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Wednesday: Our Father’s Plans for Us — 25 Comments

  1. A few years ago I travelled up to Maitland in the Hunter Valley to preach in the Maitland Church. We left the lake Macquarie area in brilliant sunshine - one of those days you describe as perfect - and drove over the Sugarloaf range through a pass known as The Gap. Instantly, the day was transformed from "perfect" into a thick pea-soup fog. We arrived at church and in my opening remarks I mentioned the cold dark damp fog and told the congregation that they were only 30 km away from a perfect world where it was sunny and not a cloud in the sky. I talked to them about hope and enlightenment etc.

    And then I thought about that little congregation. Maitland was Carmel's church during her childhood. Her family had lived in the area for generations. Many of them were Seventh-day Adventists. I knew Carmel's grandparents well. They brought Carmel and her sister up. Carmel's father had died due to war-related illness, and Carmel's mum was left with two children. She also had to earn a living, so she returned to Sydney and left her children with her parents. Two older folks were suddenly responsible for bringing up their grandchildren. They gave Carmel and her sister a childhood of love and hope.

    Ma was one of those people that seemed to be completely unfazed. Pop would invite a struggling family from church for lunch. Ma would say, "What am I going to feed them? Bread and duck under that table?" And then she would prepare a delicious meal, laughing and singing while she did it.

    These folk lived hope. They were farmers and survived droughts and floods, yet they always had time to provide hope for others. Their hope was infectious. There were others in that congregation that also gave hope to people in their community with the generosity of time and care.

    So when I preached about hope in that little congregation on that cold foggy morning I wasn't telling them about something they were looking forward to. I was thanking them for the hope they had communicated in their lives.

    We can only talk about the "blessed hope" if we live and share it now. That is when it starts to make sense to others.

    By this shall all men know ...

  2. It is true that Jeremiah 29:11-14 God "beautifully conveys His tender care for His people". But what about Jeremiah 29:17-19? Is this too reflecting God's tender heart or does this somehow reflect God's 'other side'?

    Consider for a moment Jesus parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) which is really more a parable about the father of the prodigal son - or more accurately, a parable about God the Father. In the parable of the prodigal, we see nothing but the tender heart of a father for the care of his sons. However, we also see the prodigal son experiencing famine and calamity. But note how the son came to experience this. While the father offered the son to live an abundant life via living in accordance with constructive (beneficent) principles, the prodigal son instead exercised his freedom to "do what seemed good in his own eyes" (Deuteronomy 12:8). So, the father granted the prodigal son his freedom to depart from under his provision and protection and instead 'live' (as 'dead-man-walking') in accordance with principles that inherently produce destruction.

    If I therefore keep this in mind along with awareness that "inspired writers of the Scriptures commonly credit God with doing actively that which in Western thought we would say He permits or does not prevent from happening*", I then see that Jeremiah 29:17-19 is not God losing his tender care for his people. Rather, like the prodigal's father, God is reluctantly but never the less definitively respecting the freedom of his people to "do what seems good/right in their own eyes" even though that way inherently produces destruction. Like the prodigal father whose heart was breaking at letting his son follow his chosen path to destruction, God's heart too is breaking that some of his people were 'hell-bent' on pursuing their own path to destruction, despite God's attempts to warn them and woo them to the only better and true way of life (as per John 10:10).

    I firmly believe that God's plans for us are only ever for good and benefit. But God's commitment to our freedom means that He will and must allow/release us to pursue our own plans if we so choose - plans that take us outside of God's ability to provide for and protect us and, therefore, inevitably and inherently result in our own destruction. When this happens, God's heart of tender care 'breaks' for each and every person who chooses the way of destruction.

    * See Methods of Bible Study (section 4.16).

    • Dear Phil, I can empathise with the plight of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. And as you have rightly put it, the parable really is about the Father. It was his love, mercy, grace that caused the son to want to go back to him. I am currently agonising over the choice my son wants to take for his life. I know that if he persists in his ways, I will have to let him have his way, although I know that it will be destructive for him and will only cause pain and anguish for the rest of the family. But I will not stop praying for him everyday of my life.

      • Joining you in your prayer for your son, Lawrence. And praying that regardless of how far he strays, your son will be able to see that you love him. May God give you the grace and wisdom to know how to do that.


