I was reading this blog post at Biblegateway.com on what passages of the Bible people search for, categorized by different countries around the world.
Many different cultures and countries are represented in the analysis, but one thing really stuck out to me. Jeremiah 29:11. Out of the 10 countries listed, the United States was the only country where that particular verse is listed as one of the 5 most searched passages.
I’m fairly certain that verse is the one we had in fancy script on our program for our wedding back in 1992. At the time, it seemed so ‘right’ for the moment.
Of course, we were looking at those specific words of that particular verse, applied to the big moment of the day and for our future. It was very ‘we’ focused and not ‘He’ focused.
I’ve come to the opinion that we in the American church have really crossed up the purpose of Jeremiah 29:11 without realizing what we’ve done. We take this very unique wording in this one verse that God was speaking to the exiles in foreign lands, and wrap it around ourselves like a big fluffy comforter. God wants to prosper ME. He wont harm ME.
Step back out a few paces and read the whole chapter; the whole book for that matter. The chapter addresses how the exiles are to bless the peoples and the culture they are in today, not wish for a utopian culture where there is no potential harm to them as a people. The exiles are to seek the peace and prosperity of the peoples around them, not themselves. Later in the chapter God addresses the exiles and He states that it was HE who sent them from Jerusalem into exile into Babylon (verse 20). Was that a plan to prosper the Israelites and not to harm them? In God’s timing, yes. What would that look like if we applied all of Jeremiah to our lives and purpose and calling? I have to credit my pastor, and Tim Keller’s books on the Gospel for calling my and our congregation’s attention to the rest of Jeremiah 29. Our pastor and Tim Keller did it in such a way that I didn’t even realize it was the same chapter as the ‘plans I have for you, to prosper and not to harm you’ verse so well known and apparently so oft searched by Americans. I am proud to be an American, by the way, but I am an American way down the list after being God’s son, a husband and father, a worshiper of God, a thankful recipient of Christ’s grace, etc.
So, if we take the whole of Jeremiah 29 as applying to us as well as the exiled Israelites, how would this change or affect our worship?
What does worship look like, if we included the thoughts to bless the people around us in our culture? How would we orient our worship to seek the prosperity of those we would consider as enemies and our captors?
I don’t have an answer to this, but I’d like to hear what you have to say.
I can think of one worship song which directly addresses this topic. It’s curious to me that I can think of only one. Are there others?