Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
It was a favorite quote of a dear friend every time were discussing his future, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Life never seemed to progress the way he intended. Of course, it true for many in life. Things we plan often don’t go so well. For many it is known as Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” This was actually a pattern in experimentation that was observed noted at Edwards Air Force Base in 1949, and named after Capt. Edward A. Murphy, an engineer working on Air Force Project. He was heading a research project designed to measure sudden deceleration before a crash. One day, after finding that a transducer was wired wrong, he cursed the technician responsible and said, “If there is any way to do it wrong, he’ll find it.” The project manager kept a list of observations and added this one, which he called Murphy’s Law. He soon suggested a few more. “If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.” And “Nature always sides with the hidden flaw,” and “The hidden flaw never stays hidden for long.
For others, the best planning doesn’t go so well simply because life happens. Yes, life is what unfolds when you are making plans for something else.
Now it may surprise you, but in spite of my friend’s favorite saying, God doesn’t want to laugh at you. God actually wants you to share your plans with him. He wants to be a part of a holy conversation with you and your dreams. He wants to support and build you up. God’s plans for our lives are actually far greater than the plans we make for ourselves. Unfortunately, when God is left out of our plans, our dreams often never happen. No verse in scripture more beautifully captures this truth than the word of the prophet Jeremiah, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
Throughout the summer, we have meditated on the prophets of the Old Testament. This morning let us look at the plans God set before the weeping prophet Jeremiah.
Last Sunday we read the story of the prophet Zephaniah and King Josiah who in 621 BC instituted a set of far-reaching religious reforms based upon a book discovered by the priest Hilkiah in the Temple of Jerusalem. The prophet Jeremiah was born, in the later years of Josiah’s reign. And even before he was formed in his mother’s womb, God had a plan for his life. After King Josiah’s death , his son Jehoiakim took his place on the throne, but he did not practice the same form of religious zeal as his father. The people f Judah soon returned to their former ways of false worship and injustice, and God was preparing the prophet Jeremiah to speak the word of repentance for their sins to them .
The era in which Jeremiah lived was one of great political turmoil and transition. The Assyrian empire, which had been dominant for two centuries, declined and fell to the new power of Babylon under its most famous King Nebuchadnezzar. The once great nation of Egypt had a enjoyed a brief period of resurgence, but did not prove strong enough to establish an empire. And in between lay the small and comparatively insignificant state of Judah which vacillated in its allegiance between Babylon and Egypt. After the King Nebuchadnezzars defeated the Egyptians, Judah became a province of the Babylonian empire.
In spite of the Egyptian defeats, King Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute to the Babylonians. The prophet Jeremiah then began to warn the Judah that they would be destroyed and taken from the land. The people were unmoved by the prophet’s warnings. Jeremiah was viewed as a traitor for speaking such treasonous words. Finally, Nebuchadnezzar sent an army to conquer Jerusalem. King Jehoiakim died before the siege began and was succeeded by his son, who surrendered the capital to the Babylonians, and was taken away to Babylon with many of his subjects. The Babylonians placed puppet king on the throne of Judah who would be favorable to them, the last King, Zedekiah .
Before this backdrop, a false prophet appeared in Jerusalem named Hananiah who boldly proclaimed that God had no intention of Judah behind destroy. The false prophet declared instead that God was actually going to free Judah from Babylon in just two years time. Jeremiah, however, called out Hananiah’s lie and then stated the prophecy, that God did indeed have a good plan for the Jewish people, and it was a plan that would give them hope and a prospering future. Unfortunately, before all this would come to pass, Jeremiah shared his word of consolation in a directive from God: “Seek the peace and the 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.” If that was not bad enough, Jeremiah announced that the sons and daughters of Judah would remain in Babylon for 70 years. The people refused to listen Jeremiah. He was taken by his neighbors and locked in a cistern. And so we read that after paying Babylon tribute for nearly 10 years, Zedekiah decided to make new alliance with Egypt, and then for a second and third time, Nebuchadnezzar sent an army to Jerusalem to capture and destroy it. When Jerusalem finally fell, the prophet Jeremiah was released from prison by the Babylonians and offered safe conduct to Babylon, but he preferred to remain with his own people who fled to Egypt. According to a tradition Jeremiah was stoned to death by his exasperated fellow countrymen in Egypt
My friends, God knows the plans he has for you and ultimately he will give you a glorious future and that is eternal life. But right now that future may not seem so important and too far away. Let me assure, God has a plan for your life here and now as well. It may not be the plans you imagine. You may dream of challenge and journeys, and God has plans for you of rest and reflection. You may be dreaming of places that are new and exciting. And his plans for you are to remain where you are planted for now. God’s plans for our lives are always far greater than the plans we make for ourselves.
I cannot preach about that God’s plan for you in detail because God has a different plan for each one of us, which he alone knows. But there is one similar plan he has for you and me. That plan is for you to live your life as his believing child. You and I are to show the world what true faith is, and who God is, and what he has done for us and what it means to us to live in this world, when we talk to him of our plans. God’s plan for you is to be a witness so that people can see the reflection of God in you and in your life, so that they too will come seeking the difference in life by sharing their plans with God.
What hard thing are you currently going through? Perhaps it seems that God has forgotten you. Cling to the assurance that God has a plan for you. In the midst of your suffering, cling to God’s assurance and strength, not in the false hope that God will take away all your trails, but in the true confidence that he will give you hope and strength in the midst of it.
“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” Perhaps. But my friends, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us, that when God is left out of your plans, your dreams may never happen. God’s ways and dreams are greater than the plans we can ever make for ourselves.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.