The Lord Is Watching Over His Word to Accomplish It (Jeremiah 1:12)
“…I am watching over my word to perform it.” —Jeremiah 1:12
At 17 years old, I was a new Christian, and I found myself in Navy boot camp far away from family and isolated from the brothers and sisters who taught me of Christ. Before I left home, though, the Sunday school teacher who led me to Christ gave me a Pocket Promise Book. Since I didn’t know the Bible well, I often turned to that little book to point me to specific verses of Scripture that would help me in times of loneliness, anxiety, or doubt.
As we learn who God is—his character, his word, and his ways—we begin to understand his promises. These promises are meant to sustain our faith and keep us from sin (2 Peter 1:3-4). But what happens when we cling to the promises, cry out to God to fulfill them, and yet it seems like he’s not hearing us? Now, I don’t mean those promises made to individuals or nations that we tend to misapply: promises for wealth, prosperity, or success. I’m speaking of those promises God makes to all his people for all time, promises meant to spur our faith and help us escape the corruption of this world. Promises of his coming. Promises of justice and righteousness and peace. Promises of healing and wholeness. Promises of the end of evil and sin. And yet, even as we look to those promises, we experience evil, suffering, and injustice. Even as we cling to such hope, we face broken relationships, deteriorating bodies, and faltering finances. How are we to think about God’s promises, his word, in our present suffering?
Well, we’re not the first of God’s people to wait on his word to be fulfilled for our good and his glory. In Jeremiah, God raises up a prophet through whom he speaks to his people words of both judgment and salvation. It was Jeremiah’s job to call God’s people back to God. If they continued in unfaithfulness, they would face God’s words of judgment as expressed in the Sinai covenant. However, if they returned to God, they would, once again, experience God’s covenant promises of living in his presence in a kingdom of justice, righteousness, peace, wholeness and restoration. That is, they would dwell with God in a kingdom where no evil exists.
Because Jeremiah was afraid to take on this ministry (1:6), the Lord not only promised to be with him (1:8) and to give him the words to say (1:7-9), he also promised to watch over his word to fulfill it (1:11-12). There is a play on the words “almond branch” and “watching over” in verses 11 and 12. Both sound similar in Hebrew. The almond or “awake” tree that announced the arrival of spring would serve as a sign to Jeremiah that God was watching over his word (promises) of both judgment and salvation to bring them about at the appointed time. The point: God will fulfill his word; it will not fail. Because Judah continued in disobedience, in 587 BC God fulfilled his word of judgment against them. But God’s word of salvation did not fail.
Through Jeremiah God also promised to restore his people on the basis of a new covenant that would provide all his people with new hearts, forgiveness, God’s Spirit, and a personal knowledge of him (31:31-34). And this new covenant, Jeremiah declares, would be established by God’s faithful shepherd who would gather God’s scattered flock (23:1-8). Of course, we know this good shepherd to be Jesus (John 10:1-18), the word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Through Jesus’s life, death, resurrection, and exaltation, God has already fulfilled his promises of both judgment and salvation, though we await their full expression in the eternal kingdom. There is coming a day when all who trust in Christ will experience no more evil or sin but only righteousness, justice, and peace. On that day, we will face no more sickness, disease, or death but only healing and wholeness. More importantly, on that day we will dwell with God and he with us.
All God’s promises find their “Yes!” in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). We may face sin, evil, and suffering in this world, but we need not lose hope. God’s promises are meant to spur our faith and to help us escape the temptations and corruption of this world. So, whether you’re in the midst of financial difficulties or a diagnosis of cancer, a broken relationship or a dying child, let us pray, in faith, asking God to allow us, and those we love, to taste the fullness of the eternal promises now, in this life. But if it seems that God isn’t hearing us, remember the almond branch. When it blooms, we know that springtime is coming and harvest is sure to follow. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises. He is watching over his word to perform it. And because God is faithful, not one word will fail.
Are there particular biblical promises you are asking God to grant you? Which ones?
Do you feel that God is not listening to you?
How does Jeremiah 1:11-12 help you remember God’s faithfulness and persevere in faith until the promises are made real, either in this life or in the eternal kingdom?