unstoppable, unwavering plan for the world He had created. It’s important to note that God opened up His address to Jeremiah by describing Himself as “the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it” (Jeremiah 33:2 ESV). The God who created was going to recreate. The God who spoke light into darkness was going to send the true light into the darkness of man’s sin. Hope and healing are always in God’s hands. He is the only source for what mankind really needs. And as bleak as things may appear, we can rest in the knowledge that God has plans for us – “plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV).

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson≠≠
Advertisements

That Day.

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you. For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”

These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah:

“Thus says the Lord:
We have heard a cry of panic,
    of terror, and no peace.
Ask now, and see,
    can a man bear a child?
Why then do I see every man
    with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor?
    Why has every face turned pale?
Alas! That day is so great
    there is none like it;
it is a time of distress for Jacob;
    yet he shall be saved out of it.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.

“Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the Lord,
    nor be dismayed, O Israel;
for behold, I will save you from far away,
    and your offspring from the land of their captivity.
Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease,
    and none shall make him afraid.
For I am with you to save you,
declares the Lord;
I will make a full end of all the nations
    among whom I scattered you,
    but of you I will not make a full end.
I will discipline you in just measure,
    and I will by no means leave you unpunished.”
Jeremiah 30:1-11 ESV

Jeremiah is going to write a book. Not the book that bears his name, but another book that has come to be known as “The Book of Consolation.” In actuality, it is God who will be the author of the book and Jeremiah will act as His scribe. God tells the prophet: “Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you” (Jeremiah 30:2 ESV). But a better translation would be that found in the New English Translation Bible (NET): “Write everything that I am about to tell you in a scroll.” God is not asking Jeremiah to write down everything He has said over the last 29 chapters. He is instructing the prophet to put down in a scroll all that He is about to say. And God gives Jeremiah the purpose behind this book of consolation he is going to help create.

“For the time is coming when I will restore the fortunes of my people of Israel and Judah. I will bring them home to this land that I gave to their ancestors, and they will possess it again. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Jeremiah 30:3 NLT

God was creating a permanent record of His promises and prophecies, so that when the people of Judah and Israel returned to the land, they would have tangible proof of
God’s faithfulness. There would be a written record of all that God had said He would do. It would contain a recounting of the people’s sins against God and a reminder of how all His predictions of judgment had come to pass just as He had said.

While this record is referred to as “The Book of Consolation”, it starts off an a fairly negative note:

“I hear cries of fear;
    there is terror and no peace.
Now let me ask you a question:
    Do men give birth to babies?
Then why do they stand there, ashen-faced,
    hands pressed against their sides
    like a woman in labor?” – Jeremiah 30:5-6 NLT

God provides a highly descriptive picture of how bad things are going to get. There will be pain and suffering like nothing the peoples of Judah and Israel have ever experienced before. Men will look like they are going through labor pains. God describes it as “a time of distress for Jacob” (Jeremiah 30:7 ESV). It’s interesting that God uses the name “Jacob” rather than “Israel”. If you recall, there was a time in the life of the patriarch, Jacob, where God renamed him Israel. Jacob’s original name meant “taking hold of the heal, supplanter, layer of snares”. He had lived his life as a conniver and deceiver, cheating his brother out of his birth right and living in self-imposed exile as a result. When God had commanded him to return home, He also chose to rename him. His new name meant “God prevails”. And along with a new name, Jacob received a promise from God:

“I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! And I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you.” – Genesis 35:11-12 NLT

So, in His book, God refers to the peoples of Judah and Israel as Jacob. Perhaps He did so as a not-so-subtle reminder that they had lived most of their lives as deceivers and supplanters. The word, “supplant” means “to take the place of (another), as through force, scheming, strategy, or the like” (dictionary.com). In essence, the people of God had been trying to replace God with false gods. They had been attempting to be their own gods. So, God warns them that they are going to go through a time of great distress. But there’s good news: “Yet in the end they will be saved!” (Jeremiah 30:7 NLT). And God gets very specific about what that salvation will look like.

