Sunday, December 31, 2017

Baptist History related links

Thursday, December 28, 2017

He that believeth, by Philpot

“He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” 1 John 5:10

The grand point to have decided in a man’s bosom is, whether he is Christ’s or not; and this is a problem which none but the Lord himself can solve. Blessed is he who has the witness in himself; and this he can only have by believing on the Son of God, as John speaks, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” This is the internal witness of the Spirit, as the Apostle declares, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”

What witness have you ever had in your bosom that you are a child of God? Or if you have not had this special witness, what marks or evidences, what tokens for good has the Lord bestowed upon you? Can you not remember something that the Lord has done for you in times past, some promise applied, some manifestation of his presence, some look of love, some softening touch of his gracious hand, which melted you into the dust, and brought sweet peace and assurance with it? It might not last long, or be very deep, but it was an evidence when felt that you belonged to Christ. You remember the time and the circumstances, the darkness, distress and bondage before, and the deliverance into sweet liberty then enjoyed; but still you are dissatisfied. You want the Lord once more to appear; you want another smile, another word, another look, another promise, another testimony, and without it your soul often sinks down into doubt and fear. Now this is the path in which most of God’s saints walk; I will not say all, because some are more favoured with an abiding testimony, though even they have great sinkings and heavy trials. But with most it is a very chequered, in and out path.

Thus, sometimes they are indulged with a smile, and then such darkness of mind falls upon them that they can scarcely see a single evidence. Then the sun shines again; but darkness once more covers the scene, and down they sink again into doubt, guilt, and fear. Then the Lord appears again, and then they love, and hope, and rejoice again; and so they go on, the scene ever changing, like an April day. Still on they go until they come at last to the closing scene, when the Lord usually appears, scatters all their doubts and fears and darkness, and gives them a blessed dismissal into his own bosom of eternal rest and peace.

J. C. Philpot

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

You work for the King of kings, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"You work for the King of kings as an ambassador of Heaven. Don't get involved in the petty politics of the country in which you are a guest." -- Matthew Lee Smith

"Unity that compromises truth is fragile at best and phony at worst." -- Copied

"Scholars hate simplicity. It makes them feel.....unneeded." -- Ed Dingess

"A preacher is undone if he doubts his message -- doubts either the truth of it or the power of it." -- J. B. Gambrell

"A small man will cast a long shadow at sunset." -- Copied

"Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee." -- Augustine of Hippo

"The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God." -- often attributed to G. K. Chesterton, but from the book The World, the Flesh and Father Smith by Bruce Marshall

"It is not the mere touching of the flower by the bee which gathers honey, but her abiding for a time on the flower which draws out the sweet." -- Thomas Brooks

"Words have special powers. The power to create smiles or frowns. The power to generate laughs or tears. The power to lift up or put down. The power to motivate or de-motivate. The power to teach good or evil. The power to express love or hate. The power to give or take. The power to heal or harm. Choose your words carefully." -- A. D. Williams

"God did not choose Mary because she was special. Mary was special because God chose her." -- Heard

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

When Stephen, full of power and grace

C. M. D.

1. When Stephen, full of power and grace,
Went forth throughout the land,
He bore no shield before his face,
Nor weapon in his hand;
But only in his heart a flame
And on his lips a sword
Wherewith he smote and overcame
The foe-men of the Lord.

2. When Stephen preached against the laws
And by those laws was tried,
He had no friend to plead his cause,
No spokesman at his side;
But only in his heart a flame
And in his eyes a light
Wherewith God's daybreak to proclaim
And rend the veils of night.

3. When Stephen, young and doomed to die,
Fell crushed beneath the stones,
He had no curse nor vengeful cry
For those who broke his bones;
But only in his heart a flame
And on his lips a prayer
That God, in sweet forgiveness' name,
Should understand and spare.

4. Let me, O Lord, thy cause defend,
A knight without a sword;
No shield I ask, no faithful friend,
No vengeance, no reward;
But only in my heart a flame
And in my soul a dream,
So that the stones of earthly shame
A jeweled crown may seem.

Hymn by Joyce Maxtone Graham (aka Jan Struther), 1931

[Note: It is my estimation that the copyright is expired on this hymn and that it is acceptable to publish the text on my blog. If I am shown to be in error, I will be glad to remove it.]

