“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye search for me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13).
In the year 586 BC, something terrible happened to the nation of Judah and to the city of Jerusalem because there was a great army from the north called Babylon that had come forth to conquer other nations. The army was led by King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews in Jerusalem tried to defend themselves from the mighty forces that they faced. but the people of Palestine were no match for the majestic army of trained warriors under a ruthless king. The soldiers of Nebuchadnezzar found ways to breach the security of the city walls of Jerusalem. Foreign soldiers poured into the streets swinging their swords of death.
Women screamed and ran for cover but there was no place to hide.
Children cried out in fear only to be cut down and trampled under foot.
Brave men tried to defend their honor, their homes, and their
Families but it was all in vain.
Blood flowed in the sand.
Bodies that had been stabbed and hacked lay everywhere.
The dogs came to eat the flesh as the flies buzzed around.
Buildings were burned including the magnificent Holy Temple that Solomon had built. When the battle for Jerusalem was over, some of the leading citizens of the City of David were rounded up. They were put in chains and forced to march towards a foreign land. Their last backward look at Jerusalem was a city on fire with broken walls. Death and carnage were everywhere. Day after day, week after week the Jews were led from the Land of Promise until they finally came to the rivers of Babylon. There, the people were resettled. And there they sat by the running waters to weep.
The Jews wept by the rivers of Babylon as they remembered all the great privileges they had taken for granted. In particular they had the privilege of being the elect of God. It was true. Out of all the nations on the earth, Israel alone had been called to be a special people with a glorious priesthood. By the rivers of Babylon, the people remembered their rich spiritual heritage, beginning with father Abraham.
Abraham was originally called Abram which means “father of high and windy place.” Living in the land of Ur of the Chaldees, Abram was a devil worshipper until one glorious day, the Lord God Almighty spoke to him. “Abram,” said God. “I want you to get out of Ur and go to a land that I will show you. Moreover, I am going to call you Abraham” which means Father of many Nations. “And Abraham, I am going to give you a son. He will be a son of promise and you will call his name Isaac.”
The Bible says that Abraham believed God and it was credited unto him for righteousness. In due time Isaac was born. His name means “laughter.” He was a great joy to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.
The years sped by and Isaac grew, married Rebecca and had twin sons. One was called Esau. The other was called Jacob. Through Jacob the blessings of God continued according to Divine purpose. Jacob had many sons who created the families which formed the tribes that made the nation of Israel. By the rivers of Babylon, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob sat and wept as they remembered how miraculously their nation had come into existence, and prospered because God had chosen individuals for Himself. But now see what sin had done to the children of Abraham. Sin had enslaved the sons and daughters of God. By the rivers of Babylon the Jews wept even more when they remembered the opportunities they once had to worship.
Worship for the Jews had always been unique. While other nations worshipped many gods, the Jews worshipped only one God. They called Him by a sacred name, Jehovah [or YAHWEH). While other nations worshipped animals and nature, the Jews worshipped the God of all Creation and the God of Nature. While other nations created stories to explain their gods, the Jews enjoyed special revelation from God, for He manifested Himself to His chosen people.
The Lord spoke to Abraham. He was called the Friend of God. God spoke to Isaac. The Lord spoke to Jacob in a dream. He spoke to Moses from the midst of a burning bush. God always finds a way to communicate to His people.
Even during the years of their wandering in the wilderness, Israel enjoyed the special presence of God for there was the Tabernacle and in the structure was a place called the Holy of Holies where the Shekinah glory was manifested. The people of Israel knew that the physical revelation and manifestation of God made them a special and a privileged people.
Later, King Solomon built a more permanent structure to replace the portable Tabernacle. When the Temple was first completed, the people were happy. It was a splendid Temple, and was beautiful beyond description. But the time came when the Jews forgot that they were a chosen people. There came a time when the people of Israel forgot they had a covenant to keep.
The judgment of God fell. First the nation was divided, and then it was destroyed. The northern portion was destroyed in 721 BC by the brutal Assyrians. The southern part of the nation was conquered in 586 BC. The terrible judgment came because God will not be mocked.
Though God disciplined His people, He also moved to comfort them. The Lord sent His prophet with a message of hope and encouragement. The prophet God sent was named Jeremiah.
What he had to say was significant. After 70 years, said Jeremiah, God will visit His people again. After 70 years God will return the Jews back to Jerusalem and begin a work of sovereign grace in the hearts of those that returned.
There is an important point here. The Lord is able to tell what will happen because He foresees all things. He knows the beginning from the end.
The reason why God can foresee all things is because He decrees which events will come to pass. He writes the script as He works ALL things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11).
God has decreed everything about you. He had decreed the day of your birth. He has decreed whether you would be male or female. He has decreed that you be born in the United States.
The main point to understand is that God foresees what will happen because He decrees what will happen. Therefore, God is able to tell His prophets what they can share with the people. Jeremiah was given permission to tell the people they were going home. In just 70 years the people would be going home. If some of them died in Babylon, they could be assured that their children or their grandchildren were going back to the Holy City. Not only would the people one day return to the Land of Promise, but they would also see the Lord of Glory for we read in 29:14, “I WILL be found of you.”
Here is a great and precious promise based upon the graciousness of God’s character (Jer. 29:11). “I will be found of you says the Lord because I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil.”
Have you ever wondered what God’s thoughts are towards you? I have. I know I have sinned. I know I have fallen short of the glory of God. I know what it is to have a guilty conscience. I know that I am not worthy to go to heaven and I have wondered what God thinks about me. I know that he hates my sin.
