Hope in the Final Outcome
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Jeremiah, chapter 29. While you are opening your Bibles to that portion of the Word of God, I would like to remind you of the words of Job in the 23rd chapter of the book which bears his name. He was facing a very difficult time, and he summed up all of the things that he was talking about in relation to God's testing by saying, concerning God, “He knoweth the way that I take.” And then he added, “The words of Thy mouth, O God, are my necessary food.”

One of the reasons that I am sharing with you these year verse promises, which is a familiar term to some, but not to all, is that that indeed is true of me. God's Word is my necessary food. Now, there is a sense in which God's Word is my necessary food, and yours, every day of our lives. As a matter of fact, if you have not given the Word of God that place in your lives, I would encourage you to do it. You can not grow, you cannot mature simply by getting the Word on Sundays or some Bible class during the week, or some occasional tape ministry or radio program. The Word of God is our necessary food. Then, you know, in ordinary living there are times when you need special help, perhaps a shot of vitamin B, because things are difficult. I would like to remind you, as we prepare to read this portion of the Word of God today, that these so-called year verses are what God has given me from time to time to meet my need in a very personal way. And because the Word of God is eternal, it could well be that God wants you to have this message today. If not today, then by and by, for the truth of God cannot be denied.

If you have your Bibles open to Jeremiah, chapter 29, follow as I read, please, from verse 1.

Jeremiah 29

1Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzer had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon;
2(After that Jeconiah the king, and the queen, and the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, and the carpenters, and the smiths, were departed from Jerusalem;)
3By the hand of Elasah, the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, (whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent unto Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon) saying, [ this is not what Nebuchadnezzar said, but what Jeremiah wrote in the letter ].
4Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
5Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them;
6Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished.
7And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.
8For thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed.
9For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them saith the Lord.
10For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
11For 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.

The verse that I want to share with you today is the eleventh verse of Jeremiah, chapter 29. Notice the words again: “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.”

Let us pray now, and ask God to Help us in the ministry of the Word. Our God, we are thankful that we have the Word of God. We thank you, Father, that long ago we found it was indeed our necessary food. As we look into this portion of the Word today, we pray that Thou wilt revive memories of how Thou hast worked and challenge all of us to trust Thee in a new and special way for Thy blessing during what may be trying times, or during what may be simply resting in the Lord. Grant Father, that Thou wilt have the glory today, for we pray in Jesus name. Amen.

If memory serves me correctly, the last time I thought with you concerning these special verses, I talked with you about a verse that God gave me for 1963. It was I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, where Jabez is described as a man that was more blessed than any man in his generation; and the reason was that he prayed the prayer that I have learned to pray and that I have challenged you to pray, that I trust you do, when he lifted his voice to God and said “O, God, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not vex me, that thou wouldest enlarge my coasts.” And the post script is added, “God granted him all that he requested.” I say that verse was given in 1963.

Dealing With Difficult Times

In January of 1964, as I sought the mind of the Lord concerning another such verse, He brought to my attention this verse that I have emphasized, Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11. If you are thinking today, or if you have time to think about the two verses I have suggested, you recognize almost at once a difference; for in I Chronicles, chapter 4, verses 9 and 10, it seems that it was an encouragement that God was going to bring great blessing and that God was going to do great and wonderful things. That He did, as some of you know, and others of you have heard. But here in Jeremiah, chapter 29, verse 11, there was not that note of exhilaration. There was almost a note of warning, almost a suggestion that things would happen that would be difficult, and during all of that time it would be necessary for me to keep in mind the words of this verse. Listen to them again:

Jeremiah 29

11For 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.

As I was reviewing some of the things that I said when I preached that message for the first time, I made a statement very similar to this: “God is weaving a plan for me in 1964. I do not know what the outcome will be, but God knows.” Little did I know when I made that statement in January of 1964 that in September of the same year I would leave this pulpit under duress, because physically I had not strength to stand. Arriving home, subsequent investigations and examinations revealed that it was necessary for me to have open heart surgery, which in 1964 was comparatively experimental. In fact, in discussing the thing with me, they said, “You are somewhat of an experiment.” I say to the praise and the glory of God today, and again, this is not news to many of you, God brought me through that and has preserved me all these years. What they said in Houston was, “Perhaps we can give you two years. At the very most, fifteen years.” And here I am, to the praise and the glory of God. Not only that, as you know I have gone through other surgeries along the same line. Here I am; to the grace and glory of God, I say it.