Monday, December 25, 2017

Star of the east

[1. Hail the blest morn, when the great Mediator,
Down from the regions of glory descend!
Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,
Lo, for his guard the bright angels attend.]

2. Brightest and best of the sons of the morning!
Dawn on our darkness and lend us thine aid!
Star of the east, the horizon adorning,
Guide where our infant Redeemer is laid!

3. Cold on his cradle the dew-drops are shining;
Low lies his head with the beasts of the stall,
Angels adore him in slumber reclining,
Maker and Monarch and Saviour of all!

4. Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems from the mountain, and pearls from the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, and gold from the mine?

5. Vainly we offer each ample oblation;
Vainly with gifts would his favour secure:
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration;
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

[6. Low at his feet we in humble prostration,
Lose all our sorrow and trouble and strife;
There we receive his divine consolation,
Flowing afresh from the fountain of life.]

[7. He is our friend in the midst of temptation,
Faithful supporter, whose love cannot fail;
Rock of our refuge, and hope of salvation,
Light to direct us through death’s gloomy vale.]

[8. Star of the morning, thy brightness, declining,
Shortly must fade when the sun doth arise:
Beaming refulgent, his glory eternal
Shines on the children of love in the skies.]

Written, mostly, by Reginald Heber. This appears as “EPIPHANY.—No. II. R. H.” in Hymns, Written and Adapted to the Weekly Church Service of the Year by  Reginald Heber (London: John Murray, 1827, pp. 25-26). It has 5 stanzas – the ones above labeled 2, 3, 4, & 5, with the “brightest and best” stanza repeated. The Shepherd’s Star in Southern Harmony has 7 stanzas, but not “brightest and best.” It is used, however, in Star in the East, where it serves as a repeating chorus. B. F. White has five stanzas in The Sacred Harp with Star in the East – which is the same song as The Shepherd’s Star in Southern Harmony.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

From “Christmas” to the “Cross”

Many people love babies and stories about babies. It seems to me that to many folks the “Christmas” story is an enjoyable baby story that blissfully abandons the babe in the manger. We need to go on from “Christmas” to the “Cross”. The “Cross” (Galatians 3:13) is the backstory of why the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Who was made flesh? Jesus Christ, the creator and eternal son of God (John 1:1-4; 1 John 5:7).

How was he made flesh? The virgin birth (Matthew 1:18-23).

When was he made flesh? In the days of Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1), when Cyrenius was governor of Syria (Luke 2:2), when Herod was king in Judæa (Matthew 2:1).

Where was he made flesh? In Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7).[i]

Why was he made flesh? Made in the likeness of men, to be obedient to the death of the cross (Philippians 2:5-7); Made under the law, to redeem those under the law (Galatians 4:3-5); To suffer for sins and bring sinners to God (1 Peter 3:18); To make peace through the blood of his cross (Colossians 1:20).

Galatians 6:14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ

[i] Here I refer only to where Jesus was born. He put on flesh when Mary conceived of the Holy Ghost.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Politically-Correct-"Christmas" version

Luke 1:26-35 in the PCCV (politically-correct-"Christmas" version of the Bible)

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel went to the city of Nazareth in Galilee,
27 To see a young girl who was engaged to be married to Joseph, a descendant of King David. The girl’s name was Mary.
28 And the angel appeared to her saying, “Hi, there. I hope I didn’t frighten you. The Lord has a proposition he’d like for you to consider.”
29 And Mary wondered just what might be going on.
30 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. God likes you very much.”
31 “Please think about it and then let us know whether you agree; God is hoping that you would be the one to give birth to the Messiah, his son who will be named Jesus, if that’s okay with you.”
32 “This would be really good if you are willing to do this, for Jesus is going to be great and called the Son of God.”
33 “And he will reign over the house of Jacob (if they are willing, of course), and his kingdom will last forever (if no one objects).
34 Then Mary said, “If I agree to this, how will it happen?”
35 And the angel answered and said to Mary, “Well, if you are willing to be a participant who agrees to all this, then (and only then) the Holy Spirit’s power will cause you to become pregnant. Therefore the child you give birth to will be called God’s son.”

