When we are in ways of personal distress and sorrow, it can be a great comfort to hear a brother or sister say, “I will be thinking about you.” Then a mother says to her daughter who is experiencing a particular and secret trial, “You will be in my prayers and thoughts.” Or a parent says to a child who will face a lonely way or a way of testing, “I will remember you. I will carry you in my heart and in my thoughts.” In those words, “I will be thinking about you,” we wish to convey two things. First, our love. To be mindful of another person in his trial and sorrow is the essence of love. Secondly, we express our helplessness. We are saying that the other person is beyond our ability to help. Therefore, although those words are very reassuring, their thoughts cannot actually change anything.
Soaring far above that is the Word of God that we find in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God says that, moment by moment, He thinks of us; that there is a constant stream of divine thought towards His children in Christ; and that never, for one moment, are we out of those thoughts.
We read in Psalm 40:17, “But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” Still more: God tells us in those words of Jeremiah what His thoughts are. They are thoughts of peace, not evil, a peace flowing from the cross of Calvary. And still more: God tells us that His thoughts are not impotent. They are not only well-meaning and sympathetic, but they are powerful. By His thoughts He will give to us an expected end, the end that He had decreed and promised.
Do you live in that comfort? Does it strengthen and cheer you? Does it humble you? Does it lift you up with a holy joy and confidence? Your God thinks on you!
Those words in Jeremiah 29:11 were part of the letter that God sent by Jeremiah to the captives of Judah who were in Babylon. In the letter Jeremiah tells them to build houses and form families and abide peaceably in Babylon, until the time that the Lord would lead them out after seventy years. The captives of Judah in Babylon did not rest quietly under the iron yoke of Babylon. There were certain false prophets among them who prophesied lies. They held out the false hope of escape. And they stirred up the Jewish captives to revolt against the Babylonians.
Jeremiah is called to combat these false prophets and to assure the people of Judah that it was God who sent them into captivity and that they must patiently abide and wait seventy years. The people of Judah at this moment were in a twofold danger. First, that they would be buoyed by false hopes, the false hopes of the false prophets. Secondly, the danger was to despair, to have no hope, to give up. So Jeremiah, God’s servant, calls them to hear the Word of the Lord. He calls them to put down their false hopes, and then he instills in them the right hope and the right strength. That right hope and strength was the sovereignty of almighty God. The covenant God, their Creator and Savior, had not forgotten them. He knew the thoughts that He had toward them, and He knew that He would give them their expected end.
Now this Word of God comes to us today. We are not to live in the false hopes of the world, or the false hopes that we ourselves would devise. Nor are we to despair in ways of trial and loneliness. But we are to find our comfort where alone it can be found. That alone can be God, and in the truth that God thinks about us.
What a profound truth it is. The almighty God thinks upon us from eternity to eternity. Every moment of our being and existence His thoughts of mercy and lovingkindness in Christ are upon us.
Behind this thinking of God upon us stands the truth of God’s counsel. In Ephesians 1:9-11, the apostle Paul celebrates his God and says that it was God’s “good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that … he might gather together in one all things in Christ … in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” God is ever conscious of His thoughts, of His counsel, of His eternal plan with respect to us. His thoughts towards us are not simply written in a file and tucked away in a cabinet. They are ever before His mind’s eye. He so thinks of us that He arranges all things around us and provides for all of our needs. He never ceases to think of us. His thoughts are high above our thoughts. The Lord constantly holds His people in the consciousness of His thoughts about them. Never is there a moment when no eye pities or when no one thinks upon me. The Lord says, “I, the Lord, do keep you. I will watch over you every moment. I will not allow any to hurt you. I will keep you night and day.”
These words were spoken by Jeremiah, as we said, for the assurance of the people of Judah in captivity who were tempted to think that God had indeed forgotten them. So our God, in our text, repeats it three times: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you.” He was ever thoughtful of them. What a wonderful assurance. God thought about the people of Judah when they walked in the streets of a strange city and heard a strange language. God thought of them when their captors mocked them and abused them and required of them to sing them one of Zion’s songs. God thought of them when they lay down on the banks of the Babylonian canals and cried under the willows when they thought about Jerusalem. God would think about them throughout the captivity that would last for seventy years. Never for a second would God forget His own eternal plan and purpose with respect to them.
