17. I Know the Thoughts I Think Toward You

MUSINGS WHILE IN THE HOLD

Chapter 17
I Know the Thoughts I Think Toward You

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not or evil, to give you an expected end.  Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.  And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Each prophecy in the Scriptures has as a rule one major interpretation, and a number of varied and general applications.  In this chapter, it is the intention to focus on the general applications which can be applied to all believers when contemplating the exactness of the faithful and precious promises of God.  We will note a few similarities in the situations which are present to all those that hope in the Lord.

Most of the promises of God are not detailed as to the precise time of their fulfillment as is this one in Jeremiah Chapter 29. “For thus saith the LORD, that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” (Verse 10)  What is normally brought to the heart of the redeemed in the promises of God is that He will deliver and bless, but rarely do the saints have any inkling of the providential time God has ordained for the fruition of them.  This is the reason why hungry souls are often found pressing God for relief when they cry “how long O LORD, how long will thou forget me?”

As it was in the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon, so it is likewise the same today.  There will always be false prophets promoting their “extra special revelations” concerning the return of Christ, or the end of the world.  These religious prostitutes use their talents in the most wicked and vile ways for personal recognition.  They are self-serving tools of Satan, and not the servants of Jehovah.  “For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.  For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name:  I have not sent them, saith the LORD.” (Verses 8-9)  Note also Paul’s warning with regard to the false apostles that would seek to infiltrate the believer’s stronghold.  “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.  And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”  (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)  In both the Old and New Testament, these devilish diviners have prophesied falsehood in the name of God.

There are also well-meaning, but deluded associates who unwittingly seek to interfere with God’s design in a troubled and discouraged saint.  Whenever there is a suffering and afflicted child of God, one of these zealots knows exactly for what reasons God is causing the afflictions.  They give their swift advice on how to turn the misery into joy and gladness.  There instructions on how one should pray, and the faith that must be exhibited is outlined as described with grand authority.  Should this high caliber recommendation be not heeded they are astonished, aghast, and offended at such a reaction.  These are the ones that know with perfection, to hear them tell it, the will of God for everyone.

Now answer this.  Does anyone know the Lord’s purpose for another believer’s life?  To see a child of God in the fiery furnace of affliction is the Lord’s doing, and there is a divine and holy purpose for it.  The suffering saint prays in faith and believes; he repents and is contrite by reason of his sins and failures.  Still the counsel of God is what truly matters.  The affliction may be as the result of his sins, or it may be that God is preparing a servant for future use to bring the Lord great honor and glory.  Suffice it to say that God is sovereign in the afflictions and in the afflicted, and the desired purpose will be performed with unequivocal perfection.  It also needs to be remembered that the Lord is not one blink better off by the service imparted to Him.  All the benefits of afflictions must be received as benevolent instructions for the maximum good of those who endure them.

Verse 11.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”  At the beginning of this chapter, mention was made that it will be the purpose in these pages to seek out an application to all saints, and not the interpretation in the strict sense respecting Israel in captivity.  God’s thoughts concerning the elect are ultimately thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give to each child a glorious end worthy of God.  “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.”  “Men think and forget what they have thought of, and so it comes to nothing; but thus it is not with God; he has taken up many thoughts in a way of love, grace, and mercy, concerning sinful men; about their election in Christ; a provision of all spiritual blessings for them; redemption and salvation by Christ; their effectual vocation, adoption, and eternal life.”  (John Gill)

God’s thoughts are so high in wisdom and perfection that they are unattainable by any created being.  Their eternal glory is so exalted that the best we can say or conclude is that which is recorded in the book of Isaiah:  “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my way higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:9)  David after he had pondered the omniscience of God agreed that “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.”  (Psalm 139:6)

We are not here considering the God of the modern day pulpit, or the worldly conceptions of God that many hold to and propagate.  The God and Christ of the average sermons of today are objects of pity and weakness – a Godhead that needs the assistance of sinful man to bring about His holy will.  Such is not the type of Sovereign that would fill one with awe and reverence.  A Supreme Being that must bow to the caprice and stubborn wills of the spiritually dead is a theology that is defective at the root.  To place faith in a saviour that can only redeem if man will let him have his way is not the source of tremendous confidence.  Who could possibly accept the idea that the Lord’s thoughts towards mankind are good, but ineffectual unless man grants God permission to do what He desires.  If a God of this nature is worthy of worship, it is no more than spiritualized idolatry.  There is no foundation for this conception of the Godhead taught in the Scriptures.  The God described, magnified, and portrayed in the Bible is one whose attributes are impeccably holy and incapable of being injured, influenced, affected, or disappointed by Angels, Satan, or man.

