The Father's Heart for the Church
(Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper
you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
This verse is one of the most popular Scripture promises among Christians. And no wonder; it speaks of the Father's heart and plans for us. We all long for prosperity, hope, and a bright future. And many hold on to this promise as if we can expect it without knowing what the next few verses or the preceding verses say.
Jeremiah 29:1-23 is a letter written to the Jewish exiles and sent by Jeremiah to the surviving elders, priests, prophets, and exiles in Babylon (v.1). In the letter, God is telling them to settle in and make a life in their new place of residence. In other words, don't resent their present circumstance. He also encourages them to work and pray for the prosperity of the city because it will be the determining factor in their own peace and prosperity. God warns them not to be deceived by the prophets and seers among them for they are not speaking for Him (vs.4-9).
Right before God gives the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 (and spoken of in detail in Chapters 30-31), He tells them it will happen after the seventy years of exile in Babylon. By now the exiles surely realize that the prophets they had been listening to in Jerusalem, who declared peace and prosperity was coming, were wrong and the destruction that Isaiah and Jeremiah said would happen if they didn't repent was indeed true. Deuteronomy 18:22 says "If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed."
How would this restoration come about? And what was the Israelites part? We find this out in vs. 12-13; "Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
There are some in the church today who want to claim the promise of Jeremiah 29:11 without repentance. They want to believe that because God sees us as perfect in Christ, that's all that matters. They choose to ignore the conditional part of the promise. This promise is for all believers because the Gentiles have been grafted in (Rom.11:17; Eph. 3:6) and all of God's promises are "yes" in Christ (2 Cor.1:20). But that doesn't mean we get a pass on the rest; that we can ignore sin or what the Bible says about His heart for how we are to live.
So, absolutely, God's heart and plan are to prosper us and not cause us harm; to give us a hope and a future. But His heart is also that we seek Him (Matt. 6:33) and live a life of holiness (1 Pet. 1:15-16). Sometimes, as with Israel, when we listen to what our ears want to hear (false teaching) instead of the truth of what God requires of His children, we will reap consequences. We will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8).
Today, you only need to look around at the Church to know we are falling short of what God's heart is for us. By Church, I mean the body of believers. I hear prophecies of coming revival, but without repentance on our part, how can this happen? Listen to God's heart when He says in 2 Chronicles 7:14, "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." Believers, this is God's heart for the Church!
If My people who are called by My name Shall humble themselves, shall humble themselves and pray; If My people who are called by My name Shall seek My face and turn from their wicked ways; Then will I hear from heaven, Then will I hear from heaven, Then will I hear and will forgive, and will forgive their sin. If My people who are called by My name Shall humble themselves, shall humble themselves and pray; I will forgive their sin, I will forgive their sin, I will forgive their sin. . . And heal their land.