      • Hi Lawrence

        Given what you have mentioned regarding your situation, I can appreciate your ability to empathise with the plight of the prodigal son's father that is also reflected in Matthew 23:37. Thus, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit also compassionately empathise with your plight... and will leave 'no stone unturned' at every step of the way to attempt to draw (woo) your son back in genuine love (2 Peter 3:9). So it is good that you will not stop praying for him and looking for opportunities to show him authentic love everyday of your life. May God strengthen you in your crucible experience...

      • Hi Laurance. I know you addressed Phil, but I could not help it. My heart burns within me to think of the horrible pain you must be going through. I am a mother, too; had I been in your situation, I would have been shaken too. I don’t know if your son is in therapy and is seeing a psychiatrist or taking medication, but if he is not, please! Try your best and have him seek help. I have faith that God can heal him and will. And that prayer works. I belong to a prayer group that has seen all our prayers answered. Some immediately, others took months or years. Our God can heal him, but his word said faith without work is dead ( James 2:14-26). Christ himself recommends ye that the sick is to seek a physician (Mark 2:17 ). We can pray, and God will give the physician the wisdom to cause your son to have a different mindset. This will not be the physician’s works but God who works through him. I have no confidence in man, but I know God can enter into man and use them for the good & betterment of others.
        Moses could have prayed to God to part the red sea. God could have parted the red sea without Moses lifting a finger. Still, instead, God said, Moses, lift your staff and raise your hand over the sea, divide the water so Isreal can pass and so it was done ( Exodus 14:16) . Your son is standing on the shore of his red sea, use what you have to divide the sea God will do the rest. Your son shall cross over on dry land. Aso doesn’t forget the story of Elisha and the woman & the oil whose two sons were to be enslaved by her creditors for the debts she owed. Elisha told her to borrow pots from her neighbor & she did. The woman got so much oil that he told her to sell the oil and pay her debt ( 2Kings 4). Elisha could have prayed only God could have worked a miracle that way, but no, she had to do something. She has to have faith and show her work. I live in New York City, and my prayer group and I will pray for your son. Now you and your son get up and do your part. God will do the rest.

    • Awesome Phil! I’m going to pass your reflections regarding this parable to my daughters if you don’t mind?

  3. Study asks:
    Where do you normally look for hope and courage?

    God's punishment of a whole nation is sent into exile to Babylon... No More..

    Ezekiel 18:2-3
    2“What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel: ‘The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?

    3 “As I live” ​— ​this is the declaration of the Lord GOD  ​— ​“you will no longer use this proverb in Israel.

    4“Look, every life belongs to me. The life of the father is like the life of the son ​— ​both belong to me. The #person who sins is the one who will die#

    We stand before God, not as a nation, nor as a denomination, but as a child of God.
    Our faith is our own responsibility to a loving Father, who shares his divine life with us !

    John 17:3
    Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

    Shalom in our unity in Spirit! 🙏

  4. Phil, if what you say is true, then it is very sad that we cannot trust the Word of the LORD when it says He speaks. In Jeremiah 29 which one is true?

    Jer 29:4-5 This is what the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles who were carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5“Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat their produce.
    Jer 29:17-19 this is what the LORD of Hosts says:“I will send against them sword and famine and plague, and I will make them like rotten figs, so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with sword and famine and plague. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth—a curse, a desolation, and an object of scorn and reproach among all the nations to which I banish them. 19 I will do this because they have not listened to My words, declares the LORD, which I sent to them again and again through My servants the prophets. And neither have you exiles listened, declares the LORD.”

    • Hi Shirley

      I am afraid I am unclear of the basis on which you propose that the Word of the LORD cannot be trusted.

      In regard to Jeremiah 29:4-5, this applies to what would happen to the exiles who went into captivity and did not fight against such. God was informing them that it would go well with them if they didn't make trouble against their captors because God would be able to bless them even in their captivity.

      In regard to Jeremiah 29:17-19, this applies to what would happen to those who remained in Jerusalem (Jeremiah 29:15-16) and were plotting to put up resistance against Babylon who had captured and annexed Jerusalem. Babylon would not stand against such resistance and the people would not be under God's protection because of their own choice to do what seemed good/right in their own eyes - including listening to and perhaps seeking after false prophets who were encouraging their resistance.

      So, both are true. God was outlining the 'fate' of two different groups of people who were reflective two different heart motivations - with the latter group reflecting a self-seeking heart that placed them outside of God's capacity to protect and/or prosper them. Heat motivation is always the foundational issue between the 'righteous' and the 'unrighteous' (Proverbs 4:23, hence 1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 51:10), the former being aligned with God and His Ways and the latter being outside of God and His Ways.