Verse 11.  “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD.”  How many thoughts does God have regarding His people?  More than the stars in the sky for multitude.  Thoughts that are more in number than all the grains of sand in all the seas, all the dunes, and on all the beaches worldwide.  Surely, this is the thinking of some when counting the number of peaceful and good thoughts the Lord has for the elect.  If we could but remember, His thoughts are higher, much higher than our thoughts we would also understand the number of them is more than we can calculate.  There is no hyperbole involved in the number and preciousness of the Lord’s thoughts for His children.  “Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward:  they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee:  if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.”  (Psalm 40:5)

Another fact that is beyond our understanding is that the Lord does not think one thought after another, but all of His thoughts are at the same time, all the time.  Christopher Ness wrote:  “If the Lord ever had a new thought, new desire, new intention, or increased in knowledge, wisdom, or perfections, He would not be God.”  Quote by memory from “An Antidote Against Arminianism”

These eternal, constant, and divine thoughts of God are not only innumerable, but they are perpetually precious.  The Psalmist was overtaken with wonder when he considered not only the immense number, but also the unmerited origin of such a spectacular mercy.  “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God!  how great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:  when I awake, I am still with thee.”  (Psalm 139:17-18)  With this in mind suffering and afflicted believers should take solid comfort that no matter what be their trials, or for how long they have waited, the thoughts God thinks toward them are thoughts of peace and not of evil.  They should also be assured that their captivity, no matter what the nature, is for their good.  “Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel:  Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive (whether it be debt, sickness, a broken heart, or a broken spirit) of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.”  (Jeremiah 24:5, parenthesis added)

Verse 11.  “. . . to give you an expected end.”  “For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”  (Proverbs 23:18; see also Proverbs 24:14)  The expected end carries with it the interpretation of guarantee, a promising success.  C. Von Orelli  translates expected end as “an Auspicious future.”  The expectation is founded upon the surety of the covenant promise, it cannot fail of the desired result.  The results being those of peace, a satisfying and full peace , devoid of even a trace of evil.  The expected end is Godly in its aim, and absolute in its fruition.  “To give you an expected end; a very desirable one; such as they wished and hoped to have, and expected; such as would put an end to all their troubles, and put them into the enjoyment of all good things promised and waited for.”  (John Gill)

Verse 12.  “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”  God in His excellent mercies, after he announced the affectionate thoughts of peace and glorious promise of a successful expectation, admonished His people to beseech His Fatherly benevolence for the happy and joyful fulfillment of those same declarations.  When the redeemed have compelling invitations to call upon the Lord for the promised grace, mercy, and goodness He reveals to them, they should with childlike confidence and consecrated convictions approach the throne of grace with holy boldness, expecting God through Jesus Christ to do all that He has promised and more.  (Ephesians 3:20)

Being convinced of God’s faithfulness and absolute performance of all His promises does not cause God-wrought faith to consider prayers and supplications no longer necessary.  It rather intensifies the hunger for fulfillment and increases the desire to cry unto God with a consistency that recognizes the Lord as the gracious and loving benefactor.  God has made countless faithful promises, but has also decreed prayer as an essential element in the satisfaction and gratification of their fulfillment.  He will be asked and inquired of by His people for the outflow of the ordained benefits.  “Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them . . .” (Ezekiel 36:37)  “When a man of God believes the promises of God his faith becomes active, not passive.  Faith always tends to draw the believing one to God. . . True prayer, which has for its foundation the Word of God, will drive the man of God to the holy of holies.”  (Lehman Strauss)

After God has placed in the heart of the believer a promise that the saint is sure, by Holy Spirit assurance, is his, the Lord has outlined the procedure he by faith must follow.  “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me..”  “Godly men, believing God’s promises, do not become passive because of such faith.  Prayer comes so naturally in such cases and fits, they well know, so aptly into the scheme of things that God has ordained, that they must needs approach God in prayer that He might do what He has promised.”  (H. C. Leupold)  The result is an eternal principle ordained to be manifested when faith believes what God has declared, and asks Him to do as He has promised.”  “. . . and I will hearken unto you.”

