“‘For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
The Advent season is upon us. The lights are going up and Christmas music can be heard everywhere you go. During this time our family lights the advent candles every week and we read together the scripture to celebrate the coming of Jesus. This has become a tradition that our kids look forward. We each take turns reading the different scripture passages and each week a different kid gets to light a candle.
The theme for the first week of Advent is hope. Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that is often quoted in Christian circles and used for all kinds of purposes. Yet, most people, it seems, are unaware of the context of the verse. Jeremiah writes a prophetic letter to those who have been sent into exile in Babylon. The letter begins with Jeremiah telling the exiles to build houses and settle down in the land of Babylon. In other words, they are supposed to make the best of their lives in this foreign land. Not only that, but they are supposed to pray for the prosperity of the land that has taken them captive.
For seventy years the Babylon will rule over them and then God will hear their prayers and restore them back to the land. It is then that we get the verse that God knows what he has planned for them, to prosper and not harm them, to give them a future filled with hope. So we can see from the context of the passage that there is a hope for Israel and while they are supposed to live with that hope they are also supposed to live well with the situation that they find themselves in. In fact, in Daniel we will learn that the seventy years will last much longer.
I think there is a lesson here for us as we enter into the advent season. We can find ourselves in a similar situation to Israel. We are a people waiting in hope. Israel was waiting for their messiah to come. They were waiting for God to return and bring them back to their land and for a new age of God being with his people again. This was God’s good plan for them. A plan for his people to once again prosper. However while they lived in this hope, they also had to live in the world that they found themselves in. They knew a better time was coming but they did not know exactly when it would arrive. So they had to make the best in the land that they found themselves.
We are also a people living in hope. We know God will return one day and make all things new. That God has plans for us to prosper and not to do us harm. Yet we still live in this world and just like Israel was called to live as best they could in Babylon so we are called to live as best we can in this world. We are not called to abandon the place we live, rather, we are called to pray and intercede for this world. We are called to see that the world we live in enjoys peace. We are called to pray for the prosperity of this world even while we wait in hope for a better world to come.