For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, said the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Such is the consoling word that God sends to his "banished ones" in their affliction. He bids his servant "speak comfortably" to them, even now that their "warfare" is only beginning, and they are having their first taste of the bitterness of exile. Blending with the lamentations of the weeping captives as they "hung their harps on the willows by the waters of Babylon," we can imagine that this gracious word would have a more salutary effect upon them than the living voice of the prophet ever had. What message has it for us?
I. THE MIND OF GOD IS A PROFOUND MYSTERY TO US, BUT HE KNOWS HIS OWN COUNSELS.
1. God has his "thoughts," even as we have ours. We believe in a God who is no mere philosophic abstraction, but a living, personal being, of whose infinite intelligence ours is but the dim and distant reflection.
2. His thoughts are immeasurably higher than ours. "As the heavens are higher than the earth," etc. (Isaiah 55:9). We cannot solve the mystery or trace the course of our own mental processes, and how should we be able to comprehend his? Our minds, with all their utmost range and activity, move but upon the outskirts of the glorious realm of the infinite and eternal thought of God.
3. His thoughts are all conformed to the eternal truth of things. Indeed, they are themselves the eternal truth of things. For what are all created existences - material and spiritual, all laws, forces, etc., but embodiments and reflections of the "thoughts of God? And whatever his purposes maybe they are not variable; they partake of the immutability of his essential nature. The counsel of the Lord standeth forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations" (Psalm 33:11).
II. GOD'S WAYS OF DEALING WITH US ARE OFTEN PERPLEXING, BUT A GRACIOUS PURPOSE GOVERNS ALL. "Thoughts of peace and not of evil." He concealed within his darkest providences.
1. The constitution of the universe, in spite of all its discords, bears abundant witness to the benign spirit that inspires it. We have no sympathy with that gloomy and morbid view of it according to which, for aught that appears, it might have been fashioned by some spirit of cruelty and hate. True as it may be that "the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together," there is proof enough that "God's tender mercies are over all his works."
2. The Bible has its anomalies, but it is the unfolding of a redemptive purpose. The revelation of God's mercy towards a guilty, ruined world in the person of the Christ is the key to all its historic dispensations. As every chastisement inflicted on the Jewish people had some gracious design in it as regards themselves, so the whole course of their national life and ecclesiastical polity played its part in the development of that world-wide plan. And through all the changes and storms and conflicts that may yet be in store for the Church and the world, Scripture keeps alive the blessed hope of the future. The prophetic word is "as a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts" (2 Peter 1:19).
3. The saddest experiences in our personal life have their beneficent Divine intent. Every cloud has its "silver lining." Our keenest sorrows often prove to be "celestial benedictions in a dark disguise." God's "thought of peace" is at the heart of all our earthly tribulations (Hebrews 12:6-11).
III. THE ISSUE ALWAYS JUSTIFIES GOD'S THOUGHTS AND WAYS. The "expected end," when it comes, never fails to solve the mystery of the path that led to it. The gracious purpose, hidden in the secrecy of the Eternal Mind, veiled under many forms of dark disguise, is then made manifest. God is his own Interpreter, and the day of his glorious self-vindication will surely come.
"His ways are love - though they transcend
Our feeble range of sight,
They wind through darkness to their end
In everlasting light."
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.