Being Restored

24 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.

Ezekiel 36:24-30 (NIV)

If you watch HGTV you know there are a lot of restoration and renovation shows. In the prior type of show, there is an emphasis on retaining many elements of the house on object. The goal is to restore the original beauty and characteristics. The former type of show demolishes and reconfigures the elements to create an improved, and in some cases more functional, structure or object. Either situation brings about a revitalization for future use.

The passage from Ezekiel recounts for us a time when Israel had gone into exile. The people had worshipped idols and chosen not to follow God so foreign nations were allowed to defeat the Israelites in battles, capture or kill the people, and take the survivors back to the country of the conquerors as slaves. Here God is telling the people that this is not a permanent situation. God makes the promise to restore Israel. The people will be gathered from all nations and God will sprinkle water on them to cleanse them from all impurities. The Lord will remove their hearts of stone then place a heart of flesh in them. The Spirit will be put on them. The land will produce plenty. Israel will be fully restored as improved and functional people of God.

We may not be physically exiled and made slaves to serve others but we still are exiled and in need of restoration. Our sin exiles us from God and the fullness of life available to us. We need our Lord to restore us. This promise of restoration has already been fulfilled in the saving acts of Jesus Christ. Let the Lord restore you and you will be an improved, functional child of God.

God’s Plans

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NIV)

When a young person prepares to graduate from high school, the standard question he/she is asked relates to their future plans. At “senior night” of whatever extra curricular activities the individual participates in, when they are being introduced with their parents, their future plans are usually included in the introduction. For some determining future plans is relatively easy but others struggle in determining their plans. This will be the first time when they are making life altering plans. It will not be the last time of making such impactful plans though.

Jeremiah sends a letter to the Israelites who have been taken into exile by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The purpose of the letter is to deliver a message from God. At the start of the message God instructs the people to live normally in whatever city into which they are exiled. Then God’s message shifts to their promised return to Judah and Jerusalem. God then tells them that they will be brought back to Judah when the appointed time arrives. God says that there are plans for them to prosper, have hope and a future. When the people seek God, God promises to be found.

This is a valuable message for anyone who is in the midst of working on plans to hear. Even before we start planning, God has already made plans for us. These plans are intended to assist us in being prosperous. God intends to bring hope and a meaningful future into our lives. If while we are doing our planning we seek the Lord, we are promised a successful search. Then God will actively be engaged in our planning. The plans which the Lord has for us can be integrated into our planning process.

God has plans for you. Are you including those plans into your own?

History Matters

This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews living in Lower Egypt—in Migdol, Tahpanhes and Memphis—and in Upper Egypt: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You saw the great disaster I brought on Jerusalem and on all the towns of Judah. Today they lie deserted and in ruins because of the evil they have done. They aroused my anger by burning incense to and worshiping other gods that neither they nor you nor your ancestors ever knew. Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’ But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness or stop burning incense to other gods. Therefore, my fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.

“Now this is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Why bring such great disaster on yourselves by cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and so leave yourselves without a remnant? Why arouse my anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to live? You will destroy yourselves and make yourselves a curse[a] and an object of reproach among all the nations on earth. Have you forgotten the wickedness committed by your ancestors and by the kings and queens of Judah and the wickedness committed by you and your wives in the land of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? 10 To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed my law and the decrees I set before you and your ancestors.

11 “Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to bring disaster on you and to destroy all Judah. 12 I will take away the remnant of Judah who were determined to go to Egypt to settle there. They will all perish in Egypt; they will fall by the sword or die from famine. From the least to the greatest, they will die by sword or famine. They will become a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach. 13 I will punish those who live in Egypt with the sword, famine and plague, as I punished Jerusalem. 14 None of the remnant of Judah who have gone to live in Egypt will escape or survive to return to the land of Judah, to which they long to return and live; none will return except a few fugitives.”

Jeremiah 44:1-14 (NIV)

I have always been a history buff. In fact, history was part of my college major. One of the reasons I enjoy history so much is because I subscribe to the words of the 19th century philosopher, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Winston

Churchill paraphrased Santayana in his 1948 speech by saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately, history is too easily forgotten and/or not taught and we see a  repeat of wrong decisions with disastrous results.

In the passage from Jeremiah, we see God communicating the same message. God has a message for the Jews who fled to Egypt. Jeremiah shares this message. Here God reminds them of what happened when they lived in Judah and Jerusalem. The people had chosen to burn incense and worship gods other than God.  Despite continued warnings to stop, the behavior continued. This led to the destruction of the Temple and all the Judean cities, including Jerusalem. Now the remnants in Egypt are repeating the same behaviors. They have failed to remember their history so they will experience the same negative results.

Here is a lesson for us today. God may have put the words spoken into Santayana and Churchill’s mouths. We are to remember those events which occurred before us. It is important that we understand what led to the negative times in order that when we see or partake in similar behaviors, we stop. Only then will we not suffer the same outcomes or worse.