Happy New Year!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Happy New Year to you and your family! We pray for God’s blessings, protection, and guidance on you and your family in 2022.
2021 was a difficult year for all of us. We all were in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we lost more than five million souls to the COVID-19. We hoped it would be over by Summer, but the Delta Variant came, and then it was followed by the recent Omicron Variant. The Omicron Variant spread throughout the world in less than a month. Again we all are suffering. The new cases are skyrocketing daily. December 31, 2021, alone, new cases have reached 1.7 million. It seems like a never-ending pandemic, and the terrible COVID-19 does not know when to go away. Without exception, everyone on the earth suffered either by losing the loved one, job, health, etc.. 2021 was a year of pain, sorrow, and hardship to all.
Jeremiah was one of God’s prophets, who lived in the most tumultuous decade of his time. Babylonians invaded his country, and his people were captured and taken to Babylon. Jerusalem, the capital city, was fell by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and the troops commanded by Nebuchadnezzar tore down the sacred temple in Jerusalem, which King Solomon built. The people used to come to the temple to worship God and find hope, peace, and comfort in their lives. But, suddenly, there was no more the temple because Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple. Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, then, took King Jehoiachin, the queen-mother, the court officials, the other officials of Judah, and all the craftsmen and artisans to Babylon from Jerusalem. The elders, priests, prophets, and people in Jerusalem became captives of Babylon.
It was a dark time. All felt that there was no future. The people in Jerusalem saw the Babylonians’ terrible act — tearing down the most trusted temple, the source of their faith, peace, hope, and comfort.
However, one day, God came to Jeremiah, God’s prophet, and Jeremiah wrote a letter to all those who lost hope and future:
This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
The Babylonian land where the people lived was not like the homeland. They became slaves and served the Babylonians. They had to listen to and obey their Babylonian masters. Regardless of either King, an official, a priest, or an ordinary person, all were subject to the Babylonians. Nobody even talked about hope to return home because it was ridiculous to their eyes to speak about hope. All knew that it was impossible to overturn Babylon to make them free and return home. Thus, talking out their hope to return became the last subject among the people taken to Babylon. All truly desired to go back to their home country, but only lunatics and people with mental health conditions talked about the ridiculous topic. Yes, all wanted, but nobody spoke out.
However, God, full of mercy and love, had been watching His people closely since being carried away to Babylon and suffering in Babylon. God had His solemn plan, but it was seventy years away. Even so, God could not wait any longer as He saw His people’s suffering. God revealed to Jeremiah His rescue plan for His people from the hands of the Babylonians. God desired to see His people live in hope and faith, even in the foreign land.
What’s God’s message? God started His message by telling God was in charge, not the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. King Nebuchadnezzar indeed came to Jerusalem, tore down the temple in the center of Jerusalem, and took the King, his officials, and the people in Jerusalem to Babylon. That’s about what King Nebuchadnezzar could do. King Nebuchadnezzar could do nothing about the hope and faith that God was about to pour out into each heart of His people. King Nebuchadnezzar was the King of the world where they lived. But, God was truly the King for all, even including King Nebuchadnezzar. God governs His people with His love and mercy, not like an earthly king who ruled people with swords and spears.
Yes, God is the true master of the entire universe. God already had His infinitely good plan for His people, and He has already set the time for His people to return home. However, at that time, their return to home looked impossible to all, including themselves and even to the Babylonians. Babylon was the most mighty country, and there was no reason to release the Judean captives by sending them home. Babylonians’ well-being was closely tied to the captives working day and night like a machine that produced enormous wealth by farming, shepherding, fishing, baking, building, repairing, cleaning, moving, etc. As soon as the captives stopped working, their whole economy would collapse because nothing would be moved, built, and produced. Remember that Pharoah never wanted to release the Israelites, and he resisted up to the limit by enduring the nine treacherous plagues. Only made the tenth plague of killing Pharoh’s son the Pharaoh concession – letting the Israelites go.
However, God is more powerful than any powerful nations that ever existed, is currently existing, and will exist in the future. Indeed, God is the very owner of all powers on the earth that ever existed, is existing, and will exist.
Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, (Psalm 62:11)
God plainly said that power belongs to God.
For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. (Romans 13:1b)
Indeed, all powers that we see on earth come from God. No nation cannot deviate from God’s sovereign authority. God sets its destiny of even a single fair, which cannot fall from the head without God’s permission.
But not a single hair from your head will be lost. (Luke 21:18)
That’s not all. God looks after His people, one by one.
And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Luke 12: 7)
God governs every aspect of human history and future, which looks absurdly impossible to anyone’s eyes, including the most powerful King Nebuchadnezzar at the time. But Jeremiah clearly heard God who spoke out of His character – faithful, loving, caring, but more powerful than any earthly kings, including Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah took courage, wrote a letter, and sent it to the most depressed people by being captives and living as slaves in Babylon.
In the letter, Jeremiah wrote. God said all the good things for His people, and He would bring them back to the home, the blessed Promised Land that God promised to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So far, their lives were difficult by encountering disaster after disaster, and then they were slaves in the foreign land, Babylon. Why did God give this loving and encouraging message to His people through Jeremiah, Prophet? God cared for His people and wanted to provide a future and hope.