“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him. But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” – Jeremiah 30:8-9 ESV

Now, this is where we need to stop and think about what God is saying to them. We have to ask the question: Has any of this taken place yet? Has this prophecy been fulfilled. You might conclude that it was fulfilled when the 70 years of captivity in Babylon was complete and God allowed the return of a remnant to Judah to restore the city of Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. But while that would be true, it would only be a partial fulfillment, because the people of Israel never had another king from the line of David. The next king they would have would be Herod, during the time of Jesus, who was an Edomite and a puppet-king of the Romans. He was not a descendant of David. So, this prophecy must have an as-yet-future aspect to it. It is not yet fulfilled. Whenever you see the reference to “that day” in Scripture, it is referring to future event.

The prophet, Zechariah, also spoke of this coming day of the Lord.

“I will pour out on the kingship of David and the population of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication so that they will look to me, the one they have pierced. – Zechariah 12:10 NLT

Do you see the Messianic aspect to this prophecy? It contains a clear reference to Jesus, the Messiah, the one who was pierced for the sins of mankind. In his great messianic chapter, Isaiah wrote of the coming of Jesus as the Messiah and of His sufferings on behalf of mankind.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
    it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
    a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
    He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all. – Isaiah 53:4-6 NLT

The prophet, Zechariah goes on to say:

“In that day there will be a fountain opened up for the dynasty of David and the people of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and impurity. And also on that day,” says the Lord who rules over all, “I will remove the names of the idols from the land and they will never again be remembered. Moreover, I will remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.”Zechariah 13:1-2 NLT

God has Jeremiah write down on the scroll the following words of comfort to the peoples of Judah and Israel:

“For I will bring you home again from distant lands,
    and your children will return from their exile.
Israel will return to a life of peace and quiet,
    and no one will terrorize them.
For I am with you and will save you” – Jeremiah 30:10-11 NLT

And while God did eventually return a remnant of the people of Judah to the land, they would be without a king. Their lives in the land would not be marked by peace and quiet. They would be surrounded by enemies and constantly harassed by foreign powers, even up until the days of Jesus. They would find themselves under the constant rule of other nations, like the Romans. So, it is clear that this prophecy has only been partially fulfilled. But “that day” is coming. God is not done yet. That is why He was having Jeremiah put the words He was speaking on paper. He wanted a written record that the people could turn to and be reminded of what He had said He would do. The return of the remnant to Judah from Babylon was just a small glimpse into the greater good that God has in store for His people in the future.

There was more godly discipline coming for the people of God. He was going to continue His judgment of them. Even today, Israel finds itself under the judgment of God. They are back in the land, but they are surrounded on all sides by enemies and face with constant threats against their sovereignty as a nation. They have no king. There is no temple and, therefore, no sacrificial system. But “that day” is coming. God is not done yet. His plans for Israel are not yet complete. As God had prophesied through Jeremiah in the preceding chapter:

“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. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” – Jeremiah 29:11-14 NLT

The captivity of Israel has only partially ended. Their fortunes have only partially been restored. But the days of God’s testing will come to an end. He will one day complete His plans for the people of Israel and restore them completely to a right relationship with Himself. And the prophet, Zechariah gives us an exciting glimpse of that day.

“I will refine them like silver is refined
and will test them like gold is tested.
They will call on my name and I will answer;
I will say, ‘These are my people,’
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” – Zechariah 13:9 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

When God’s Will Isn’t Ours.

Because I was sure of this, I wanted to come to you first, so that you might have a second experience of grace. I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia, and to come back to you from Macedonia and have you send me on my way to Judea. Was I vacillating when I wanted to do this? Do I make my plans according to the flesh, ready to say “Yes, yes” and “No, no” at the same time? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 2:15-22 ESV

When reading any book in the Bible, but especially the pastoral letters, it is important to recognize that there was an original audience to whom the letters were written. That means there was a particular context which drove the content of the letter. That is the case with our text for today. Paul was addressing an issue that unique to he and his audience in Corinth. In his previous letter to the church there, he had told them that he had planned to come and see them.

