When I was little I brushed my teeth every day (I still do), but sometimes I think I get caught up only half brushing my teeth and eventually baby cavities start to form. When I was in Kindergarten I was brushing my teeth every day when I went to the dentist and was told I had several cavities. My older brother who I noticed never brushed his teeth, had none. I immediately put two and two together to realize I didn’t need to brush my teeth to not have cavities. After that I barely brushed my teeth.
When I went back to the dentist six months later, I was astonished to be told I had several more cavities. I wasn’t sure how it worked for Cody but yet not for me. Turns out that he was losing all his baby teeth while I wasn’t so lucky. I had a misperception in my head that I could reap all the benefits of brushing my teeth while not actually having to ever brush my teeth.
This misperception was one that I put a lot of weight on and was hoping it would all fall into place in the end, but I wasn’t so lucky when I awoken to reality to see it was all a fantasy. Oddly enough, this is very common in our society. We half hear something and suddenly mold it to have meaning in our own lives. It’s only when we hear the whole story, the whole fact, the whole Truth, are we able to fully understand it and apply it to our life.
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.”
One of most well known verses in the Bible and many people’s life verse that carries them through times of trouble to assure them that just over the horizon there is a new day and new promises by God. It is a great verse. Often times, I feel that many times this verse is used as a half truth (much like my lack of brushing) in our society. It’s only when we see the whole passage that we’re able to understand the real meaning for the verse. God is not simply stating no matter what happens, whatever your actions are, wherever your heart lie, in the end life will be perfect. We know the world is broken, we’ve seen the pain, we’ve experienced the heartache. However, there is a life of prosperity in the future for those who find it.
As God is sending out the people of Jerusalem to Babylon. The people are frustrated with the exile they are undergoing, but God encourages them telling them to start a new life there, to build houses and start families. He tells them that if they seek peace and prosperity they will find it. He warns them about those who are lying in His name telling of misfortune and falsely prophesying in His name. After 70 years of being in exile, God will rescue them and fulfill his promises to them.
Enter Jeremiah 29:11, however joyful the verse is, let us not stop reading. I feel the real beauty of the verse is echoed in the following verses.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 “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.”
God promises us a bright future. We call upon Him and He listens to us. We find God when we seek Him with all of our heart. I like to think of this in the descending order to get a best picture of our relationship. God does promise us a bright future, He had our future carved out and planned for us since before we were in the womb, when he appointed us to be prophet of the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5) The promise was declared to Jeremiah, but it also goes said for us as well. God has known us since before we were born, He wants us to declare His message to every tongue, tribe, and nation, and the future for us is bright. However, free will and our sinful nature stands in the way of the future. The only way to the future of hope and prosperity is by our Savior, Jesus Christ. Through Him the way of forgiveness was paved for us. We are free to enjoy the prosperity of His promises. When we seek Jesus with all of our heart, we will find Him. When we find Him, we can call upon His name and He will hear us. He listens to us because He cares about us; we realize this more and more when we learn to understand who He is. We realize this when we seek Him and when we find Him.
Flashback (or forward, whichever you prefer) to the story of the exiles. The Lord promises to gather all who have been exiled together. He then goes on to talk about the other people of the exile who will undergo great punishment (plagues, famine, sword) and then the Lord declares why they are receiving this backlash.
Jeremiah 29:19 “For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again an again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.
Some of the people listened to God’s word. Some of the people ignored it. Some received the prosperity God had promised. Some received punishment.
Both people could be in exile process (some did not obey God’s word to be exiled, these people who ignored the pleas were the ones who received most punishment) proclaiming Jeremiah 29:11, but only half the ones proclaiming were living in the full Truth, while the others were living in a half Truth.
Nehemiah 1:5-6 “O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and obey his commands, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants.”
In Nehemiah, it reiterates the message of God keeping His promises of love and prosperity to those who love Him. By seeking God we love Him.
Flash forward to today. I am awoken to the half-truth of the toothpaste and how vital it is for my teeth. I’m no longer able to go days without brushing my teeth, believing God will make sure I don’t have cavities, just because God’s got my back. God does have my back. The future however does not come perfectly. It takes a level of obedience to the laws (and to common sense in my case) as well as more importantly fully understanding them and seeking God out. Arriving at our perfectly bliss of a future isn’t just passive, it’s aggressive. Maybe not aggressive in the way we generally think of, but in the terms of aggressively seeking and having a passion for the heart of God. It’s when we have that passion and that heart of God that we are able to fully get the prosperity of our future.
I love Jeremiah 29:11, however, after years of being blind I can see and understand the rest of the story. I see the beauty in seeking God and finding Him and discovering who He really is. I find great joy in calling His name and having Him listen to me, because we all have a bright future planned for us. It’s within us to obtain it, not on our own, rather through the cross and through Jesus. The prosperity may not be in this life, but it will be there in the life to come. We’ll find it joyfully with arms wide open when we seek the One who gave it to us with all our heart.