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Jeremiah 29:11-13 1
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.

plansBackground

The members of Jeremiah’s family were priests who lived in the town called Anathoth, about 3 miles from Jerusalem. Jeremiah prophesied during the 7th century BC, when there were great political problems. Baruch, Jeremiah’s secretary, recorded the messages that Jeremiah dictated. But King Jehoiakim burned that record (Jeremiah chapter 36). So Baruch wrote it again and Jeremiah added more messages. Many of the prophecies are poems. Sometimes Jeremiah used dramatic actions to make the people understand his message. The various messages are not in the order in which Jeremiah gave them. So sometimes we do not know to which period in history they refer.

Jeremiah loved his country called Judah. But God would punish the people from Judah because of their wicked behavior. Jeremiah had great mental pain when he had to warn his own people. His message was not well received. Many people insulted and attacked him. On several occasions, he was close to death. But many years later, people respected Jeremiah. Some people thought that he was the Servant of the LORD.

One of the most important things that Jeremiah spoke about was the New Covenant. It replaced the covenant that the LORD had made with the Jews during the life of Moses. In the first Covenant, the LORD promised to look after his people, the Israelites. Because they were the LORD’s people, they had to obey his orders. In the New Covenant, the LORD promised that his people will want to obey him. And the LORD promised to forgive their sins (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

Biblical Truth

These verses (including verse 10) repeat the promise in Jeremiah 25:12. The LORD had plans for the future of his people after their 70 years in Babylon. The LORD’s people had to be completely sincere when they returned to the LORD. Then he would answer their prayers. He would take them back to their own country from wherever he had sent them.

Items for Discussion

  • If you had to summarize what God’s plans for us are, what would they be?
  • How are these plans similar to the plans our forefathers established when they created our country?
  • What is our part in receiving God’s plans for us?
  • What do you think the impact is on a society when they remove God from their lives?
  • How do human plans differ from God’s plans?

 

Ephesians 1:9-14
9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. 11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

Background

Some believe that the letter to the Ephesians was a circular letter sent to several churches, and that the copy directed to the Ephesians happened to be the one taken into Scripture, and thus bore the name of their city. It has much of common concernment to all Christians, and especially to all who, having been Gentiles in times past, and were converted to Christianity. On the other hand, the letter is expressly inscribed (Eph. 1:1) to the saints which are at Ephesus; and in the close of the letter, Paul tells them that he had sent Tychicus to them, whom, in 2 Tim. 4:12; he says he had sent to Ephesus.

It was written while Paul was in prison with many believing that this time of captivity helped Paul focus on God. When Paul’s troubles were greatest, his consolations and experiences were that much more focused on God. This may be very well why so many sermons, testimonies, stories of one’s faith walk contain stories of “hard times.” Paul’s design of his letter is to settle and establish the Ephesians in the truth, and to further acquaint them with the mystery of the Gospel. Paul represents the great privilege of the Ephesians, who, having been in time past idolatrous heathens, were now converted to Christianity and received into covenant with God, which he illustrates from a view of their deplorable state before their conversion, Eph. 1:1-3:21. In the latter part (which we have in the Eph. 4:1-6:24) he instructs them in the principal duties of religion, both personal and relative, and encourages them to the faithful discharge of those duties.

Biblical Truth

In verses 9-10, we learn that God will let us know ‘his secret plan that Christ would complete’. He makes it possible for us to understand this. But he did not show his plan before Jesus came. God’s plan was that Jesus Christ will be the head (or ruler) of the whole universe (heaven and earth). God arranges the time of all things. He does this in perfect wisdom. God has fixed all the ages and seasons. He has decided when they will end. God is now working out his plan (that Christ will rule the whole universe). His plan is working all the time. One day God will complete it. History is ‘God’s story’.

Through the ages, God is bringing everything together under his rule. That is why it would be difficult for a person who is not a Christian to understand this. He would not make sense of history. Different events have taken place in different ages. They would not link with each other. Paul shows that God has a plan for the history of men and women. Once God hid this secret. Now he makes his plan plain. Christians today can now understand it. It is the job of Christians to tell the world about it.

In verses 11-12, we learn that from the beginning, God chose us to ‘have hope in Christ’, the Messiah. He chose that we should be a part of his plan. God works out everything in agreement with his choice. Everything that he wants to do, he does. Everything will be as he said. This plan includes Paul and the Jewish believers (‘we’ verse 12). They were the first to hope in Christ, the Messiah. They hoped in him before he came (see Acts 28:20). They looked forward to him as their Saviour. The plan then includes ‘you also’ (the Gentile Christians) who believe in him (verse 13).

Verse 13 tells us that the most important thing is to hear God’s word. God’s word is the word of truth. The word of truth is the gospel. The gospel is the good news about salvation. The knowledge of salvation comes by hearing about Jesus Christ (Romans 10:14). Hearing, however, must lead to faith. God can bless us only if we have faith. So, when you believe, God marks you with a special sign. This is for both Jews and Gentiles. It is for those who have heard and believed. In those days, a seal was a person’s own sign. It was a stamp or mark. It showed that he was the owner. He used it when he sent something important to another person. He would use this on a letter. It showed that everything was true and not false. It was a promise. You could be sure that no one had opened the letter and changed it.

The Holy Spirit is the seal for the Christian. The Holy Spirit in him is a proof to himself of his faith. It also shows other people how real his faith is. The Holy Spirit makes the Christian certain that he has salvation. This seal also keeps the Christian safe. No one can break the seal. No one can break into his life. In the end, he will be safe with Jesus.

We end with a reminder of a common practice. In those days, when you bought something, you paid some money. This was only a part of the whole price. You made a promise to the seller. You promised that later you would pay the rest of the price. The Holy Spirit is God’s seal or promise. It is a promise to all those who believe in him. He promises that one day he will make them completely his own possession. They will belong completely to him. That includes both Jews and Gentiles.

Items for Discussion

  • How does God make known to us today, His purpose for us and for Christ?
  • What are the dangers in being “Politically Correct,” to the point that we remove Christ from our society?
  • What are seals used in our society today? What do they signify?
  • Do you think that people today feel comfortable being marked with a “Seal from God?”
  • What would visible seals today, markings of God, look like?

Discussion Challenge

  • In times of a world crisis with violence and war against Christians, how do we honor God (keep our seal visible) while at the same time remain safe?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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