Why did God choose Mary to be the mother of Jesus? Was it something in Mary or something she did? "She was a young Jewish virgin." "She was holy." "She was receptive." And on it goes. Of all the women who have ever lived, was she the only receptive holy young virgin? Of all the young unmarried Jewish women in her day, was she the only receptive holy young virgin? Why did God choose Mary? The Bible does not say! The wrong answers have made Mary the object of worship and special adoration.

The birth of Jesus Christ happened as much according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God as did His crucifixion. He came in the fullness of time -- God’s time -- to the right people in the right place. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of His first advent.

Why did God choose Mary? The Bible does not say! But this we do know. The angel announced to Mary, "thou hast found favour with God." The Greek word for favour is "charis", which is translated "grace" well over 100 times in the Bible. Mary became the mother of Jesus by GOD'S grace, His unmerited favour, His eternal choice, and His unlimited power. It was nothing that Mary did. It was nothing that she was. God extended grace. Oh, how the natural man recoils from this being an unconditional choice on God's part. But God did not ask Mary if she, a young unmarried Jewish virgin girl who had never known a man, wanted to be the mother of the Saviour. He chose her. He called her. The Holy Ghost came upon her, she conceived and brought forth a Son and called His name Jesus -- "for he shall save his people from their sins."

How like God's choice of Mary is His choice to save poor undeserving sinners. It is nothing we do. It is nothing we are. God extended grace. Thank God for His grace.

O Come, Immanuel

I recently found these lines, a translation I was not familiar with, of stanzas of "O Come, Immanuel."

O come, thou Root of Jesse! draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From those dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell, thy people save.

O come, thou Lord of David's Key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar the way to death's abode.

Translated by T. A. Lacey; Latin Author unknown, 12th or 13th Century

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Goodchild Confession

At the Fundamentals Conference (Fundamental Fellowship) in Des Moines, Iowa, held preceding the Northern Baptist Convention in June 1921, a simple and general confession of faith was adopted. It is part of the history of the division of fundamentalists and conservatives from the more moderate and liberal majority of the Northern Baptists.[i]

The executive committee of the Fundamental Fellowship, chaired by Frank Marsden Goodchild (1860-1928),[ii] proposed “to restate the foundation doctrines of our faith in the following brief and simple confession which is but a re-affirmation of the substance of the historic Philadelphia and New Hampshire Confessions of Faith:”

1. We believe that the Bible is God’s word, that it was written by men divinely inspired, and that is has supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
2. We believe in God the Father, perfect in holiness, infinite in wisdom, measureless in power. We rejoice that he concerns himself mercifully in the affairs of men, that he hears and answers prayer, and that he saves from sin and death all who come to him through Jesus Christ.
3. We believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son, miraculous in his birth, sinless in his life, making atonement for the sins of the world by his death. We believe in his bodily resurrection, his ascension in to heaven, his perpetual intercession for his people and his personal visible return to the world according to his promise.
4. We believe in the Holy Spirit who came forth from God to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment, and to regenerate, sanctify and comfort those who believe in Jesus Christ.
5. We believe that all men by nature and by choice are sinners but that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life;” we believe therefore that those who accept Christ as Savior and Lord will rejoice forever in God’s presence and those who refuse to accept Christ as Savior and Lord will be forever separated from God.
6. We believe in the church—a living spiritual body of which Christ is the head and of which all regenerated people are members. We believe that a visible church is a company of believers in Jesus Christ, baptized on a credible confession of faith, and associated in worship, work and fellowship. We believe that to these visible churches were committed, for perpetual observance, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and that God has laid upon these churches the task of persuading a lost world to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, and to enthrone him as Lord and Master. We believe that all human betterment and social improvement are the inevitable by-products of such a gospel.
7. We believe that every human being has direct relations with God, and is responsible to God alone in all matters of faith; that each church is independent and autonomous and must be free from interference by any ecclesiastical or political authority; that therefore Church and State must be kept separate as having different functions, each fulfilling its duties free from the dictation or patronage of the other.

