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The Plans of the Potter Jer 29 11 19June05PM

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The Plans of the Potter

A design for living in a strange land

29 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

                                                                        Jeremiah 29 10-14

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected  end.        KJV

We are familiar with the letters of the New Testament – but this is one of the Old Testament letters – from Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon.  As such it is unique in Scripture – not because it is a letter – there are a few of those in the Old Testament – but because it is addressed to Jews who have been displaced, exiled into Babylonia; and because it encourages them to pray – not in the temple at Jerusalem – but in the strange land of their enemies.

That is the theme of the letter.  Don’t expect a quick return to the land of your birth. In stead settle down and make the best of the new location and pray that God will give you blessings in a strange land.    Yes, He is going to bring you back – but that is seventy years in the future – a period that means that hardly anyone is likely to be amongst those who return!  

No! It doesn’t sound very promising does it?

Tonight it is possible there is someone here for whom the future looks similarly uncertain – if not bleak.  On the face of it you are confronted by a dark uncertain prospect.  For such a person the message of Jeremiah’s letter has much to say, for it offers the PLAN OF THE POTTER – A design for living in a strange land.

Such a theme will also suit you if you are at an early stage in life – with much before you in a world that, from a spiritual perspective, is indeed a strange land – a land of little sympathy and much ridicule, a land that does not value spiritual things – a land and a prospect full of new and threatening things.

God says to you:  I have a plan for your life.  It may not look promising just now, but I DO have a plan and it is a good plan with prospects – the very best prospects.

But first a little background, without which we may miss the significance of what Jeremiah writes.

a.     There will always be false prophets

b.     Difficult changes are often part of God’s plan

c.      God has a plan for our good

See what God says in the early verses of the letter:

4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

False prophets

8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

At that time false prophets were  telling the people what they wanted to hear. That the exile would not be long – that they should hold themselves ready for return.

False prophets offer a false hope.

Our circumstances are different – of course – but nevertheless there are still false prophets. Voices in an alien land that offer short term answers but no real remedies.

In our day such voices are likely to be heard in the media, from leaders and politicians, from journalists who think they should shape public opinion, from influential people who demean the spiritual values of Christianity and suggest an easier way.  (In some respects I find myself echoing our preacher of last Sunday.) Even the church has its own false prophets.

We *must* be prepared for such influences. What God offers is different.

We look for such remedies when the way ahead seems materially satisfying but morally challenging.  

Difficult changes are often part of God’s plan

The readers of Jeremiah’s letters have lost their identity, their homes, their sense of belonging – they are a people uprooted and in shock. All that they valued and regarded as important has been wrenched from them.

They are in a strange land.  The clock has been turned back and now like Abrahams in the land from which Abraham came – they find themselves at the mercy of new circumstances, new ideas, new values and new challenges.

Surely this cannot be God’s way for His people?

Jeremiah reminds them that this indeed a national disaster – but it is a national disaster that is within the sovereignty of God.  It was very hard for them to understand – but if they listened they would realise that God had foretold it. It is the result of their stubborn refusal to go His way.   There is hope even in that – for He intends to work it out for good.

This is the Joseph principle in action on a national scale.

19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

                                                                        Genesis 50 v 19

Do you believe in a sovereign Lord?

Then, despite all appearances He is in charge.

But of course the main message of the letter is a message of hope

GOD HAS  A PLAN FOR YOUR GOOD

Which brings us to the central text:

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.

 

In that verse you will recognise THREE FACTORS:

·        Certainty

·        Contrast

&

·        Confidence

CERTAINTY   v11

I know the plans (thoughts, purposes) I have for you…

Our world is full of uncertainty and ignorance of the real values. It is full of short term answers for eternal questions, palliative remedies for acute and terminal illness.

Against the darkness of such a background shines the light of DIVINE CERTAINTY.

Our God is a God of purity, and of judgement, and of promise. He is the God of the New Covenant in which Grace will implant in the very hearts of men and women the change that His Law could not achieve.

I KNOW says God.

These are not human thoughts or ideas subject to the change with circumstance or limited by human knowledge.