I will visit you after passing through Macedonia, for I intend to pass through Macedonia, and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now just in passing. I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. – 1 Corinthians 16:5-7 ESV

Evidently Paul’s plans had changed and he was not able to follow through on his plans. The result was that there were those in Corinth who began to question his word. So on top of having to deal with a faction in the church who were questioning the validity of his apostleship and therefore, his authority, he was now having to defend his integrity.

Paul wanted them to know that he had been sincere when he told them he was going to visit them. In fact, twice in this passage he claims that his intentions had been to go to Corinth.  “I wanted to come to you first” 2 Corinthians 1:15 ESV). I wanted to visit you on my way to Macedonia” (2 Corinthians 1:16 ESV). But his plans had changed. His agenda had been altered by God. We can read in the book of Acts that it was not uncommon for Paul’s plans to be impacted by the Spirit of God.

Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. – Acts 16:6-8 NLT

Paul was a servant of God and as such, he was obligated to do what God wanted him to do. His plans were subservient to those of God. And yet, the Corinthians were viewing his failure to visit them as vacillation or, even worse, disingenuousness. So Paul asks them, “You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say ‘Yes’ when they really mean ‘No’?” (2 Corinthians 1:17 NLT). Paul insists that his failure to come to see them has nothing to do with vacillation, but everything to do with submission to the will of God. In fact, he claims that he, Silas and Timothy were simply being faithful to what God was calling them to do, just as Christ was faithful to do the will of His Father. Paul’s point seems to be that his will and desires were completely subservient to the will of God. He was completely obligated to do what God wanted him to do, even when it was in direct conflict with his own well-intentioned desires. 

In essence, Paul is boldly claiming that to question his integrity and faithfulness was to question the very will of God. He was simply doing what God was telling him to do, and God is always faithful. His yes is yes and His no is no. He doesn’t lie. His word can be trusted. And because Paul was doing the will of God, the Corinthians were essentially questioning the integrity of God and His Son. In fact, Paul states, “For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’ He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate ‘Yes,’ he always does what he says” (2 Corinthians 1:19 NLT). The bottom line for Paul was that Jesus was the ultimate “Yes” from God. He was the unquestioned expression of God’s faithfulness because through Him all the promises of God had been fulfilled. This wasn’t about Paul keeping his word, but about God keeping His. It was about the gospel and the spread of it throughout the known world. That was Paul’s duty and responsibility and in doing his job, if it meant that his own will had to take a back seat, he was okay with that. And the Corinthians needed to be so as well. Their unmet expectations had to take second place to God’s divine plan. God’s will took precedence over their personal and somewhat petty disappointments.

Rather than being put out with Paul, they needed to remember what God had done for them. As much as they may have desired to see Paul and were disappointed that he had failed to keep his word, they needed to recall that God’s promise was unbreakable and Paul had been the one to bring it to them. 

It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us. – 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 NLT

People will let us down, but God never will. Even faithful believers, who are committed to and bound by the sovereign will of God, will occasionally disappoint us. But we must remember that God’s word is always reliable and the fulfillment of His will is unstoppable. What appear to be setbacks from our perspective are simply God’s will being done in ways that we can’t understand. What come across as disappointments or delays are nothing more than the will of God conflicting with our own desires. Paul was disappointed that he had not been able to make it to Corinth. But he knew that God’s will was better than his own. He had plans and aspirations, but he knew that God’s plans were superior to His own. We can know we’re learning to trust God when we find ourselves gladly submitting our will to His, displaying dependence rather than disappointment.

 

Proverbs 21d

No Contest.