[Source: The Baptist, Vol. II, No. 22, July 2, 1921, Arthur W. Cleaves, editor; Chicago, IL: Northern Baptist Convention, p. 684]

[i] James Leo Garrett, Jr. says that the Goodchild Confession was adopted by Conservative Baptists in 1943 (The Collected Writings of James Leo Garrett Jr., 1950-2015: Volume 1, Baptists, Part I, Wyman Lewis Richardson, editor; Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2017, p. 68). It is not the current statement of CB America.
[ii] This confession would generally be known as the “Goodchild Confession.” According to Garrett, the confession was written by Goodchild, who was pastor of Central Baptist Church, New York City (Baptist Theology: a Four-Century Study, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2009, p. 331). Central Baptist Church is now a member of the Conservative Baptist Association of America.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

5 Things Liberals Hate

I received in my e-mail inbox an e-mail titled “5 Things Liberals Hate.” For the most part it was an advertisement of T-Shirts for sale. The first one caught my eye:

“Despite what the liberal media would have you believe, the majority of our country is still God-fearing patriotic, and hard-working,
“So, let’s set the record straight and let the world know where you stand with this powerful new T-shirt.

“As for me and my House, we will:
  - Serve the Lord
  - Stand for the anthem
  - Keep and bear arms
  - Back the blue
  - Support our troops”

While I have no problem with the last four points, I am “offended” by a T-Shirt making these four points equal with the the biblical truth “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” They are not equal.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

$3,000 tip

It's always nice to find heart-warming jewels of human interest stories tossed among all the trash on the internet:

Diner regular tips staff $3,000 on $39 check just in time for the holidays -- "When I was 7, I washed dishes and my mom cooked in a diner like this. We were dirt poor and didn't have money for Christmas."

Sandy Valley - Don’t give away your sermon

This past week Reverend Nebbish Peacock and Elder Milton Matthews attended the Fifth-Sunday Meeting together at Possum Creek. Since preaching appointments were always scheduled for the first through fourth Sundays, fifth Sundays were freed up for preaching meetings and singing conventions. A Fifth-Sunday Meeting encompassed the weekend that fell on a fifth-Sunday of the month, so the meeting actually started on Saturday. As they were wont to do, a minister was chosen at the previous Fifth-Sunday to preach at 11 a.m. Sunday morning. Reverend Peacock had been chosen to preach the sermon on this fifth Sunday morning. As they rode together to their destination, Nebbish proudly lined out to Elder Matthews the masterful sermon he had prepared to charm the congregants as the Sunday morning highlight. And it was quite masterful.

As is bound to happen sometimes at Fifth-Sunday Meeting, the debate portion of the program concluded with time to spare. Elder Rube Askew moved that a sermon be had. Deacon Drew Drewery seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Nominations were presented and Elder Milton Matthews was selected to preach.

Unprepared and yet prepared, Elder Matthews always spoke extemporaneously. He was a good friend of Nebbish Peacock, but was dubious of the prepared sermons of the younger generation. His dubiosity and jocularity – and perhaps unconsciously still peeved with the Sandy Valley body of Christ for putting him out to pasture – all combined in the form of a devious plan. He preached Nebbish Peacock’s Sunday sermon for him, right there on Saturday night! 

Suffice it to say that Nebbish kept his prepared sermons close to heart from thence forward.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Protestant Priest

I recently read the following in David Bentley Hart’s New Testament by Scot McKnight:
So to an important point: the authority is the original text, not the translation. The original texts are in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). The authoritative text is not in English, regardless of how accurate the translation. No matter which translation you prefer, it is not the authoritative text for determining which translation is best. Yes, we need more to devote more time to study of the original languages.
It seems the modern Protestant world, obsessed with language studies and new translations, inch ever closer to the idea of a “Protestant Priest” who must interpret the word of God to lay members of the churches. God forbid!

Monday, December 18, 2017

We love drama, and other quotes

The posting of quotes by human authors does not constitute agreement with either the quotes or their sources. (I try to confirm the sources that I give, but may miss on occasion; please verify if possible.)