It was almost seventy years later that Daniel was reading this prophecy of Jeremiah.  When Daniel discovered by reading that the appointed time had all but arrived, he pursued the same faithful habit as others had, and implored God to deliver Israel from the Babylonian captivity.  He first recognized that the time was at hand.  (Daniel 9:2)  Finding this fact, did not lessen his faithful discharge, (a vile accusation often leveled against those that embrace and hold to God’s sovereign predestination of all events) but, rather caused him to set his face unto the Lord God Almighty.  Daniel sought the Lord by prayer and supplications.  He fasted in sackcloth and ashes, even though he knew God was about to bring an end to the seventy years of captivity.  (Daniel 9:3)

In verses 4-19 of Daniel Chapter 9, the great Prophet confesses his sins and the sins of his brethren.  He exalts the righteousness of God, the mercies and faithfulness which was rebelled against by Israel.  Daniel declared that God was righteous in all His works and judgments, and that Israel’s miseries were far less than they deserved.  It was then that he prayed for unmerited mercies and grace to shine upon a rebellious and desolate people for His great name’s sake.  “   We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies.  O Lord, forgive; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O my God: for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.”  (Verses 18-19)

This is a true and correct picture of faith and how it reacts to the magnificent promises of the Lord.  Those that insist that predestination introduces unwholesome practices are dealing with conditions which are not the result of Him that works in the elect both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  (Philippians 2:13)  Antinomianism is the twin harlot sister of arminianism.  Both prostitute the truth, sometimes for personal gain, sometimes for free.

Verse 13.  “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”  The seeking of God by His people is the reaction of the Lord’s initial action of seeking them.  “And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord:  and they shall be my people, and I will be their God”  for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)  God by His great mercy softens the hard and callus heart and makes it supple and contrite.  The Lord causes His people to be willing in the day of His power.  (Psalm 110:3)  The rebellious are turned to a repentant and sorry disposition.  Their obstinate rebellion which authored the hard and fiery afflictions is caused by grace to be conquered.  The stiff neck and stony heart are crushed beneath the floods of unconditional favor and mercy.  Matchless are these attributes which God pours out upon a desolate and sinful people.  “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean:  from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”  (Ezekiel 36:25-27)  These are the chosen people of God that seek the Lord, and find Him, when they search for Him with all their heart.  “In seeking God, we must search for him, accomplish a diligent search, search for directions in seeking him, and encouragements to our faith and hope.  We must continue seeking, and take pains in seeking, as those that search; and this we must do with our heart, in sincerity and uprightness, and with our whole heart, with vigour and fervency, putting forth all that is within us, in prayer; those who seek God, shall find him, and shall find him their bountiful Rewarder, Hebrews 11:6. He never said to such, Seek ye me in vain.”  (Matthew Henry)

When God in mercies visits the believer’s rebellions with stripes and causes grief to lay them prostrate in the dust, it is for the divine purpose to turn them from their sins and draw a sincere repentance from within.  A repentance that will abhor the wickedness that is an ever present evil of the natural disposition.  “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh:  I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.”  (Jeremiah 31:19)  The fear of the believer’s continual weakness will drive him to that strength which alone resides with God.  The truly enlightened will seek and search with all their heart until they find that which rebellion and unbelief caused them to forfeit.  This reconciliation is the great work of the merciful and forgiving Father.

Each time a child of grace seeks and searches for his loving Father with all his heart, the promise of the Lord is that He will be found of the seeker, and in His own time will turn away the captivity.  It matters not how enormous the problem, or how unworthy the believer may be, God is faithful, and He that gave the heart to know and seek Him will in His own providential manner shower blessings upon the contrite one in such merciful volumes that there will not be room enough to take it all in.  For the Lord knows the thoughts He thinks toward His elect, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give them an expected end.

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