“No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:30 NLT

If God were the petty and petulant type, I could almost hear Him say, “Oh, you think you’re so smart! Well go ahead, do it your way and let’s see how that works out for you!” This would be His response on those far too numerous occasions when I have decided to follow my own advice or put my own plan into action, all while rejecting anything He might have for me to do. But of course, God is not petty or petulant. He is patient. He is long-suffering and He simply allows us to learn our lessons the hard way – through experience. The simple truth is that there is NO human wisdom or understanding or plan that can stand against the Lord. But wait, you say, who in their right mind would want to stand against the Lord? Who would be dumb enough to go mano y mano with their Maker? Just every single person who has ever walked the face of this earth. Every one of us have stood against the Lord every time we have done things our way, instead of His. We have stood against the Lord when we have refused to seek out His will through time spent in His Word. Each time we have made a decision without consulting God or seeking His input, we have stood against Him. To stand against the Lord does not require a raised fist, a defiant gaze, and a declaration of war. It is not just the atheist or agnostic who stands against God, but every individual who chooses to reject His sovereign will and replace it with their own. Whenever I know what God would have me do and I willfully choose not to do it, I am taking a stand against God. And I will learn that my wisdom, understanding and plan is no match for Him. I will discover the hard way that His way is the best way, bar none.

There is another way in which we stand against God. When we listen to the lies of this world and accept the prevailing wisdom of the day. It could be something as simple as subtly succumbing to the if-it-feels-good-do-it mentality of our society. If we give into the pleasure-at-any-price mindset that dominates our culture, we are standing against God. If we worship work, idolize entertainment, make money our god, or seek satisfaction in anything or anyone other than God, we stand against Him. This world shakes its fist in the face of God and says, “We will do it our way!” It rejects His will, His way, and His Word. It relies on a wisdom that is neither godly or good. It depends on an understanding that is faulty, flawed and highly limited in its perspective. It makes plans that are short-sighted and self-centered, ultimately designed to elevate man to the role of god, making him the center of the universe.

But ultimately we all will learn that God’s wisdom, understanding and plan are not just optional, but mandatory. They are without match and incapable of being replicated or replaced. Regardless of whether our stand against God is subtle or arrogantly stubborn, the outcome is the same: We will fail. We will suffer defeat. We will discover our brand of wisdom is a cheap, unreliable knock-off of the real thing. We will find out that our understanding is limited and a lousy replacement for His. And we will become painfully aware that our plans are a poor substitute for He has sovereignly, lovingly created for us. It may take us a while, but we will learn.

Father, why is it that we so often have to learn our lessons the hard way? Why are we wired to have to do things according to our own plan, trying to depend on our own wisdom and relying on our limited understanding? All the while we have Your wisdom, will and Word available to us. Forgive us of our stubbornness and stupidity and thank You for Your unbelievable patience. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 16d

Guaranteed Success.

“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” – Proverbs 16:3 NLT

There are some verses in the Book of Proverbs that sound almost too good to be true. They seem to offer us some pretty significant promises; like guaranteed success in all our plans if we simply commit those plans to God. But is that what this verse is really saying? Is this some kind of spiritual secret to success that assures us of a positive outcome no matter what we plan to do? Common sense would tell you that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. The first part of this verse is critical to understanding what’s offered in the second half. “Commit your actions to the Lord.” That word “commit” can literally be translated “roll over.” It conveys the idea of rolling over or transferring something from one person to another. It is the idea of rolling over or committing your actions to God. Give them over to Him. The word “actions” are those works you intend to do. It has to do with your future plans. In other words, we are to give over to God those works that we want to do. Hand them over to Him. Share them with Him. Get His opinion about them. Don’t move forward without His blessing and approval. If you look closely, you can see that this verse is really talking about submitting to God’s authority in your life. It is encouraging an attitude of complete dependence on Him. In order to us to “roll over” our plans to God, we will have to humble ourselves under His sovereign will and submit to His plan for our lives. He may very well say no to our plans. He may give us a completely different agenda to follow. The key is that we are being encouraged to bring all our plans to God before we put them into action. We must seek His approval and permission.