Every child of God is always before the mind of the eternal God. With all the attention and focus of His divine mind He contemplates each one of His children. There is no forgetting and then remembering. There is no calling to mind. What a wonderful truth! Our thoughts of God are often too small. The eternal God never ceases to think about us.
But there is much more. The point being made is that God’s actions are controlled by His thoughts. All that happens to us is not a hopeless and confused mess, but is according to the perfect thought and plan of God. The experience of God’s people in Babylon made them think that the Lord had forgotten to be mindful. They had been carried captive. Their families were torn apart. Their children were slain. Their possessions were gone. They were exiled from the land of promise. How could those events indicate that God thought about them in kindness? Did He care at all, they were tempted to ask?
In answer, God says, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you: thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give unto you an expected end.” All that had happened was not the thoughtless actions of fate, but was the deliberate and determined act of God. God’s heart is in His acts. His hand is governed by His mind. Never is there a thoughtless action on His part. Great things and little things, everything is timed and measured, every event is sent with loving thoughtfulness. Never has anything happened to a child of God by remorseless fate. All has been ordered, in wisdom, out of the thoughtful, loving plan of God.
That means that even when you and I do not know the thoughts that God has decreed towards us, God does know them. We read in Psalm 77 that often the way of the Lord is in the sea, His paths are in deep waters, and His footsteps are not known. But God understands. God knows the end from the beginning.
Yes, unbelief will misinterpret the acts of God. But faith clings to this Word of God and says that God’s ways are perfect, and that God has carefully thought out the way that we must take. Out of His own heart and thoughts, He sends to us all that transpires in our life.
These thoughts, God says, are settled. They are definite. “I know the thoughts that I think.” He has made up His mind. He is of one mind and none can turn Him. He is the Father of lights in whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (James 1:17). We say sometimes about ourselves that we do not know our own thoughts; we cannot make up our mind; we weigh the pros and the cons; our thoughts change; we do not have perfect knowledge. But not God. God’s understanding is infinite. There is no hesitation. There is no debate or question in God. He knows the promises He has made. He remembers His covenant. He knows those who are His. He is not taken by surprise. His purposes and His thoughts towards us, His children, are settled and binding.
And those thoughts lead to an expected end, that is, to a goal. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” God tells us that they are thoughts of peace. That is a very glorious truth. Behind that is the truth of the cross, for we are rebellious sinners. We have no claim on God. Why does He have thoughts of peace towards us and not thoughts of holy retribution? Why? Because He has chosen us to be in Christ Jesus. And through Christ He has made peace. From all eternity it was Christ who had the preeminence (Col. 1). Out of mere grace God chose His church, God chose those who would be saved, to be in Christ Jesus. He elected them to be in Christ. And as He sees them in Christ, He has thoughts of peace. He delights in them. And He seeks their peace.
What a wonderful truth. How do I know, as a child of God in the hard and heavy trials that God sends in my life, that they do not come in His anger but that they come for my good? I cannot always see that. But I know it in the gospel of justification in the blood of Christ. He has given Christ for me. He sees me in Christ. Therefore His thoughts are thoughts of peace.
When we are under affliction and sorely depressed and cast down, then our conscience perceives that there are plenty of reasons why God should indeed contend with us, and that His thoughts should be thoughts of retribution and evil. Then the old enemy, the devil, whispers, “The Lord has evil thoughts towards you. He will cast you away forever.” And our conscience says, “Now I am going to get what I deserve. The Lord no longer loves me. He will destroy me.” The Scriptures say, “Child of God, no! The Lord knows His thoughts that He thinks towards you. They are peace. Yes, He hates your sin. In Christ He has put away your sins and He calls you to repentance. In the way of repentance alone you can experience His mercies. But nevertheless, His thoughts are not thoughts of evil.” God sees us in Christ. He sees the end – that we be holy and without blame before Him. So, in His love, He chastens us. You may arise from a bed in the morning and be chastened. You may be under the rod of correction. But you may be assured of this, that God’s thoughts are thoughts of peace. The Lord leads through dark ways and through slippery places and through steep paths. He always does this because He has decreed peace towards us in Jesus Christ and will give to us an expected end.