"We love drama when it's past tense and third person." -- Mike Bechtle

"The sexual revolution cannot deliver on its promises, but that Christ always delivers on his." -- Al Mohler

If you have everything and don’t know Jesus, you have nothing. If you have nothing and know Jesus, you have everything. -- Heard

"The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that the problem exists." -- Zig Ziglar

"Sin is an ‘inside job’ (See James 4:1)." -- Adrian Rogers

"Nature shrinks from death, even apart from that which following after death makes it to so many a king of terrors." -- J. C. Philpot

"Theocracy has been rightly abolished not because it is bad that learned priests should govern ignorant laymen, but because priests are wicked men like the rest of us." -- C.S. Lewis

"A God of truth does not breathe error." -- Herschel H. Hobbs

"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight." -- Phyllis Diller

"Raise your hand if you feel politically homeless." -- Philip Nation

"Wisdom is knowledge and understanding in action." -- Thomas Cassidy

"Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God; from him are derived both the faculty and the improvement of the faculty." -- Matthew Henry

A Mere Profession of Religion

"Oh! what a dreamy, shadowy thing is a mere profession of religion! And what a delusive cheat is all the pleasure to be gained by sin! How it leaves a soul naked and bare, wounded, stripped, and guilty before God! We have often promised ourselves pleasure in sin; and what have we found? The wormwood and the gall. All the anticipated pleasure vanished; and its flight left us full of guilt and shame." -- J. C. Philpot

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Love of God

1. The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell;
It goes beyond the highest star,
And reaches to the lowest hell;
The guilty pair, bowed down with care,
God gave His Son to win;
His erring child He reconciled,
And pardoned from his sin.

Chorus: O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints’ and angels’ song.

2. When hoary time shall pass away,
And earthly thrones and kingdoms fall,
When men, who here refuse to pray,
On rocks and hills and mountains call,
God’s love so sure, shall still endure,
All measureless and strong;
Redeeming grace to Adam’s race—
The saints’ and angels’ song.

3. Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

The Love of God: Stanzas 1, 2 and chorus by Frederick Martin Lehman (1868-1953); Stanza 3 Anonymous Jewish poem

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Breaking Faith, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Friday, December 15, 2017

So did not I

“So did not I, because of the fear of God” – Nehemiah 5:15
We can never praise God sufficiently for his restraining grace; for what should we be without it? What an unspeakable mercy, then, it is, that you cannot be what you would be, nor act as you would act, nor speak what you would speak, nor do the things you would do, because there is in you who fear God a spiritual principle which holds you up, and keeps you back from the ways of sin and death in which the flesh would walk.
How this spirit of grace and godly fear kept Joseph in the hour of temptation! How it preserved David when he had Saul in his power as he lay asleep in the cave! How it kept Nehemiah in the fear of God from extortion and oppression! And how, in thousands of instances, it has preserved the feet of the saints, and kept them from doing things that would have ruined their reputation, blighted their character, brought reproach upon the cause of God, and the greatest grief and distress into their own conscience!
J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Knollys on Church

The quote below is written by 17th century London Baptist Hanserd Knollys on the subject of the church. It is interesting; though I am not sure I entirely comprehend his meaning.

[And send it unto the Seven Churches, which are in Asia, &c.] Those Seven Churches were planted by the Apostles in the Seven principal Cities in the Lesser Asia, here named, and hence each particular Church denominated, as appears in the Second and Third Chapters of this Book, in the exposition whereof, more will be spoken of this matter: All that I shall say in general touching these, (and other Churches of God mentioned in the holy Scripture) in this place is,
First, That each Church contained and comprehended, the whole number of them that believed in Jesus Christ, confessed the Faith of the Gospel, and walked in the Order and Ordinances of the Lord in one City and Suburbs thereof; and had the Denomination of that City, and was called the Church of God in that City. Search these Scriptures, Act. 8. 1. and 11. 22. also, I Cor. 1. 2. and 14. 34. likewise, Phil. 1. 1, 5. and I Thess. 1. 1.  Rev. 2. 1, 8, 12, 18. and Chap. 3. 1, 7, 14.
Secondly, Although the Church in any City, at the beginning and first Planting of it, was but one Congregation, and assembled themselves together in one place, Act. 2. 1. and 4. 31, and I Cor. 14. 23. yet when the number of the Disciples was multiplied, Act. 4. 32. and 6. 1, 2. and Multitudes both Men and Women were added to the Lord, and by the Lord to the Church, Act. 2. 41, 47. and 4. 4. and 5. 14. then the Church was necessitated, for the Edification of the Multitude, and great number of the Members thereof, to assemble themselves together in particular Congregations, and became distinct Companies, of whom we read Act. 4.19, 23. Peter and John had their own Company or Congregation, and so had Paul and Barnabas; and each Company or Congregation had their Elders and Deacons, Phil. 1. 1. and the denomination of the Church, I Cor. 16. 1. and are called Churches, I Cor. 16. 16. The Apostles Writing to the Saints in the Church of Corinth, said, Let your Women keep silence in the Churches, I Cor. 14. 34. and 2 Cor. 8. 24. Shew ye to them, and before the Churches, the proof of your Love.
Thirdly, Church is an Homogenial word,[i] As Water in the Sea, in a River, in a Well, and in a Spoon, is called Water; so the Assembly or Congregation of Sanctified Believers in the general Assembly, is called the Church, Heb. 12. 23. and the particular Assemblies or Congregations in an City is called the Church, I Cor. 1. 1, 2. so in any Village or Town, Rom. 16. 1. yea, in any House, Col. 4. 15.