The reason I emphasize that this morning is that if God had not given me this verse when that cataclysmic thing, and it was a cataclysmic thing, came down upon me, I do not believe I could have survived. But no matter what problems arose and were related to that, and through the years multitudinous other things not as serious as that, I have rested upon the promise, “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.” I renew this promise for my own heart today, and encourage you to rely upon it and bring it to the forefront of your mind when there is need.

I think we need to understand it a little more clearly, and it would be wise for us to refresh our minds of what we read concerning the background of this promise. You recall in the reading of the Word a few moments ago that this was a time when Israel was in what is commonly known as the Babylonian captivity. Zedekiah had been taken captive. Jeconiah and some of the others had been in Babylon, and Jeremiah was still in the homeland. Zedekiah, though taken captive, remained in the land along with Jeremiah; and he was concerned that Nebuchadnezzar might think that he was not as loyal as he ought to be, so he decided to send the letter to Nebuchadnezzar by Elasah, saying, “We are loyal. We are not disobeying you. Please don't come and bring any trouble to us. We're going to do everything that you want done.” And Jeremiah, wanting to get a message to these people, realized here was a messenger who could go through any line at all unhindered because he was a messenger to Nebuchadnezzar from Zedekiah. So he wrote the letter which we read in your hearing.

Divine Appointment

The purpose of his letter was that he had heard that the Israelites in captivity were restless. They were fuming; they were fretting; they didn't like what was going on. Their very actions were going to bring trouble upon them, so he said to them, “You are where you are by divine appointment. It is not simply something that happened. And you are going to be where you are, by divine appointment, for seventy years, and nothing is going to change that. So my advice to you,” he said, “is to settle down. Build your houses. Give your children in marriage, raise your grandchildren, and pray for the peace of the country in which you live, because that peace will be beneficial to you. In her peace, you will have peace.”

May I digress but a moment to remind all of our hearts today that we have a holy obligation, regardless of political alliance, regardless of agreements or disagreements with those who are in authority, we have a holy obligation to pray for the peace of this country. For in the peace of this country, we will have peace. Everything that affects this country will affect us. Let's bring that down to a more personal and narrow application and say to you that you are where you are today, both in place and in time, by divine appointment. What God said concerning the nation of Israel, He said to all of us when He gave us the promise, “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

An Expected End

As we think about the purpose of this promise, for all promises of God have a definite purpose, it would be wise for us to think about what was said in the very last phrase. Look at it again–“to give you an expected end.” I like the way the Amplified translation presents it when it reads, “to give you hope in the final outcome.” Let those words sink in. Perhaps some of you are going through particular trials today. You may not even understand exactly what is happening or why it has happened, and you tend toward despondence, perhaps even bitterness, perhaps even saying, “It isn't right; it isn't fair.” God gives you this promise so that no matter how hard the trial, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is hope in the final outcome.

Recall what I said earlier. One year God gave a promise to me that seemed to be unlimited. The next year He gave a promise that indicated there would be a real time of stress and strain. Keep in mind that though God's blessings are all free and unhindered, they are never sure. Think about that for a moment. I do not mean that God will not bless. I mean simple tht you do not have any guarantee whatsoever that because God is blessing you today and everything is going along fine that you will not have heartbreak tomorrow. You need to learn that. And in knowing that, you will find the provision for facing such situations by recognizing, first of all, that God has a plan for you.

There is a sense, of course, in which the will of God is applicable to every believer. We don't need to spend our time running around saying, “I wish I knew what God's will was.” The Bible states it very plainly. But there is for each individual a particular plan and a particular will that God has; and it is expressed in the words, “I know the thoughts that I think towards you.” That word “thoughts” is a very interesting word. It could be translated by the word “plan.” It could be translated by the word “purpose,” because the word that is translated “thoughts” here is not just a suggestion that you are always in the mind and the heart of God, though you are. It's something entirely different.

God's Purpose In His Plan

Perhaps you would like to turn to Proverbs, chapter 20, and notice verse 18 for an illustration of what I'm speaking about today. The Holy Spirit of God has recorded in Proverbs, chapter 20, verse 18:

Proverbs 20

18Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.

