Day 286

God's Good Plans for Your Future

Wisdom Psalm 119:25-32
New Testament 2 Thessalonians 1:1-12
Old Testament Jeremiah 27:1-29:23

Introduction

Futurologists make predictions about the future. One prediction is that some babies born now are likely to live to the ripe old age of 150. Wired magazine not long ago predicted that meal replacement patches (taking nicotine replacement patches a step further) would be in existence by 2018, and that by 2020 there would be a new financial currency introduced for purchases in space!

Some look to futurologists to know what is coming. Others go further. Some people read their horoscopes because they want to know what their future holds. However, Jeremiah warns in the passage for today, ‘Don’t for a minute listen to… spiritualists and fortunetellers, who claim to know the future’ (Jeremiah 27:9, MSG).

The study of history helps us to predict the future. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘To understand the future we need to understand the past.’

But as the one who holds the past, present and future in his hands, only God truly knows the future. Much of it is hidden from us. However, there are certain things about your future that God tells you.

Wisdom

Psalm 119:25-32

ד Daleth

25 I am laid low in the dust;
    preserve my life according to your word.
26 I gave an account of my ways and you answered me;
    teach me your decrees.
27 Cause me to understand the way of your precepts,
    that I may meditate on your wonderful deeds.
28 My soul is weary with sorrow;
    strengthen me according to your word.
29 Keep me from deceitful ways;
    be gracious to me and teach me your law.
30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness;
    I have set my heart on your laws.
31 I hold fast to your statutes, Lord;
    do not let me be put to shame.
32 I run in the path of your commands,
    for you have broadened my understanding.

Commentary

Your future is freedom

I love the Psalms. There is an honesty, reality and authenticity about them.

We all face temptation, sin, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes and desires. How does the psalmist respond to all these challenges?

He does not disguise his feelings. He speaks openly and vulnerably about them: ‘I am feeling terrible – I couldn’t feel worse!’ (v.25a, MSG).

You too can be real with God and say, ‘I recounted my ways and you answered me’ (v.26a). Spread your case before the Lord, opening your heart with sincerity to him. There are times of deep sorrow: ‘My soul is weary with sorrow’ (v.28a).

Pray like the psalmist, ‘Preserve my life according to your word’ (v.25b). Meditate on God’s word (v.27b) and pray, ‘Strengthen me according to your word. Keep me from deceitful ways; be gracious to me through your law’ (vv.28b–29).

Resolve to follow God’s ways in everything, but not out of a sense of obligation or guilt. Choose to run in the path of God’s commands, for he has set your heart free (v.32).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you have a path of freedom for me and that, in times of struggle, I can turn to you. I turn to you now and speak honestly with you.

New Testament

2 Thessalonians 1:1-12

1Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

2 Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. 4 Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.

5 All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7 and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8 He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might 10 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Commentary

Your future is secure

Jesus is coming back. His second coming is the most important thing to know and believe about the future. It changes everything about how you live your life now, and infuses every moment of the present with hope. No one knows exactly when it will happen, but live every day as if he were returning today – doing what he would want you to be doing.

Paul begins this letter with the assertion that ‘our God gives you everything you need, makes you everything you’re to be’ (v.2, MSG). He thanks God for their growth: ‘Your faith is growing phenomenally; your love for each other is developing wonderfully… We’re so proud of you’ (vv.3–4, MSG).

There is a great deal of emphasis in the New Testament on spiritual growth. You are not meant to stand still. Your faith and love should grow. God is trying to increase the muscles of your faith. Is your faith getting stronger? Is your love increasing? Do you react differently from two or three years ago?

So often, it is our struggles rather than our ‘successes’ that make us stronger. The Thessalonians’ faith and love were growing in spite of – maybe even because of – the persecution and trials that they were enduring (v.4).

Paul tells them that in the future God will put things right (vv.6–7). ‘Justice is on the way’ (v.6, MSG). When Jesus returns he will execute a perfectly just judgment: ‘This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels’ (v.7).

God desires that all people repent and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). But he warns those who consistently reject the knowledge of God throughout their life, and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:8) – as was the case with those who were persecuting the Thessalonians – that there is a judgment to come. They will miss out on the possibility of eternal life.

The opposite of eternal life is ‘destruction’ and being ‘shut out from the presence of the Lord’ (v.9). Those who know God and obey the gospel will experience his presence and his majesty into eternity ‘on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marvelled at among all those who have believed’ (v.10a). Paul says this includes the Thessalonians: ‘because you believed our testimony to you’ (v.10b). Their long-term future is totally secure.

Their response to the gospel determined their future. The gospel message is urgent. The gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.

As far as their short-term future is concerned, Paul writes, ‘We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfil every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith’ (v.11).

Do not simply sit around waiting for Jesus to return. God has a ‘good purpose’ for your life. He has called you. He puts ideas into your heart. He works in you both to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13).

In all this, Paul prays that the name of Jesus will be glorified: ‘If your life honors the name of Jesus, he will honor you’ (2 Thessalonians 1:12, MSG).

Prayer

Lord, thank you so much that my long-term future is secure. Help me to make the most of my life here – to grow in faith and love, fulfil the purpose you have for me and bring honour to your name.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 27:1-29:23

Judah to Serve Nebuchadnezzar

27Early in the reign of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 This is what the Lord said to me: “Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck. 3 Then send word to the kings of Edom, Moab, Ammon, Tyre and Sidon through the envoys who have come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. 4 Give them a message for their masters and say, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Tell this to your masters: 5 With my great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please. 6 Now I will give all your countries into the hands of my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. 7 All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes; then many nations and great kings will subjugate him.