[i] By “homogenial word” I believe Knollys simply means that the same word (church) is used whether talking about all believers (the general assembly), all believers meeting in a city, all believers meeting in a house, etc.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Biological evidence, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

The divine dealings of God

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Joseph wended his way from his people to a pit (Genesis 37:1-3; Genesis 37:23-24), from a pit to a purchase (Genesis 37:28), from a purchase to Potiphar’s house (Genesis 37:36), from Potiphar’s house to a prison (Genesis 39:7-20), and from prison to Pharoah’s palace (Genesis 41:37-45) – all the while traveling on the journey sent by God, meant for good (Genesis 45:5; Genesis 50:20).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

All bets are off, and other links

The posting of links does not constitute an endorsement of the sites linked, and not necessarily even agreement with the specific posts linked.

Monday, December 11, 2017

A hope and a future

When our children were graduating High School, Jeremiah 29:11 was a popular verse used with graduation cards, gifts and so forth. It may still be popular. The text, probably quoted from the New International Version of the Bible, reminds graduates that God has “plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “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.”
While this Scripture is true and still speaks to us today (Romans 15:4), the contextless verse often “says” to the reader “God has a great future for me” (with “great” meaning “what I want and expect”). The context straightens the meaning out for us, which is deeper and fuller than the “verse on a card” or “verse on a cup” approach. Here also is the reading from the King James Version of the Bible:
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,[i] saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
The words of verse 11 are part of the prophecy of Jeremiah “to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1).  Prophets rose up in Babylon to speak falsely in Jehovah’s name (Jeremiah 29:21). Among those who remained in Jerusalem, Hananiah said that within two years God would break the yoke of the king of Babylon, bring back those who had already gone into captivity, and restore the vessels of the Lord’s house to the temple (Jeremiah 28:2-4). Into this lie Jeremiah must speak the truth. Not only will this not happen, but those who are still at Jerusalem will also go into captivity! The yoke will not be broken in two years, but Israelites will remain captives in a strange land for seventy years.[ii] Do not spend the next two years expecting to come home, but settle down for the long term in the land where you are – “And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.” (Jer. 29:7). This is the context and meaning in its context – God knows the thoughts and plans he has for Israel (Cf. Isaiah 55:9). Those to whom he has not revealed those thought are liars (Romans 3:4). The Lord has thoughts of peace and prosperity in their future. Even their captivity, though a judgment, is for their good (Jeremiah 24:5). Their history is not concluded – it has a future – and there will be an ending in fulfillment of their expectations.[iii] God knows – he does not forget what he purposes to do.

To us this speaks today, within the context of Jeremiah and the general principles taught in the Bible. We look not for the fulfilling of all our desires. We know not all the thoughts God has, but we know that even in the midst of that which is disappointing, depressing, and distressing, God is working all things for good to them that love him, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).  

[i] “I alone” – not the false prophets who pretend to speak for me.
[ii] This had already been expressed by Jeremiah, as recorded in Jeremiah 25:11-12.
[iii] The “expected end” must be understood in the context of God’s work among his people Israel more than applied to individuals. The current generation – “the elders which were carried away captives” – would never return to their homeland, but their hopes could be fulfilled in their children and grandchildren (Cf. 1 Chronicles 22:7; 1 Chronicles 28:6).