      • According to the Word of the LORD He says “I will send against them sword and famine and plague, and I will make them like rotten figs, so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with sword and famine and plague. I will make them a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth—a curse, a desolation, and an object of scorn and reproach among all the nations to which I banish them. This sounds similar to Lev 26:14-33

        However you say it is NOT the LORD who will do these things. In other words you are saying the Word of the LORD is not telling the truth. Where in the Word does it show the difference between God actually doing things that He says He will do and just 'allowing' things to happen. I will not base my beliefs on an outside source unless supported by Scripture.

        You said: with the latter group reflecting a self-seeking heart that placed them outside of God's capacity to protect and/or prosper them. How can anything be "outside of God's capacity"? If He choses He can do anything - Jesus said: Mat 5:44-45 MKJV  But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you,  (45)  so that you may become sons of your Father in Heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

        • Hi Shirley

          If it is just me saying what I am saying, then you can dismiss it outright.

          However, for example, the fields of biblical hermeneutics and exegesis are about taking historical and cultural factors into account when interpreting scripture - and the reading of scripture (and literature in general) is an unavoidably interpretative process. This is one reason why there are variations in English translations of the bible - and why principles of bible interpretation, such as the one I referenced in my original comment, have been developed. Does this mean that the Word of the LORD is not telling the truth? Or does it suggest that there is need to carefully search out what that truth is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (as per 2 Timothy 2:15 for example).

          By way of an example from scripture, the hardening of Pharaoh's heart is interchangeably recorded 3 ways:

          1) God states that He will or has hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17).

          2) It is stated that Pharaoh's heart was hardened without specifying who did the hardening (Exodus 7:22; 8:19; 9:7).

          3) It is stated that Pharaoh did the hardening of his own heart (Exodus 8:15,32; 9:34; 14:5).

          Is the Word of the LORD being contradictory? Or are all 3 ways saying the same thing? And if so, which one are they agreeing with? This is where knowledge of the writing customs and worldview understanding of the original ancient near eastern writers and audience becomes a very important consideration.

          • Interesting so are there verses that contradict Jeremiah 29 that we have to consider?
            Or have you arrived at a blanket principle that is applied in every case?

            • The first chapters in Jeremiah lay the foundation for the rest of the book and therefore key ideas and principles (presuppositions) are outlined by God to Jeremiah. For example:

              1) God's 'role' is to protect and deliver (Jeremiah 1:8;17-19) - in order to provide a 'space' within this fallen world for abundant life to be re-installed (John 10:10).

              2) However, God is only able to protect and deliver those whose hearts are not set against Him*. This was Jerusalem's initial condition (Jeremiah 2:2,3). And when/because this was Jerusalem's condition, those who tried to attack/harm/destroy Jerusalem experienced "evil coming upon them" (Jeremiah 2:3). Evil is not something that comes from God (1 John 1:5) as, by nature, it is polar-opposite with all God is and all God is about.

              3) Unfortunately Jerusalem did not retain their devotion to God but instead went in the opposite direction (Jeremiah 2:5). Jeremiah 2:13 unpacks what this actually meant/involved: (a) disconnecting themselves from the (only) "fountain of living water" and (b) instead aligning themselves with that which is completely incapable of actually producing and sustaining life.

              4) It was this wilful and intentional disconnection from God's Ways, and thus from the "fountain of living water", that resulted in Jerusalem instead coming under the ways of evil and experiencing the destruction that evil can only inherently perpetuate (Jeremiah 2:17,19).

              5) This is why and how "it is an evil and bitter thing to abandon the Lord your God" via intentionally severing ties with the fountain of living water and instead attaching yourself to that which is incapable of holding life-sustaining water (Jeremiah 2:19-20). It is not because the fountain of living water will then turn and destroy you, but rather because disconnection from that which alone and only can support life will result in self-disconnection from life-support. These fundamental principles are in harmony with the summary statements of Galatians 6:8 and James 1:14-15.

              Both the Bible (and Ellen White) are consistent in portraying/unpacking that the specific nature of the connection between God and destruction is not God imposing destruction, but God releasing (and not interposing against) humans to their free-will choice to abandon God - the only source and Way of life - and instead attempt to go their own way, (also as per Romans 1:18,22-28). And when humans do this, they inherently perish. I would not say that the above verses "contradict" Jeremiah 29, but rather they lay the foundation for how Jeremiah 29 actually takes place and therefore how it is to be understood.

