Sunday, January 9, 2011

Reading the Right Scriptures, II of II

Reading the Right Scriptures, II of II
Jan 10, 2011
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.'"

To read Jeremiah 29:11 with a literal translation in mind, it does appear that God was speaking to a direct audience, a specific segment of Jews living during a specific time period. While this may be disheartening to some who believe this exact Scripture speaks directly to them, there are some principles we can glean from reading this account of another's interaction with God. Though God was promising the prosperity, hope, and a future to those Jews who were exiled during that time, we can gain an understanding of God through His words. Whenever God speaks, He not only has words to say, but He also reveals His character. There is a certain facet of God's character revealed while He was speaking to those Jews through Jeremiah. This angle on God's character is His genuine desire to care for His children, to not leave them feeling abandoned. You may reinforce this part of God's character by reading the Scripture in the New Testament found in 1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you."

There is some caution in applying this character quality of God's too liberally, and that is reading into it the idea that God guarantees physical prosperity for all His children. He never says you will have a big house, a handsome and lovely spouse, well behaved children, and a steady employment without stress. He truly never gives these promises in Scripture. Consider the 12 disciples, for example. The 12 disciples walked and talked with Jesus, following in His footsteps, their lives directed by His instructions. If the were any of God's children deserving of prosperity, it might have been at least a few of these 12. But there is no account, Biblical or historical, suggesting any of the 12 disciples had a physically blessed and prosperous life. In fact, almost all of the disciples were persecuted and martyred. This certainly isn't physical prosperity.

Consider John the Baptist who was declared by Jesus as the greatest among men. Certainly John deserved Godly plans of prosperity. But John lived in tents, ate bugs, wore itchy camel hair, and was beheaded for his beliefs. This is not, by any standards, a life of prosperity. Prior to the 12 disciples and John the Baptist, there were the prophets in the Old Testament, God's chosen mouthpieces. If anyone should be blessed, it would be a messenger of the Lord Almighty. But there is no account that any of the prophets received a life of prosperity by any means. Elijah was driven into the mountains, Ezekiel was considered a freak, Daniel was castrated and forced into servitude, and the Lord gave Hosea a prostitute for a wife; this list could go on and on.

These examples create a diametrically opposed thought on God promising to give us all a life of prosperity when you compare them to the verse in Jeremiah 29:11, especially when the verse says, "and not to harm you." We can see that His character does care for His children, but we can see by example that certain men of God never received that earthly life of prosperity so desired by many. There is a verse, though, that does give us a glimpse into what God actually desires for our lives. It is found in Numbers 6:22-27. This glimpse is found very early in Scripture when God was setting up His church, giving instructions to the first priest, Aaron. The priests were to perform their duties and pass the traditions down through the generations. God instructs Aaron, listen to His words: "This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: 'The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.'" This is God telling Aaron to pronounce and pray a blessing on God's children. A prayer of blessing that is to be said aloud, over their lives. This is what God wanted, even instructed.

God WANTS you to have a blessed life, but He never guarantees that you will be physically blessed with prosperity. Many factors come into play that lead to the seeming dichotomy of the 12 disciples not being blessed or the Prophets from living that life of blessing. It is the plan and work God has for specific people, which may require situational hardship, for His will to be carried out. Otherwise, God does desire that your life be blessed. If you do not have a physically prosperous life, then know God has a higher calling for what your life means in the greater scheme for mankind and His will for it on this earth. If that is the case, you will receive your prosperity and reward in Heaven.

While I do not know the formula for achieving a physical blessing from the Lord, or even if there is such a formula, I do know one thing. If you are not His child, living for Him, then His name is not placed on your life, leaving your blessing (either earthly or Heavenly) in doubt. Listen to what God says about this after He instructs Aaron to pray a prayer of blessing on His children, "'So [Aaron] will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."' You can't have the blessing of the Lord, unless He has put His name upon your life. Live like a child of God and let Him put His name upon you. Then trust Him to take care of you, both in this life and the next, whatever that may bring. Let God define what blessing or prosperity means for your life, not how you want to interpret the verse found in Jeremiah 29:11.

Allow me to leave you with God's word for EVERY ONE of His children (not just the ones found in Jeremiah 29:11). May the Lord bless you and keep you, may He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He turn His face toward you and bring you peace.

1. What is your definition of the word "prosper"?
2. What verses did you use to get your understanding of the word "prosper"?
3. How can we perpetuate God's instructions to Aaron, by praying God's blessing for His children?

Don't take my word for it; look it up: Num 6:22-27, Ps 37:25, Matt 11:11, 1 Peter 5:7, 2 Peter 1:20

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