However, the day was the same as the previous day, and the Babylonians’ attitude did not change. The Babylonians treated them very poorly as they did on the prior day. All felt that God did not listen to their prayers. Despite their prayers, their world did not change and continued being harsh.
Some priests kept praying to God, and prophets eagerly waited for God’s message. They could not see any changes in their world, and no prophets heard anything from God. They were about to give up on God by going away from God and slowly forgetting His existence in their minds.
However, God did not stand still. God showed His unfathomable goodness to Jeremiah by revealing His plan for His people ahead of the set time by seventy years. God is almighty and always faithful to His people. God’s plan has never been missed by even one millimeter or a split second. It was God’s mercy. God loved His people, and His true desire was to encourage His people even during the treacherous time. Even their king served the Babylonians like a slave. It was a time of no hope and no future, but God gave them hope and light to His people.
God, then, gently but firmly made one most critical request: “look for Me wholeheartedly.” God loved His people so much, even zealous to His people. God desired His authentic relationship with His people in captivity in Babylon. God truly wanted to have a truly intimate relationship with His people, whether they were in captivity in Babylon or their homeland while worshipping God in the temple. God truly wanted their hearts with undivining focus and attention to God alone.
Then, what was the true reason why His people were captive to Babylon? Because Babylon was the most powerful nation, and theirs was small and weak at that time? No, it was not. The very reason why they became being captive to Babylon was due to their sins. Yes, their sins to God and others. God asked them to love God and love their neighbor, but they loved their idols and did not care for their neighbors. Their sins prevailed everywhere in their lives, even while worshiping God in the temple. God waited and waited for them to return wholeheartedly by confessing sins and asking for God’s forgiveness. But they had never returned to God. And, the time for which God eagerly waited had never come. All had gone astray following their own earthly desire while worshipping other than God and leaning on the idols. They blessed others outwardly, but they had a string of hating in their hearts. Their eyes were always busy searching for an opportunity to serve their earthly desires by focusing on their earthly satisfactions rather than loving God and giving good hearts to others.
“Their throats are open graves;
their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
ruin and misery mark their ways,
and the way of peace they do not know.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.” (Romans 3:13-17)
Thus, what would God do for His stubborn and stiff-necked people living for their earthly desires and sins? God, out of His love, allowed for them to suffer. Nobody likes to suffer, but it is a painful truth that suffering is the best remedy for our hearts filled with earthly desires and numb to God. Let’s look back at our lives. If there were no suffering, what would we be like now? Could we truly know God? Could we have a chance to experience His Goodness truly? Could His loving hands intimately touch us in our lives? Could we truly appreciate what God has done for us in every corner of our lives? The answer is not possible without suffering.
God gave the two most precious gifts to us. One is God’s salvation, and the other one is our suffering that God specially designed for each of us out of His love. However, nobody likes to suffer. Let’s look back at our lives see how effective suffering given to us out of His love is the most effective purifier of our hearts, which makes us see, hear, and experience God.
When we are in pain, God is also in pain because His beloved children are in pain. God was in pain when His people suffered in Babylon, the foreign land, as captives. God came to Jeremiah, God’s prophet, and told clearly and loudly His message. Then Jeremiah transcribed and sent it to the captives in Babylon, but some among the captives opposed the letter from Jeremiah, which contained God’s heartful message to His people. Instead, those who opposed falsely prophesied the people to trick the people into believing the manufactured lies to make God’s people follow the earthly wisdom and values, which looked good to human eyes, but not God’s message. Their opposition looked small to those who opposed, but God described “to rebel against me.” Then God said, “I will do what I promised for my people while none of them would see the good things that I promised.”
Seventy years later, God fulfilled His promise as spoken to Jeremiah, God’s prophet. God is always faithful. He has no rotating shadow, not like us. Again and again, God proved His faithfulness. Many doubted and did not trust God throughout human history when the time was difficult, like becoming slaves by being captives to Babylon or now as the whole world is suffering.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has been with us for more than a year, and the entire world has been suffering. We all want to know why, and many actively search for answers. But, in reality, God has already given His Answer to us – Jesus Christ, Our Savior, Our Messiah, and Our LORD. Although the world is getting darker and the entire population on the earth is suffering more and more due to the pandemic and daily increasing positive cases, God’s saving light is getting brighter. Our hope is in God, and it is getting stronger daily in God’s love because God’s love will surely prevail while completely irradiating the COVID-19 accordingly to His infinite goodness in His perfect timing for all who love Him.
Recently, I had a chance to hear a wedding vow again:
“I, _____, take thee, _____, to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.”
I gave a thought about God, and the relationship between us and God, our Eternal and Ever-Loving Father. Then should God deserve our vow to Him by saying,
“I, ____, wholeheartedly accept You, God, to be my Eternal Father, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till the end of the age as Jesus comes again or my death on earth”?
The answer is, of course, resoundingly, yes, we should. In 2022, let’s fix our eyes on Him as we make our solemn vow to God, Our Ever-Loving Eternal Father, and grasp overwhelming victory in Him despite all these things, including the current COVID-19 pandemic, would again surround us in 2022. Don’t be like Peter, who waked the water but fell rapidly into the deep water because he detached his eyes from Jesus and looked at the huge wave approaching him. As long as we fix our eyes on Him wholeheartedly, our victory is sure. Then we shall together praise God and His goodness with our loudest voice by proclaiming our victory — God is with us, who can be against us?
What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)