              * There is something God cannot do - He cannot save those who don't want to be saved due to His absolute commitment to the free-will of his creation. God well knows that true Love is only possible and can only be preserved when given freely.

            • In regard to your question whether I am using a blanket principle, the short answer is yes. Why? Because we are talking about foundational aspects of God's nature, character and associated creative works which are grounded in principles that are consistent and non-varying (James 1:17). Thus, I find the overarching picture of scripture is that God is the source of life, protection, healing, restoration, etc - while Satan and the lawlessness that characterises his 'kingdom' ways are always the source of destruction. God is a God of order and order is what is vitally essential for true life. Satan, on the other hand, is aligned with lawlessness which, because it is is incapable of ever producing order and instead only ever can produce chaos, is synonymously incapable of supporting and sustaining life and therefore by its very nature produces (results in) absence of life (ie death) via perishing/destruction.

        • Dear Phil,

          While I affirm much of what you write, I believe you venture into unsupportable territory when you write

          Both the Bible (and Ellen White) are consistent in portraying/unpacking that the specific nature of the connection between God and destruction is not God imposing destruction, but God releasing (and not interposing against) humans to their free-will choice to abandon God - the only source and Way of life - and instead attempt to go their own way, (also as per Romans 1:18,22-28).

          The word "consistent" is problematic as well as the blanket statement about God not imposing destruction. Here's how I see it:

          God partially or wholly withdrawing His protection so that humans may suffer the consequences of their choices is supported by both the Bible and Ellen White. However, neither the Bible nor Ellen White support what you imply - that this withdrawing of protection is the *only* way destruction happens - that God never directly destroys. Both the Bible and Ellen White tell of times that God directly intervenes to discipline, punish or destroy.

          Bad things happening as a result of God withdrawing his protection is similar to the Blessings and "cursings" pronounced on Israel from Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. (cf. Deut 11:29 ff.) The people were to be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. (Deut 27 and Deut 28) As spiritual Israel we inherit these blessings and cursings, but that does not mean that we shall experience the blessings without fail nor the cursings without fail. The blessings and cursings are a general rule to which many exceptions occur, due to the conditions on this planet in the middle of the controversy between Christ and Satan. As it is, the righteous often suffer and the wicked often prosper, as David so eloquently lamented in the Psalms.

          In the same manner it is true that, as a general rule, the sufferings of the wicked are the result of their own choice to sever themselves from God. But that does not mean that God does not, at times, directly intervene. The Bible is replete with such interventions.*

          The Jews made the mistake of interpreting the blessings and cursings as being consistently applied. Thus they were sure that anyone suffering from a terrible disease committed some great sin. But when Jesus healed the man born blind, He said that neither he nor his parents had sinned to bring this on, but that the glory of God might be revealed.

          You appear to make a similar misapplication by making a consistent rule that when God withdraws His protection bad things happen. As a matter of fact, Satan dearly loves to prosper evil people to make them look good. And God sometimes directly intervenes to discipline, punish or destroy, rather than merely withdrawing His protection. (I don't believe that Satan is nearly as cooperative as you imply when you consistently attribute the fulfillment of God's judgments to a power apart from God.) Our readers can surely think of examples where God directly pronounced judgment and fulfilled it.

          In our current study referencing Jeremiah there is one example. God previously called Assyria "the rod of mine anger" (Isa 10:5), and He continued disciplining Israel through Babylon in Jeremiah's time. But he didn't just withdraw His protection from Israel. He actively brought Babylon to power for the purpose of using that nation to further His plans. In this regard Ellen White writes, "[God] would miraculously shape the affairs of the ruling nations of earth and bring the Babylonionas into the ascendancy. ... The princes of Judah and fairest of the peopel were to be carried captive to Babylon ..." (See Patriarchs and Kings, pages 385, 386)
          Patriarchs and Kings pg 385-6

          I believe Shirley DeBeer is right to be concerned about your revision of prophetic writings to say something that is different from what is written in Scripture. I believe we are safer to read the Bible as written than to look for interpretations that fit our preconceived ideas of how God ought to act as a God of love. The reaction of Job is a good model. (Job 42:1-6) Note that Job stopped looking for explanation of God's ways and chose to trust Him based on His previous experience and current revelation. That is also the path of safety for us.
          *Note: A few examples of God's direct interventions:
          Gen. 19:24; Exodus 12:29-30; Numbers 16:35; Deut. 9:3; 1 Samuel 24:12-15; 2 Samuel 24:14-15; 2 Kings 19:35; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 12:23. And that's not counting the laws that God gave to Israel in which he ordered the execution of certain lawbreakers.

