John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. [NIV]
This is the middle of the week between Palm Sunday and Easter for us. The memory of that first “Palm” Sunday crowd raising their Hosannas for the Messiah of their own imagination along with this quote from John Piper is my reminder for today. “Many of Jesus’s followers [in AD33] thought Jesus came to rescue and reign now. They anticipated a physical and political freedom from the oppressive Roman rule. For them, the Christ was the key to their immediate, this-world issues.” [Your Sorrow will Turn to Joy]
Re-read that quote from Piper and replace “Roman rule” with coronavirus. As believers in Christ we are confronted today with the same challenge of that long ago crowd – choosing imagination or reality. We can’t imagine how Jesus will rescue us from the deadly coronavirus but we can find comfort in the reality of His own words “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Choosing to let Jesus’s Word be the reality of comfort for us is better than letting our imagination for this-world confront us in the midst of this coronavirus week between Palm Sunday and Easter .
Matthew 21:8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” [NIV]
Today is Palm Sunday. I know many of us will have the opportunity to hear the message of Christ provided by our Pastor’s via the internet. That’s a blessing. We are living in a new reality where dependence on community worship is restricted. We won’t be surrounded by a crowd of like minded people gathering together to remember this day as the moment of triumph when Jesus begins His final journey to the day of our salvation. We won’t be hearing other voices raised with our own as we shout Hosanna! There are no waving palm branches to prompt our memory of the past.
The pomp and circumstance of public celebrations has been temporarily swept aside but Coronavirus can’t deprive you of your Hosannas, “help” or “save, I pray!” Today we are the ones who must prepare the way for Jesus to enter into the midst of our exile. “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Blessed is he who comes to complete His identity in you right there in your own home and offers you the opportunity to complete your identity in Him through a different kind of personal experience. Today Palm Sunday worship is up to you.
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Jeremiah 29:10 For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. [NKJV]
I’m still concentrating on Jeremiah 29: 10-12 and the Spurgeon sermon from 1887. I found a meaningful difference in the New King James Version’s translation of a phrase from verse 10: “I will perform my good word toward you.” The Bible is more than history, wisdom and recorded answers to allow us to learn how to live according to the expectations of God. It’s His “good Word“ written to reveal His intent to intervene and perform it in the life of His leading characters [you and I] as we navigate through the emotional and unexpected circumstances of life. We are a performance oriented culture, well-trained over most of our years to figure things out but today our unexpected circumstance is a deadly virus. Coronavirus is now daily confronting our ability to figure out what we do know and what we don’t know.
God knows! That is the one thing Spurgeon has reminded me over and over as I’ve read his sermon. “When Moses came out of Egypt, he had no plan as to the march of Israel. He knew that he had to lead the children of Israel to the promised land, but that was all. He probably hoped to take them by the shortest cut to Palestine at once…Brother, you do not know what is to be done, but the Lord knows for you. O, body of Christ, let your head think for you! O, servant of Christ, let your Master think for you. “I know,” says God “the thoughts that I think toward you.” AND “I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you…”
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞
Jeremiah 29:10 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. [NIV]
The exile continues. The comfort of Jeremiah 29:11 is meant to remind us of the Lords vision for our future. That’s a treasure but in the re-reading of those familiar words over and over while continuing to ponder the sermon from Spurgeon an eye-opening expansion of my own vision has happened and this is a priceless gift. There’s more to that beautiful promise of verse 11. I am so thankful we have the enduring Word, work and wisdom of God given through Jesus, the Holy Spirit AND the writings of His people that can open our eyes in the midst of this contemporary pandemic. There IS a Jeremiah 29:10 and a 29:12 too. “I will come to you and fulfill my good promise…you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
In Gods wisdom His vision covers the past, present and the future. That is the priceless part we need to cling to as God uses Jeremiah to inform our vision to match His own. “As to our present pain and grief, God saw not these things exclusively, but He saw the future joy and usefulness which will come of them. He regards not only the tearing up of the soil with the plow, but the clothing of that soil with the golden harvest.” [Spurgeon].
∞ Look back and thank God…Look forward and trust God ∞
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.
I found the sermon on Jeremiah 29 by C.H. Spurgeon last week [http://www.spurgeongems.org/sermon/chs1965.pdf]. I feel like I stumbled onto something very special. It was delivered in 1887 but it’s wisdom has stood the test of time. It’s long and I keep rereading it because it has more ideas than I can absorb in one reading. “These people in captivity were likely to fear that their God had forgotten them; hence the Lord repeats His words in this place, and speaks of thoughts and thinking three times.” Plans, plans, plans.
Plans are the tricky part for humans because we trust what we know and we just don’t know it all. So here we are in this time of Coronavirus faced with the conflict of who’s plans to believe and what actions to take. Consider this second truth from Spurgeon “Unbelief misinterprets the ways of God; hasty judgment jumps at wrong conclusions about them, but the Lord knows His own thoughts. We are doubtful where we ought to be sure, and we are sure where we have no ground for certainty, thus we are always in the wrong.”
Pay attention today to the plans for dealing with Coronavirus, take every action based on their limited wisdom and act in an abundance of caution on the knowledge of men you don’t know AND then put your trust and hope in the plans of the God you do…”plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare [peace] and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
“I don’t know.” That’s probably the most consistent thought in many of our minds these days. We must act on the advice of experts but we are dealing with unknown risk levels. No matter how much information we consume about mitigating the danger of our exposure to Corona virus it’s not enough to ease our minds completely when the time comes for one of those essential trips out of the safety of the exile of self-isolation. Jeremiah reminds us God has a plan and Corona virus is not the only danger of our exile.
“A people in such a position as the Jews in Babylon were in danger in two ways: either to be buoyed up with false hopes, and so to fall into foolish expectations; or, to fall into despair, and have no hope at all, and so become a sullen and degraded people, who would be unfit for restoration, and unable to play the part which God ordained for them in the history of mankind.” (Spurgeon 1887).
God knows the plan even if I haven’t a clue what it is. Exile from the familiarity of daily life has given me a new awareness I need to be equipped to play the part God has set for my restoration. He’s given me expert advice about the one part of my future and hope I am in charge of. I can do this one thing to be prepared even in the exile of self-isolation! “…Call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.”