April 3, 2009

April 3

22, 141, 143:1-11(12)
Jer. 29:1, 4-13
Rom. 11:13-24
John 11:1-27. or 12:1-10

Jer. 29:1, 4-13
1These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
4Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD. 10For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11For 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. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart.

What an awesome God who loves us so much that even in the midst of exile we hear God’s promise “I will hear you…you will find me”!

Jeremiah starts out this letter to the Jews in Babylon with a warning that they will be there for 70 years. Then the prophet goes on to say that, even though they are far from their homeland, the people have not been forgotten by God.

It is easy to think God is far away or doesn’t care when things don’t go the way we want them. Job loss, illness, stock market crashes, injury, the list of things that remind us we are not in control goes on and on. Surely the Jews who had been dragged away to Babylon felt that their lives were over and God had turned away. Surrounded by pagan worship and strange things like the “Hanging Gardens”, they no longer felt like the ‘chosen people’ with a land of their own and a Temple in which to worship the One God who was ‘theirs alone’.

Through Jeremiah, God offers hope to the Jews and to us now. All we need to do is “call upon me…search for me…with all your heart.” We simply need to seek to be in relationship with our God.

Is there something that is making you feel far from God today? Can you remember that God offers hope even when things seem dark? Maybe it will help to remember that our Lord walked the same road of feeling forsaken.

As Edward Shillito says in his poem Jesus of the Scars, “we know the countersign.” Born in 1872, Shillito was a minister in the trenches of World War I. He saw the horrors of war first hand and could easily have felt that God was absent. Instead, he knew that God was close.

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the scars.

The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us, where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy scars we claim Thy grace.

If when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know today what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy scars, we know the countersign.

The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God's wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

For your Journal: Read Shilleto’s poem and the Jeremiah passage. Can you relate to Shillito or to the Jews in exile? Write a prayer or poem to express your feelings of hope in the midst of the fear-filled things of life.

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