Now in this book of Proverbs, which is an earthly book in a sense, because it deals so much with ordinary earthly living, is a good bit of advice. “Don't go to war without seeking counsel of those who know what it's all about.” But the reason that we've turned to this passage is to see how the word “purpose” is used. Did you notice? “Every purpose is established by counsel.” That word “purpose” is the same translation of the Hebrew word that is translated by our English word “thought” in the verse we are considering. What is God saying to you and to me? “I know the purpose that I am carrying out for you.” How often have you been in some dire straits of some kind and you have said, “If I could just understand the purpose in all of this. If I could just see the point in all of this, it would be easier to take.”? Have you said that? Have you thought that? I have, but let us remember today that God may call you to walk down the path where you do not see the purpose in it, where if anybody says to you, “Why? What's the purpose?”, you have to simply say, “I do not know.” But, the wonderful thing, the glorious thing, is that God knows.

A Particular Purpose

A thought that comes to my mind at the moment is illustrated in the 31st chapter of the book of Exodus, if you would like to turn there, to emphasize exactly what God is talking about in His Word when He said, “I know the purposes I have in mind for you.” The purposes He has in mind are not general purposes. They are very particular purposes. They are purposes for your life as though you were the only one on the whole earth, and you cannot weigh what is happening in your life with what is happening in someone else's life. You cannot even go to someone else and say, “Now this has happened to you; maybe you can tell why it is happening to me.” True, they might share some experiences which will be helpful, but–get this–God's purpose for you is a very particular purpose. That is beautifully illustrated here in Exodus, chapter 31, where we read:

Exodus 31

1The Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2See, I have called by name Beezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah:
3And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,
4To devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass,

The rest of the passage describes the work that was done in the building of the tabernacle. Time does not permit the reading, nor is it relevant to our discussion, but I would like for you to notice there in verse 4 the phrase “cunning works.” Those words “cunning works” are the translation of the Hebrew word which is translated by the word “sport,” and which is translated by the word “purpose.” See what I'm saying to you today? God has not forgotten you. Though you may be like Job reaching out to the left and the right and cannot find God at all, God is fabricating for you a very particular purpose, just as intricately fashioned as did the craftsmen carry out the workmanship of the tabernacle as it was given by God.

A Process That Takes Time

Now any piece of workmanship that is intricate, any piece of workmanship that is detailed, takes time; so another thought comes to mind as we look back at our original text. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, thoughts of good and not of evil to give you an expected end.” I would like for you to notice the word “think.” There again, it isn't a suggestion that God is thinking about you as somewhat of a mental process. Rather, it is a word that describes the work of the weaver as he weaves a piece of cloth. What the Spirit of God is saying to you here is that God is fabricating a special plan for you, and it isn't done with a word of command. It isn't done with a snap of His fingers. It is a process.

This word “think” is a translation of a Hebrew word that elsewhere is translated “weaving.” That is illustrated in at least two passages of Scripture in the Word. We'll not take the time to turn to them, but you might want to jot them down. In Judges, chapter 16, the 13th verse, is the story of Samson. Remember Samson's strength? He was married to a Philistine girl. The Philistines were angry with him, and they said to her, “You're not a loyal Philistine if you don't find out where his strength lies.” Sampson went through a process of teasing Delilah, you remember; and one time he said to her, “I tell you what you can do. You take my hair,” it was long, Scriptural or otherwise, and he said, “You plait my hair” (you weave my hair into what we call, I suppose, a ponytail today). “You weave that, and then you take a hammer and a staple and you nail it to the door seal of the house, and then I'm helpless.” Well, she thought she had it made and she very delicately (it took a lot of time) plaited his hair. When he went to sleep, she cried, “Samson, the Philistines are on you.” He rose up and practically tore the house down, because that was not where his strength lay. I give you that illustration because I want you to see that God's plans are not accomplished in a day. God's plans are not accomplished in a moment.

The other use of this word translated “weave” is in Isaiah, chapter 38, verse 12. You remember Hezekiah. God said to him, “Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.” Hezekiah began to complain. As a matter of fact, he describes it by saying, “I mourned like a dove.” One of the things he said was, “God, this isn't right. My life is being cut off like a weaver cuts a piece of cloth before it is finished.” And that word “weaver” there is a translation of this very word that we're talking about. So what we're saying to you today is that God, when He says,“ I know the thoughts that I think for you.”, He is saying, “I know the piece of cloth that I'm weaving for you. I know the pattern that I am weaving in your life.”

