BIGGER THAN YOU: It’s About The Goodness of God’s Sovereignty, Not Dreams of Our Own Prosperity
1. We Believe - By: Newsboys
2. Break Open The Sky - By: Toby Mac
3. Heaven Song- By: Phil Wickham
4.It Is Well (With My Soul) - Phil Wickham
5.Amen - Chris August
Call To Worship Scripture Reading
Call To Worship Scripture Reading
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
One of the dangers of taking scripture out of context is that we make it smaller than what it is. God’s words, plans and blessings are beyond us. So when we bend scripture to what we would like it to say, we naturally shrink it from infinite to the finite limitations (and one might even say lust and deceptions) of our own minds and hearts.
That being said, perhaps one of the most mis-used, mis-quoted and most taken out of context passages of our time is found in . It isn’t hard to see how this happens. How many people have recieved or given this passage on a card or have it hanging on a wall in their home or office or decorating a coffee mug, and though this verse is everywhere, I wonder how many of the same people have read Jeremiah or at least the surrounding verses.
Well beloved, that is exactly what we aim to do this morning. By the spirit and word of God we shall seek to go beyond our finite understanding and see this passage in its true context, the context that God put it in. We shall allow our hearts and minds in God to become big again.
Many a prosperity preacher (Olsteen, Prince) has clung onto this verser as their own “”. They have proclaimed it from the pulpit as why someone should expect to succeed in Medical School, why a graduate should be hopeful, why and individual should run full speed ahead for their dreams. However, if you would, I would like you to look with me to see if this message holds up to the context of the scripture. It is my my expectation that you shall see that it does not and my hypothesis that this is a good thing for us and a blessing because of what it says about God and about us.
Who? You all remember that question well from when we studied how to study the Bible. The question is who is being discussed in this passage or who is involved. Who are the characters at play?
In this passage we have two words that need to be identified. The first is I and the second is you. The first being “I” is actually answered in this verse. It is “the LORD”. The Holy God “Yaweh”. “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord”
The next question then is who is the “you”? If we follow “the coffee mugs & cards” we would thing that the “you” is you or at the very least it is Christians. But if we follow proper interpretation then we cannot assume that, and since the you isn’t stated in more detail in this verse we have to expand out to get more context.
First go to 29:1
1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Here we learn that what we are reading is a
sent by Jeremiah the prophet
It was sent from Jerusalem
It was sent to the elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
Thus the letter traveled from Jerusalem to Babylon to be read to captive Israel in Babylon. But does the letter specifically address or identify the “you”?
Go to where we find ourselves now in the content of the letter:
4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
Now we have it confirmed… make these notes:
The you is the exiles of Israel sent from Jerusalem to Babylon.
The exiles have bent sent into exile by God…(this is important to our verse of study)
Note that the “you” is not singular as in a single person but is plural. It is descriptive of an entire people, a nation in exile.
We are not discussing here a single person seeking God’s will, or a single person seeking a career or relationship or health issues. We are talking about the one true God and God is talking to His chosen people as a whole. You might say it seems as though we are discussing nation building not individualism.
We should not this, because I believe it does not take a Hebrew scholar or an expert theologian to realize that in terms of context “one” vs. “many” can make a huge difference.
Now since we are discussing context and you all remember well the “who, what, when, why and wherefore” I would like to highlight the verse just prior to verse 11 which will help fill in our context:
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
God says here that after 70 years (in captivity) He will redeem His people. This context is very different than that of what we read on graduation cards. When we here someone say that God has plans to prosper us we don’t think 70 years of captivity. Perhaps even more detrimental is that not a thought of needed redemption comes to our minds either, but rather an attitude of entitlement which is so dangerous and detrimental.
The point is that God did and does have a plan, a future and a hope for His people Israel, but it is going to look far different than Israel had ever imagined. During those 70 years of Babylonian exile Israel must remember God, and they must remember His sovereignty and the goodness of His plans for them. You could say, that during what seems to be a life absent of prosperity, they must be disciplined to know that their prosperity as a nation rest in the plans of the LORD alone.
So, lets move to our “wherefor or our so what”.
After all that may be the question that you are asking. So what? Even when the verse is taken out of context, it still offers value, right? God does know the plans of individual people, that is still true about God, so it’s just as well to keep prescribing for those seeking God’s plan for their life, right?
Well I would offer a diplomatic yes and no. When something is perscribed you not only have to perscribe the right thing but also the right usage or you limit the healing abilities and can actually cause greater harm even though you had the right perscription (Rx) just persrcibed wrongly (wrong context).
We as Christians don’t just say things to make people feel good. We are commanded to teach the Word of Christ, the Word of God to all people. Thus we need to allow the Bible to speak for itself and not bend it for what we see as a “greater good”. If is speaking to a nation rather than just one person then we should start with that truth because that is the truth of scriptures and that is what we seek and love. Context matters and I say it again, context matters. God speaks to a specific people, at a specific moment in time, for a specific purpose.
What this means is that God has plans for a entire group of people, which is the nation of Israel. As we read on in the Scriptures we find that this promise was fulfilled: those in exile returned, and the nation of Israel was restored for a time. God made a promise through the prophets, and God was faithful in that promise.
Now this speaks to the true Character of God. God is a God of redemption and He was (in the case of Israel) and is (in the case of His church) faithful in redeption. God is a redeemer.
John Calvin says about this passage, the prophet is speaking not just of historical redemption, for that period in time, but also of “future redemption.”
For the Israelites, God listened to their prayers when they sought Him with all their heart, and in His time, He brought them out of exile.
This passage is there so that we might know of the faithfulness and redemptive abilities of God.
A Bigger Picture For Today:
A Bigger Picture For Today:
Now the question is what about today? This is where I take you back to where we began. I offered that this passage is bigger than the modern individualistic context that it is so often sandwiched into.
This verse is a beautiful verse, it is an amazing promise and if it is heard rightly then this message should not detract from the beauty of this passage but shine it’s beauty out in new heights before us.
Here is what I would offer:
To the church: We are all in this together. This verse does not apply to isolated individuals or to a broad community. It applies to both, together, functioning as one. This is how God moves amoungst a people.
The image painted here is one of individuals in community, like the Body of Christ which Paul talks about. It is a family of people, worshiping God together, with their hope set upon a future redemption promised by God.
You see when this verse is put in an individualistic context, then the gaze of those whom it is applied to becomes imminate. It becomes about the here and now. It becomes “God prosper my plans, my relationships, my health....” But when it is placed in the proper context of God’s people, a nation being redeemed by God then it turns to the future just as in the context of the passage.
The future in Jeremiah is one that is bright and glorious—one of redemption- one that everyone in the community through prayer and worship seeks as their collective future hope.
Now I know that many/all of us want to desperately know the plan that God has for each one of us as individuals. However I would call us to let the prophet Jeremiah remind us that it’s not all about us, and it might not look like what we think it should.
Even more important, than our decision about which college to attend, or what career to follow, what house to buy, where to move, or what retirment plans to make - even more hopeful to the sick than an physical healing, more joyous to the depressed than a pill or busy destraction and more uplifting to the grieiving than a temporal word of encouragment is the future hope of the Kingdom of God foretold by the prophets and fulfilled in the reign of our now and coming King. In this way, the promise of is bigger than any one of us—and far better.
Let the Spirit and the Church together then say: Amen, Come Lord Jesus, Come quickly.