Sometimes I wonder if He hates me. Just when I am about to despair, I come across a precious promise in the Bible like this, and I take hope for I have learned that the things that happened in the Old Testament are recorded as an example. We need to wonder no more. As long as the gospel is preached, the message can go forth, “God has thoughts of peace and not of evil.”
Remember this. God the Father has your best interest in mind manifested in another precious promise, “Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.”
My heart’s desire is that you will be able to make personal application of this passage. God has brought you to this place, not only to have fun, not only to rest, not only to find friends, but also to begin a holy search for Him.
The experience of ancient Israel can be an example of your own spiritual pilgrimage as you come to understand that God loves you and cares for you. It is His will and His promise that you shall call upon Him and shall pray to Him. If you call, if you pray, He will listen.
There has been a holy objective here, and that is to make the universal gospel appeals, personal. Will you personally begin to search for God?
There is a need to seek for God, and to search for Him, because there is a sense in which God is hidden. Physically, this is true, for God is spirit, and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.
There is something else.
God is hidden from the eyes of the unregenerate because they are blinded to the gospel truth. The problem for the unconverted is that they have no capacity for sight. The issue is not light. Light has come into the world. The gospel light shines everywhere, but those who are spiritually blinded have no capacity to see. They do not need more light, they need eyes. They need the Sovereign Creator to do what no man can do, and that is to create in them new spiritual eyes that see. They need sight restored.
When a young person, I delivered groceries to a blind woman. She had no electricity in her house. She did not need it. Turn on the lights and she would not see. What that woman needed was sight. She needed the capacity to see. If God is completely hidden from the unconverted who are blind, He is also hidden from professing Christians who have lost sight of His majesty. It is possible for clouds to veil the glory of the sun and it is possible for the glory of God to become veiled. What causes God to be hidden from His own?
The answer is sin.
In particular, there is the sin of inordinate self-interest.
Many things in life are legitimate, but when self-interest begins to veil our vision of God, He will be hidden.
Self-interest might include travel, rest and recreation, sports, fixing up the house, family and friends, romance, a job, or the pursuit of money.
All of these things are legitimate, but in them there is also a temptation.
The legitimate things of life can very easily cause God to be hidden from our sight as we focus on the gifts and not the Giver. The sin of inordinate self-interest is really a violation of the first commandment which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
When the Holy Spirit brings conviction that the soul has lost sight of the Lord, there is only one thing to do, and that is to begin a search for Him. A true, holy search for God will be characterized by several facets.
First, the search will be intense.
Second, the search will be relentless. It will not cease until God is found.
Third, the search will exhaust every resource of body, mind, emotion, and finances.
Fourth, the search will be focused. “You will seek Me. “It is possible to search out God’s gifts. It is possible to search out God’s knowledge. It is possible to search out God’s power. It is possible to search out God’s graces. What we want to do is to be able to say, “though He kill me, yet will I love Him”. Every human ruler knows what it is like to have fawning persons in office who want gifts, favors, inside information, and power. But let the person in office get sick or need a friend and who will care? God wants us to want Himself.
Finally, let me share with you three practical reasons why you should seek God.
First, seek the Lord because someday you will need Him in a very special way. Sixteen-year-old Barbara Lovell discovered this truth. Her need for God in a special way began on Monday, April 13, 1970.
At exactly 9:07 p.m. two oxygen tanks exploded on the Apollo 13 space craft which was in space and on its way to the moon. Three men were about to be stranded well beyond the gravitational pull of the earth unless NASA could find a way to bring them back home. One of those men was Jim Lovell, the father of Barbara.
The space craft was out of control. The oxygen was running out. The electrical power inside the command module had to be shut down. The temperature fell to the freezing point. While men and women at NASA went to work, all over the world people began to pray. At the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Jews would pray for the American Astronauts. In St. Peter’s square in Rome, 50,000 Catholics would gather to pray for God to be merciful.
That night, April 13, 1970, in their home in Houston, TX, Marilyn Lovell went into the bathroom, knelt down and prayed for her husband who might be lost in space with his two companions. Upstairs, Barbara had finally fallen asleep exhausted. But in her arms she cradled a Bible. She was hugging God’s Word. She was asking God to bring her daddy back home. That night Barbara searched for God with all her heart. She knew she needed Him in a special way.
Second, seek the Lord because He alone has the Plan of Salvation that will save your immortal soul.
Young people think they will live forever but they do not. Young people die just like Amanda.
I knew Amanda as a fifth-grade student at the Benton County Christian Schools in Rogers, Arkansas. I was the administrator of the school. There was to be a Christmas program and then the holidays.
On a Friday afternoon, Amanda said good-bye to me for the last time. She did not know it, and neither did I, but on Sunday morning, Amada went to be with the Lord. Amanda was on her way to church with her family. Her sixteen-year-old brother was driving. He stopped on the highway to turn into the parking lot of the church. A driver from Kansas did not see that the car in front of him had stopped. He smashed into the back of the car and Amanda was compelled through the windshield. She died on impact.
Before the death of Amanda was another child, I knew who died way too young. She and her three brothers and sisters were burned up in a fire. At age four, little Paula Brown could have survived but as her grandfather was putting her out of the second story window, she had an overwhelming impulse to go back and rescue her brother and sisters. Paul Brown gave her life helping others.
The only comfort is these young people loved the Lord who saved their souls. They loved Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Third, seek the Lord because He wants you to. When the King of the Universe says, “Come,” the royal invitation should not be denied. As you seek the Lord, seek Him with all of your might. let your heart have a single purpose, a consuming passion and a guiding principle. Let the search now begin.