Then, and only then, will our plans succeed. Verse nine supports this idea. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Ultimately, God is in control. His plan for our lives supersedes any goals or objectives we may establish. As believers we are obligated to turn to God for direction and insight into where He would have us go. We should want to know what He has for us to do. If we seek to discover His will for our lives, we can rest assured that it will succeed. God will always accomplish what He sets out to do. His plans are never thwarted. The Hebrew word that is translated here as “success” really means “securely determined.” In other words, it’s as good as done. There are no doubts, worries, or possibilities that His plan will fail to happen. When we bring our plans to Him and allow Him to either confirm or replace them with His divine plan, we can rest easy knowing that whatever we do will turn out just the way God intended it to. And even if the end result does not appear to be what WE expected, it WILL be what God intended. When Joseph found himself sold into slavery by his brothers, it did not appear to be a successful plan, but it was just what God had ordained to happen. When he was put into prison under false accusations, Joseph had to wonder how this was a part of God’s plan for his life. But it was exactly what God had planned. All along the way, he encountered what appeared to be setbacks and detours for his life, but it was all a part of God’s grand plan for his life.

If we commit our future actions to God, and if we are willing to listen to what He has to say and allow Him to possibly redirect our steps, we will find that His will always gets done in the end. We will encounter success. But on His terms and in His timing.

Father, forgive me for making my own plans so often and failing to bring them to You. I tend to forget that You are God and too often try to act as my own god. Then I wonder why my plans don’t turn out like I expected. But I know that if I submit my plans to You and trust You with the outcome, I don’t have to worry about whether I am in Your will – regardless of how things may appear. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 16

Word and Deed.

“We make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 NLT

While this Proverb appears to be a collection of disjointed one-liners that cover a variety of topics; on closer examination, there are two themes that seem to run throughout the entire Proverb. One has to do with “the path” of our life and the plans we make to get where we think we’re supposed to go. The other theme has to do with our speech or the words that come out of our mouths, and their impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. The direction of our lives has a huge impact on our speech and conduct. Throughout the Proverbs, life is pictures as a journey. It has a beginning and an end. There is a destination to life. And we are always thinking about where we’re going, how we’re going to get there, and why are journey is not turning out quite like we expected. We make plans for our lives and those plans are ALWAYS influenced by something going on in the inside as well as outside of ourselves. Jealousy, pride, self-centeredness, and the longing for power, possessions, and prominence can lead us down the wrong path. And life lived on that path will have a huge impact on the way we live and the words we say. It will influence our words and deeds. This Proverb talks about wise speech, kind words, gossip, destructive words, righteous lips and honest speech. The content of our speech is directly related to the conduct of our lives. Where we go will influence what we say. Foolish living will result in foolish words. Following the wise path will result in wise words.

So who gets to decide the path for our lives? According to Solomon, we spend a lot of time trying to make arrangements and plans for the direction of our lives, but at the end of the day, God is the one who determines our steps. “A man may make designs for his way, but the Lord is the guide of his steps” (Proverbs 16:9 BBE). We may think we know what’s best for our lives, but only God truly knows how to get where we really need to go. In verse one, we read, “The intentions of the heartbelong to a man,but the answer of the tonguecomes fromthe Lord.” This verse reminds us that we may arrange the contents of our mind and plan out all our thoughts, it is God who gives us the capacity to put our thoughts into words. Plans become deeds. Thoughts become words. And both are related to the path we have chosen for our lives. We can choose to live our way or we can decide to live God’s way, to follow His path for our lives. “Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed” (Proverbs 16:3 NLT). Give God the direction of your life. Allow Him to direct your path and you will discover it always leads in the right direction. Following His path not only leads to the right destination, it produces a life marked by godliness, wisdom, and righteousness. When it comes to choosing the right path for our lives, most of us have a lousy sense of direction. “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (Proverbs 16:25 NLT). We need a GPS system. We need direction. And only God can provide it. Our way may seem right, but it will always turn out wrong. God’s way is the best way. “The highway of the upright is to turnaway from evil; the one who guardshis way safeguards his life” (Proverbs 16:17 NET).

Father, keep me on the right path. Don’t let me stray or follow my own sense of direction. I have no idea what is best for me and stopping to ask for directions from this world can be a dangerous thing to do. It will never get me where I truly need to go. Your way is the best way. Following Your will for my life will result in wise words and righteous deeds.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org