          • Thanks Inge

            I acknowledge your concern/s that I am unsupportably misapplying prophetic writings to make them instead selectively fit my preconceived ideas of how God acts as a God of love.

  5. Hope cannot, definitely, be placed on any material level! Our hope must be found on our Father only! He knows what we really need, we don't. And surely all things around us can help, either trouble, difficulty, victory, frustration, or relationship... but the important thing is to keep hanging on to the Father's hand. He will always guide us through the "fogs" of life (as in Ashton's above), till a perfect bright land is ahead of us, one which we will certainly endure forever, within His love and care!
    And here, sometimes we suffer because He knows we need to learn to depend exclusively on His inevitable LOVE!

  6. For I know the thoughts that I think toward John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,...says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,... a future and a hope. 12 Then John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,... will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,.... 13 And John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,...will seek Me and find Me, when John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,...search for Me with all John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, and Shirley's...heart. 14 I will be found by John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,... , says the Lord, and I will bring John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,...back from John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, and Shirley's,... captivity; I will gather John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,...from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,..., says the Lord, and I will bring John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,... to the place from which I cause John, Larry, Lawrence, Phil, Maurice, Shirley,... to be carried away captive.

    In this 11th hour of earth’s history this certainly applies to all of us who seek for salvation. I seek for Him and as promised I have found Him. I am looking forward to that time when He will call us home, and those who are alive will assend last, caught up with those who were raised from the dead, to meet our Lord in the air, and we will be with the Lord forever. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

    Why can we call Christ our Lord whome we will meet in the air? Answer, we believe in Him, we have asked for forgiveness, accepted Him in a relationship with Him that includes, repentence and surrender. We have adapted the experiment of the author this week of holding His hand on a routine basis.

    And when the time comes we will say: Lo, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is our Lord ; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.
    Isaiah 25:9.

  7. What is amazing to me is as to how God apparently felt that it was not enough for His people to serve Egypt for 400 years, or that they then had to wander in the desert for 40 years until that generation had gone to their graves etc. For now He then goes on to make them serve Babylon for 70 years. So, for how long did God then give Israel after the 70 years to then go and restore Jerusalem until Jesus shows up and spills His blood for the world and for sin. That happened 2,000 plus or minus years ago. So now I guess that everything in the book of revelation has not taken place yet right? I mean there are still Seven Plagues that still have to come to humanity from God before Jesus comes in the clouds of glory right????

  8. Indeed, Jeremiah 29:11-14 is God’s wonderful message of assurance to all who believe Him to bring about peace. ‘He knows His thoughts of peace and not of evil’ – how assuring these words are when remembering them as we experience instability or what ever the circumstances may be that cloud our memory of who we are in Christ.
    Yes, it is a great challenge not to take the mind and eyes of faith off the true path. For certain, I need to remember to praise Him and turn to Him in prayer - change my focus in times of distress, asking Him to give me peace as I am going through seeming oppression by circumstances for which I have no answers; this is the only way to bring peace to my mind and heart!

    I see Israel's focus having changed from God to their own wisdom and power and what they could do for themselves. It appears to me that at the heart of God’s plan was to use their captivity to bring about a change of focus in Israel’s heart; turning their hearts, and with that their minds, toward Him, reminding them that He is the one from whom all blessings flow; blessings of stability and prosperity.
    Whiles they were still in their own land, He could have forsaken them, leaving them to manage their lives just as the other nations around them were doing by pursuing worldly gains based on the spirit of this world – but He loved His chosen People and wanted them to show His Glory to the world to save all!

    I do not think man can find a way to be truly happy without first establishing a satisfying relationship with the heavenly Father. Frustration with circumstances that seem to be beyond our ability to change might be the best reminder to fervently seek God’s presence and ask for wisdom, understanding, and peace in heart and mind.

  9. What is so special about Jeremiah that Jesus did not outdo him for us? The Apostle Paul says that God speaks to us via His Son in these last days Hebrews 1:2. That was over 2,000 plus or minus years ago that Paul penned these words about Jesus.


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