Saturday, August 16, 2014

Jeremiah 29:4-9-- The Blessing in Embracing God's Plan

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 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. 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. For 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, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD."  
(Jeremiah 29:4-9 NRSV)

        In life, we can either accept or reject God's will. Embracing God's will can be a challenge in difficult contexts and situations, but no one ever said carrying the cross was easy.  The Israelite exiles under king Nebuchadnezzar, for example, were in a problematic position, and accepting God's will in captivity was a tough task, especially when false prophets were telling them to do the opposite. But God spoke through the true prophet Jeremiah, telling the exiles to thrive in captivity and draw ever closer to God in prayer and dependence.
        As God drove the Israelites into Babylonian captivity, there was a blessing for the exiles who embraced God's plan. They could thrive and grow closer to God in captivity if they listened to Jeremiah and accepted God's will. But it was the voice of the false prophets that decried God's will and tried to force a will of their own on the exiled Israelites. These false prophets tempted the Israelites, but God, through Jeremiah, warned the Israelites and said "I did not send them."
        We, too, must listen to God and follow his will in our lives, even when his will runs counter to what society, neighbor, culture, or current trends dictate. Most importantly, God's will for us may not be what we want or expect, for the last thing the Israelites wanted was to be held captive in a foreign land. But God knows best and blesses us with situations that draw us closer to the love of Jesus Christ. God knows what builds our character, make us better disciples and witnesses, and enriches us to evangelize. For the Israelites, captivity was a bitter reality, but if embraced, they could thrive and grow closer to God. In tough situations, we, too can thrive and grow in our dependence on Jesus in all things, for even in having little and being deprived of the plenty we once had, as St. Paul says, we "can do all things in him who strengthens [us]" (Philippians 4:12-13).