Due to inclement weather, the 9 a.m. service for Sunday, Jan. 20 has been cancelled. We will have one morning service at 10:45 a.m. as road conditions improve.

Hope

by Rebekah Shaffer

This year has, at times, felt hopeless. The things we knew as normal ceased to be normal, and there seems to be no end in sight. Medical professionals have worked around the clock, putting themselves in harm’s way, parents have become teachers, teachers have had to start from scratch, business owners have closed their doors, churches have sat empty. Loved ones fought illnesses alone in hospitals and countless people lost their jobs. It is as if the life we once knew ended and a new one began, one that was much harder. Nothing about this last year has been easy and almost everything has had to be relearned.

But there are a group of believers, God’s people, who lived, about 2,400 years ago, through something much worse than Covid and lockdowns. These people, who walked before us, were taken/torn from their homes and relocated to a foreign and pagan land. They were forced to learn a new language, eat new foods, work day and night, be separated from their loved ones, and give up everything they knew as normal. And yet, all these hardships were part of God’s plan. He planned for His people to endure a time of hopelessness for His purpose. The Jews were forcibly taken in groups from Israel to Babylon, and in these groups of captives, we find familiar and important characters like Daniel or Jeremiah the prophet.

Nestled into the book of Jeremiah, there is a message to these exiles. What did God want the people who had no hope to know? Instead of a lecture or a long list of grievances, He surprises them with the following call:

Jeremiah 29
4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take 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. 7 But 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. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them,” declares the LORD.


God calls the hopeless people to live with hope. “Taking wives, having children, and planting gardens” are all actions that take time and would not take place without a hope for the future. So, He called them to live in action of hope regardless of their feelings. Why, because they were not without hope. No one who knows the Lord is without hope regardless of the circumstances. God’s view of their condition was outside of their condition. He saw how it all fit into His plan, and He did have plans for them, even if it did not feel that way. He called them to do happy things, to live like joyful people, not like people in despair even though they really were in despair. He goes on to say,

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare 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. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  

Why be happy? Why make plans? Because God has plans. God’s plans are always for a “future and a hope.” Because even in the darkest of times, we have the hope of eternal life, the hope of redemption, and that is simply enough.

This year has been challenging, seemingly hopeless. No one would disagree with that. But we have a Savior, who sees outside of time, and He is in control; therefore, we do have hope. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” Because of this, we can live as those who have hope. We can have times of happiness, times of joy, even in a pandemic. In this new year, 2021, we should plant a garden, marry and have children, but most of all, we should manifest the hope that only comes through the Lord.
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