11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11(New King James Version)
11 I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come. Jeremiah 29:11(New International Reader's Version)
A New Year holds much promise and is a time for renewal. It gives us all the opportunity to look back on what we have done in the past, and it gives us the chance to start over; to set things straight. Many will use it as a time to start new diets or exercise programs; some will decide its a good time to dedicate themselves to reading more, learn something new, study the Bible, or begin a new hobby; and some will leave old relationships behind and seek new ones. And there will be those who really need this New Year to set things right with God.
The verse above from the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible, highlights the mind of our gracious and merciful God, when after many years of blatant sin, of rejecting God's ways, of worshipping pagan gods, and of willful disobedience, God chastised His people, Israel. The Kingdom of Israel had decayed and become so corrupted, that it was easily conquered by the Babylonians. As it had been prophesied many years before, the people who were blessed with the Promised Land, were now taken away as slaves, and into captivity in Babylon. Its amazing to read God's admonition to them as they were leaving the land:
4 The Lord who rules over all is the God of Israel. He speaks to all those he forced to go from Jerusalem to Babylon. He says, 5 “Build houses and make your homes there. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Get married. Have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons. Give your daughters to be married. Then they too can have sons and daughters. Let there be many more of you and not fewer. 7 Also work for the success of the city I have sent you to. Pray to the Lord for that city. If it succeeds, you too will enjoy success.” Jeremiah 29:4-7(NIRV)
The amazing God of the universe is actually encouraging His people Israel, in the face of the punishment He has give them for their sin and disobedience! And, He gives them a promise and future hope:
10 The Lord says, “You will be forced to live in Babylon for 70 years. After they are over, I will come to you. My good promise to you will come true. I will bring you back home. 11 I know the plans I have for you,” announces the Lord. “I want you to enjoy success. I do not plan to harm you. I will give you hope for the years to come. 12 Then you will call out to me. You will come and pray to me. And I will listen to you. 13 When you look for me with all your heart, you will find me. 14 I will be found by you,” announces the Lord. “And I will bring you back from where you were taken as prisoners. I will gather you from all the nations. I will gather you from the places where I have forced you to go,” announces the Lord. “I will bring you back to the place I sent you away from.” Jeremiah 29:10-14(NIRV)
God actually gives them the hope that He will someday restore them to the exalted place He gave them, by someday returning them to the Promised Land that He had given them. All they would need to do would be to look for Him with all their heart; to seek Him; and to be obedient to Him. God is treating the people Israel as a loving father would discipline, then restore a wayward child!
This New Year in the same manner allows us to bear all of our misdeeds, our sins, before God and seek His forgiveness and restoration. The great advantage we have in this modern age is that all mankind was restored to God, through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus on the cross. Jesus carried all of our sins, past, present and future to the cross, and settle our debt of disobedience to God once and for all time. All we need to do is to ask for His forgiveness and receive His grace and mercy, by accepting Christ's payment in full.
If you have carried anything into this New Year that needs the forgiveness, grace and mercy of God, today is the time to give it all to Him. Take a few moments, get to a place were you can be alone with God, and lay it all out before Him. Jesus is waiting for you today, waiting to give you a "future and a hope". Let this be the year, 2015, where you can live in the promise of God and enjoy His peace and success.