You will seek Me and find [Me] when you search for Me with all your heart.
The eleventh verse of this chapter in Jeremiah is often quoted among believers. The verse speaks of God having plans to prosper and not to harm. While the rest of scriptures bears out the promise that God has purposed good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, the eleventh verse is a promise made particularly to the Israelites who had gone into Babylonian exile. It is important to understand the context, or the verse’s meaning can be misconstrued. I have heard more than one mangling of verse eleven to preach some version of a prosperity gospel and that gospel just ain’t so.
Having noted the importance of context and how this chapter is mostly letters from Jeremiah to those Israelites in Babylonian exile, I am still struck by this call to seek God. This statement, that the hearer/reader would find God when that person sought God with all their heart, was made to people who had every reason to know God and to have been in some sort of relationship with Him. This was spoken to Israelites; Chosen People; children of the covenant. This was not some blanket statement made to any and all. The promise made to any and all reads very similarly and shows up in other places. This promise, if taken in context, provides a principle for the believer who has grown lazy or had wandered off. The principle is, simply, that God will be found when we put our all into seeking Him.
Can I legitimately apply that to myself as a Christian? Yes. Jesus sends a letter — much like Jeremiah is doing here — to a group of believers in Ephesus in which He tells them that they have left their first love (Him) and need to come back. It is an invitation to draw near again and comes with much the same promise. The parable of the Prodigal Son is familiar to most believers and speaks of not only the return but also of the Father’s joy at such a return.
This does not mean that I am far afield and backslidden. I am not, as far as I know, in rebellion against God in anything (God will, I am sure, correct me if I am mistaken in thinking so). But, as Ephesus illustrates, one can not be in rebellion and still not be in relationship. I can labor without love. And that is not what God wants for any of His children.
This morning, let me take the time to examine where I stand with God. It is possible that I am working hard and ignoring my heart. How is my relationship with God? While that is not precisely what this morning’s verse is about in context, that is exactly what the verse reminds me to do: examine my relationship with God. Unlike anyone else I love, my relationship with God comes with a promise that He will be found by me if I seek Him with all my heart. No one else makes that promise and no one else legitimately can. We withhold. God promises not to do that, but to be discoverable. Let me find some new thing in Him or rediscover something that I have lost sight of that takes my breath away all over again.