I KNOW

a.                Against a background of uncertainty GOD KNOWS

Whilst we worry – He purposes.

This was a constant reminder from the lips of Jesus. Your Heavenly Father Knows!

b.                Despite a long delay

Yes – seventy years will pass before the exiles return – how many more years before the Messiah comes – but despite the delay HE KNOWS HE PROMISES HE FULFILS.

c.                 Despite false advice and failing so-called promises

HIS PLAN IS SECURE!

CONTRAST

Plans to prosper you and not harm you…

Of course it didn’t look like that at all.

All the outward signs were of judgement.

They felt that they had LOST EVERYTHING

They were being given FALSE PROMISES of a change

They felt they could NOT SETTLE

To all of these God offers a CONTRASTING PLAN

To prosper

Not to harm

 

Here in the letter of Jeremiah is an echo of Paul’s understanding of the sovereignty of God :  “all things … for good..”

3   CONFIDENCE

 

“plans to give you hope and a future”    (AV  an expected end)

 

Two thoughts are woven together in this phrase:

HOPE                                        to give you hope   (something to look forward to)

&

CONFIDENCE                     and a future       (an expected end)

There is nothing so lifts the spirit as does something to look forward to!

A dark time is transformed if there is expectation of something good and new.

Mostly – along with the majority – we satisfy ourselves with short-term expectations, but God offers us SOMETHING BETTER

A CHANGED ATTITUDE

A CERTAIN HOPE

But this promise is ROOTED IN CONDITIONS VV 12-14

 

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

As we conclude our consideration of GOD’S PLAN FOR HIS PEOPLE we need to dwell for a moment on what this means.

The simple announcement of God’s intentions worked no magic for the people of those times.

Jeremiah leaves them in no doubt – as indeed God had left Jeremiah in no doubt at the potter’s house – HIS PLAN HAS STRINGS ATTACHED!

The condition this time is the other side of the coin that we were considering this morning.

Then we reflected on the need for SURRENDER to the SUPERIOR CRAFTSMANSHIP OF GOD.   A willingness to give up all.

This evening the emphasis as in verses 12-14 is on SEEKING HIM!

12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

You cannot have a plan for your life which is part God’s plan and part your plan.

You have to find the plan that God has for your life – and seek Him with all your heart.

A HOPE AND A FUTURE


THE FOCUS

THE AIM

THE DIRECTION

Has to be all of God and for God.

The notion that God has a plan for your life can be a great source of encouragement when you are young.  It gives meaning to all the preparatory processes of life – study, growth, further education, choice of friends and partners.

Can it have the same force for those of us who look at life from the other end so to speak?

True as we approach the closing business of our life we can focus on the wonder of heaven – and it is a wonder.

The God who in the letter of Jeremiah speaks of plans for returning exiles in 70 years and of a PRESENT PURPOSE TO SETTLE IN THE STRANGE LAND AND PRAY FOR ITS RULERS

That God in Jesus Christ speaks of a PLACE PREPARED FOR US…

For those who have surrendered to the hands of the Potter there is a plan – a certain plan, a design for living in a strange land!

AS A YOUNG PERSON

I look back over my own life and see many of the aspects of God’s plan for my life – and they did not always turn out as I expected them – but I had a certain zeal a certain focus.

Most young people today want TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Where the previous generation has failed you may succeed?

God says:  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.

 

AS SOMEONE IN MIDDLE YEARS

I would want to make sure that my own children had every opportunity to fulfil their potential.   On father’s day that is a reasonable ambition.   To consolidate life and experience and lay foundations for the next generation.

God says:  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.

 

AS SOMEONE IN LATER YEARS

I would want to make sure that I used that which is unique to later years – a wealth of experience, a plethora of contacts and influences – I would want to make sure that, having the time which I never seemed to have before – I would see to it that I share what God has done for me with others – in a meaningful and effective way.

Be seen to be trusting in the face of the sunset.

God says: 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.

 

GOD HAS A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE  - there is no part of it that He cannot transform into the confidence of HOPE and FUTURE.

SEEK HIM WITH ALL YOUR HEART!

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