Today's Scripture: Jeremiah 29:10-14 (read)
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future" (v. 11)
This great "bumper-sticker text" has been a source of solace and comfort for generations. It would be impossible to prove this, but I think it very likely that this was the most quoted verse in my undergraduate days at Oklahoma Baptist University. And you can understand why that would be the case. College kids need to believe as they look forward to years of big decisions about jobs, marriage, moving, kids, etc., that God has a plan for prosperity!
I would be amiss, however, if I didn't point out that the original context of this text is far removed from the world of the contemporary college kid or from our lives for that matter. This text was part of a letter written to the ancient Israelites who were in exile. This was very much a corporate text, which is to say, it was written to a nation of people, not to individuals in a nation. It was about a specific time and place where God promised through Jeremiah to liberate and to re-create a nation. Along the way, many in that nation would suffer sickness, adversity, poverty and death.
So is there a message here for us? Absolutely, just not the bumper-sticker kind. The message is nothing more and nothing less than the gospel. It is the message of Christmas. God's ultimate desire is for us to flourish. This does not mean "easy street." It may not mean that as individuals we actually see the "new nation" on earth. But it does mean that the God of all creation is bending the arch of the universe that we might prosper. That is why, in fact, we sing "Joy to the World."
Scott Stearman is senior pastor of Kirkwood Baptist Church.
This 2011 Advent devotion originally appeared in the November 17 issue of Word&Way.