8 “‘“If, however, any nation or kingdom will not serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon or bow its neck under his yoke, I will punish that nation with the sword, famine and plague, declares the Lord, until I destroy it by his hand. 9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. 11 But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the Lord.”’”

12 I gave the same message to Zedekiah king of Judah. I said, “Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and his people, and you will live. 13 Why will you and your people die by the sword, famine and plague with which the Lord has threatened any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14 Do not listen to the words of the prophets who say to you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they are prophesying lies to you. 15 ‘I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord. ‘They are prophesying lies in my name. Therefore, I will banish you and you will perish, both you and the prophets who prophesy to you.’”

16 Then I said to the priests and all these people, “This is what the Lord says: Do not listen to the prophets who say, ‘Very soon now the articles from the Lord’s house will be brought back from Babylon.’ They are prophesying lies to you. 17 Do not listen to them. Serve the king of Babylon, and you will live. Why should this city become a ruin? 18 If they are prophets and have the word of the Lord, let them plead with the Lord Almighty that the articles remaining in the house of the Lord and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem not be taken to Babylon. 19 For this is what the Lord Almighty says about the pillars, the bronze Sea, the movable stands and the other articles that are left in this city, 20 which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon did not take away when he carried Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, along with all the nobles of Judah and Jerusalem— 21 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about the things that are left in the house of the Lord and in the palace of the king of Judah and in Jerusalem: 22 ‘They will be taken to Babylon and there they will remain until the day I come for them,’ declares the Lord. ‘Then I will bring them back and restore them to this place.’”

The False Prophet Hananiah

28In the fifth month of that same year, the fourth year, early in the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, said to me in the house of the Lord in the presence of the priests and all the people: 2 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon. 3 Within two years I will bring back to this place all the articles of the Lord’s house that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon removed from here and took to Babylon. 4 I will also bring back to this place Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and all the other exiles from Judah who went to Babylon,’ declares the Lord, ‘for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.’”

5 Then the prophet Jeremiah replied to the prophet Hananiah before the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the Lord. 6 He said, “Amen! May the Lord do so! May the Lord fulfill the words you have prophesied by bringing the articles of the Lord’s house and all the exiles back to this place from Babylon. 7 Nevertheless, listen to what I have to say in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people: 8 From early times the prophets who preceded you and me have prophesied war, disaster and plague against many countries and great kingdoms. 9 But the prophet who prophesies peace will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true. ”

10 Then the prophet Hananiah took the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah and broke it, 11 and he said before all the people, “This is what the Lord says: ‘In the same way I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon off the neck of all the nations within two years.’” At this, the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.

12 After the prophet Hananiah had broken the yoke off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 13 “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. 14 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals. ’”

15 Then the prophet Jeremiah said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, yet you have persuaded this nation to trust in lies. 16 Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This very year you are going to die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.’”

17 In the seventh month of that same year, Hananiah the prophet died.

A Letter to the Exiles

29This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

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.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good 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 on 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.”

15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.

20 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon. 21 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will deliver them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. 22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies—which I did not authorize. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the Lord.

Commentary

Your future is hopeful

This passage contains one of the most wonderful and often quoted promises of God about his future plans for our lives. Jeremiah was a true prophet. He heard the word of the Lord.

But there were false prophets around, like Hananiah. Jeremiah says, ‘The prophet who prophesies peace will be recognised as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true’ (28:9). Hananiah’s predictions did not come true because the Lord had not sent him (v.15).

Jeremiah’s prophecies did come true. The people of God did go into exile as he had warned.

Jeremiah speaks the message from the Lord to his people in exile. He tells them, ‘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’ (29:7).

There is an important principle here. Generally, you should seek the peace and prosperity of the place in which God has put you and pray for it. This includes places where you may work, study, your local church, your city and your nation.

There is an expression: ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ This passage encourages you to make roots even where you feel uncomfortable or isolated (like in exile). Sometimes the place where you find yourself is not where you want to be but if God has led you there, then that place must be fertile ground for God’s work in you to thrive.

God promises his people that the exile will come to an end: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place’ (v.10).

This is the context of the wonderful promises: ‘For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 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. I will be found by you’ (vv.11–14a).

God has good plans for you. They are not plans for your failure or defeat. They are plans to ‘prosper you’. They are not average or mediocre plans. They are ‘good, pleasing and perfect’ (Romans 12:2).

But God will not force his plans on you. He requires your cooperation. If you want his plans to be fulfilled in your life, you need to seek him. He promises that, if you do so, he will be found by you (Jeremiah 29:13–14b). As you spend time with him, you will become like him and he will lead you into the good plans he has for your life.

Prayer

Lord, today I want to seek you with all my heart. Thank you that you have great plans for me. Help me to walk in your paths and fulfil the purpose you have for me.

Pippa adds

Jeremiah 29:13–14a

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.’

It is very exciting to be part of a new Alpha term. During these first few weeks, people have spoken of their curiosity and search for God. It is good to know that if they search for God with all their heart he promises, ‘I will be found by you’. I can’t wait to see what will happen this term.

Verse of the Day

Jeremiah 29:11

‘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’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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