Tuesday, November 10, 2009

God's Good Intentions Are Reliable

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.
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 ESV
One thing in which believers can remain utterly confident is the good intention which God has for the people whom he has chosen.

This may seem at first to be a loaded statement, for we are apt to think of good intentions with a negative connotation. For instance, we have a saying, The road to hell is paved with good intentions. We sometimes spoke of rude or inconsiderate people as having only the best of intentions, as if their intentions excused them from the way they acted when they were unkind or rude.

Certainly, humanly speaking, intentions are not good enough to merit another's confidence. We must see performance, behavioral consistency, and some history that a person's intentions are reliable.

Our inconsistencies between what we say and what we do bespeak hypocrisy. And, nothing has erased confidence in believers more quickly than this. This is why rude people can't get away with their rudeness. Intentions do matter, but how can we know one's intentions if his actions say something else?

I wonder if this is why we are prone to think so dispassionately about God's promises. We are accustomed to hypocrisy; we're just human, we say. Have we so compartmentalized our lives that our beliefs and our actions are isolated from each other?

If indeed this pitfall is what it means to be human, we should remember it is not so with God. This inconsistency does not exist with he who is perfect, complete, and righteous.

The passage here in Jeremiah should be understood in the context for which it was spoken. It was uttered to God's chosen nation while they were separated from their homeland and the center of their identity in Jerusalem, a separation caused by their disobedience, idolatry, and their forsaking of the covenant relationship. They were hostages in the land of their enemies, in Babylon, and were desperate for God's attention and forgiveness.

These words were spoken not as some cheap comfort might be given to one today--"you know he means well"--but as a reminder that as God's chosen people much had been given, and much was to be expected. Acting as God's mouthpiece to Israel, Jeremiah is saying, "God will hold up his end of the covenant, and in doing so, you will see that he means business. He has not forgotten his plans for your good, your future, your hope. He will always carry out his good intentions. Perhaps, you will now understand how he wants you to behave."

No doubt, one of the chief consistencies of God is the consistency of his love, with justice, and in due time, no matter our present circumstances, his purposes will see fulfillment.

Though it might be understandable that we would have some skepticism about human intentions, it must become a matter of utmost importance to us to embrace the purposes and hope of God. As someone has said, "We must live in the present with the end in mind." Such hope requires prayer and uncommon trust. God will not disappoint.

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