Literally, we read: “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of peace and not of evil; to give unto you a hoped for ending.” God sees the end. We see the moment. We cannot see beyond the moment of the present. But God sees the end toward which He is directing all things. That end is the glory of the church. We may read of that in I Corinthians 15:28 and in John 17 in Jesus’ wonderful prayer. When God created Adam, God saw the end. When Adam fell, He saw the end. When Christ died, God saw the end. In the dark days before Christ returns, a world filled with iniquity, God sees the end. And in every moment in our life, God sees the end.
The end of all of His thoughts are the day when the church shall stand before Him redeemed in the blood of Christ, gathered together in one, constituted a glorious temple, a tabernacle in which the Lord God shall dwell, in which all of the glorious blessedness of His own being shall be enjoyed perfectly by all of His children. That end is never absent from His thoughts. God knew what He was doing when He drove the people of Judah into captivity. God was using Babylon to prepare a people who would confess Him in repentance and say again, “He is our God.” The heathen nation of Babylon was only serving the purposes of God. God would bring His people back to the land of Canaan.
But God sees the end always as being the end of the new heaven and the new earth when He shall gather together all in Christ. Of that end, John says, we do not yet know what we shall be. But we do know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him. We shall be glorified. We shall be made perfectly like unto Christ. God is leading all things unto that end, unto that moment.
If we believe this Word of God by faith, then our response should be: perfect submission. Perhaps today you are being tried above measure, so much so that you would almost despair. Perhaps you are contending with sickness. Or there are pressures at your work. Perhaps you are being denied what you think you dearly need. Or you are weary in a personal struggle against sin. God’s thoughts are upon you. God’s thoughts are thoughts of peace, in such a way to bring to you an expected end: the day of glory. If you believe that, then respond by saying, “Let God do what seemeth good to Him. Thy will be done, Father.” Do not quarrel. But humble yourself before God.
Still more. The response will be great hopefulness. Perhaps the Lord does cast you down in deep sorrow today. Perhaps the Lord brings to you a great conviction of your own sin. That burden of your sin has to drive you to the cross, there to see His mercy and His truth. Perhaps you say that the future is too horrible for you to think about. Child of God, there is nothing to dread. You will be upheld by God. You are in His thoughts day and night. Even when you say, “But I cannot understand the way of the Lord. I don’t know why He does with me as He does,” it is enough for you to know that God does it and that God’s thoughts are perfect. You may have great hope.
Still more, our response should be one of unquenchable joy. We may sing, “In God’s love abiding, I have joy and peace.” What greater joy is there than to know that my Father in heaven knows all that I have need of and that He in His thoughts has supplied to me all that I shall ever need through Christ Jesus? Therefore, I may rejoice. And what joy it will be when the end of God’s thoughts are revealed, when that glorious day of Christ has come. Far more glorious than we can even imagine. When we see all that God has thought for us, that will be fullness of joy. We will cry out, “Not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory.”
Take this Word of God and, by faith, clasp it to your heart. God thinks on us. He knows our thoughts. He orders all things according to His own thoughts about us. Those thoughts are thoughts of peace to bring us to glory.
Let our response be: submission, hope, and joy. And let us say with the psalmist: “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.”
Let us pray.
Father, we again thank Thee for Thy Word so rich and profound and so comforting. Give us now, O Lord, as those who believe and who know Thee as the sovereign God who, by Thy decree and purpose, brings all to pass to lead to the day of the glory of Thy church. In His name do we pray, Amen.