God Sees the Finished Product

Have you ever looked at a piece of cloth from the underside that came from the hand of the weaver? Topside, it's beautiful. The figures are exact and clear; the color is perfect, but on the underside there is only a mass of tangled threads. You wonder what those tangled threads could possibly make. Turn it over and you see the finished product. That's what God is saying here. When you and I, in the midst of our particular trial, in the midst of our particular heartbreak, examine our lives that are like something a weaver is weaving, as Hezekiah said concerning his life, you see only the tangled threads on the other side. And you find yourself saying, “What is the purpose in all of this? Nothing good can come out of it.” Therein lies the power of the promise. The fact that you don't know, but God knows. God said, “I know the thoughts that I think of you, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

Now the word “know” is a translation of one of several Hebrew words, and this particular one describes an individual who sees clearly the finished product. I want you to get that! When God said, “I know,” He wasn't talking of an accumulation of knowledge or He wasn't expressing an opinion. Sometimes someone will say to us, “Do you know…?” “Why, I've known that for years!” And you have. Sometimes somebody will say, “Such and such a thing is going to happen;” and you say, “I know that's not going to happen.” Well, you don't know it, but that's a matter of expression. You think you know it. This word is entirely different. God says to you, “My child, even though the process is as difficult and time consuming as weaving a beautiful fabric, keep this in mind. I know what the finished product is going to be.”

Is your heart heavy today? Do you have a burden that seems almost greater than you can bear? Are you asking God why? Are you even saying, “God, where have I failed? What did I do wrong? The whole thing is hopeless.”? God wants you to know that this is His plan for you, and it is a plan which He is weaving as a weaver weaves a cloth. Though you can see only the underside of the cloth, He sees the finished product.

It is amazing how often God has to bring this to our minds. Remember the story that occurred in the upper room? It's recorded in the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John. The Lord Jesus Christ was washing the feet of His disciples because no one else apparently wanted to take the time to do it, and Peter tried to stop him. Without going into a dissertation of that chapter, you will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said to Peter, “Peter, you don't know what I'm doing now. There's no way for you to understand, but you will know hereafter.” If you recall no more portion of the Word of God than the epistles of Peter, you'll find out that he found out. He knew. That's what God is saying to you today.

Trusting God's Plan and Purpose

David had the same idea. Perhaps you'll want to turn to Psalm 92. He was speaking of God's watchcare over him. He was speaking of the very same thing we're talking about. In Psalm 92, verse 5:

Psalm 92

5O Lord, how great are thy works, and thy thoughts are very deep.
6A brutish man knoweth not; neither does a fool understand this.

I call your attention to this portion of the Word of God for there will be a number of brutish men–that's men of the flesh, men who are unsaved, or a fool. A fool in the Word of God as a rule refers to a person who is rebellious against the Word of God. A fleshly man, a rebellious man, will not understand the thoughts of God and the plans of God.

You will discover as you accept this for yourself and you rest upon it that folk will be saying to you, “Why don't you do something? God doesn't expect you to sit and wait; do something.” And yet, down deep inside will be the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit: “Settle down, settle down. I am working a work. Settle down. I know the thoughts that I am planning for you, the plans and the purposes, and they are not evil plans and purposes–not evil in the sense of misfortune.” Oh, how could anything be any less of a misfortune that what you are going through now? You don't see the whole picture. What seems to be a misfortune will prove to be something that is wonderful indeed, and you heard it expressed several times over this morning in the last phrase of the verse, “to give you an expected end.” As I suggested to you, the Amplified translation puts it, and I like it a little better, “hope in the final outcome.”

Yes, Friend, the trials through which you are going right now, the problem for which you have no solution, the eternal question that never seems to die in any of our lives–“Oh, Lord, why?”–you will discover if you quietly wait on the Lord that what He's planned for you is the best thing for you. Rest in that and look not at the things which do appear, but at the hope that He has promised will be in the final outcome of the whole story.

Prayer

Thank you, dear Lord this day for your Word. Thank you for the encouragement it has been to us through the years. Thank you for rethinking this wonderful promise in Thy Word, and I thank Thee personally, Father, that I have had the assurance that you are weaving a pattern in my life, and though oftentimes I wonder and ask why, You see the complete picture. I ask you today to bring everyone within this fellowship into that attitude of waiting for hope in the final outcome. We pray in the Savior's name. Amen.


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