Is There Hope for Canada?

This past Canada Day weekend at Coastal Church, we started our summer series, Because God is Good… We explored the idea that Canada as a nation can be good because our God is good. Canada certainly has its challenges and uncertainties, but I love how Pastor Dave made the connection between the goodness of God and the potential for transformative goodness for our nation. If you missed the message, you can rewatch it here

Statistics Canada conducted a study between 2016 and 2022, noting that a hopeful future outlook has declined and continues declining across our nation, particularly for those living in urban areas. One notable aspect of the study was that Canadians aged 15-34 had the most significant decline in hopefulness. This age group has experienced a fifteen percent decline in the past six years. Of course, there are many possible reasons for this. It could be the various economic challenges, such as inflation and rising housing costs. Young people, in particular, often can’t see the possibility of ever owning a home or experiencing the same level of prosperity that their parents’ generation had. Throw a global pandemic and climate change into the mix, and we have a generation that finds themselves in need of hope. But may I remind you, in scripture, we see many examples of how an entire nation can be transformed and even rescued despite its shortcomings. Take the book of Jonah for example, an entire nation was transformed through one sermon.  

If you’ve been to church before, you’ve likely come across a verse found in Jeremiah 29:11. You may have seen it in Christian greeting cards, or had someone text it to you during a time of discouragement. But just in case it’s new to you or you need a refresher:  

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Many of us have clung to that verse and found hope in it; however, if we look a bit deeper to understand the historical context of the verse, it provides an even more powerful meaning. 

Here’s a little background: Under King David’s rule, Israel was a glorious nation, and its splendour and prosperity peaked during the reign of King David’s son, Solomon. You may have heard of this wealthy and wise king whose words can be found in scripture, specifically the book of Proverbs. 

Unfortunately, despite Solomon’s wisdom he still chose to make some poor decisions. He married many foreign princesses to secure political alliances. This would have been completely acceptable and even praised as a strategic move by the world’s standards, but God specifically warned against this because He knew that it would be hard to resist the temptations that would come along with this practice. Solomon was trusting in his ability to make peace rather than relying on God’s promises for protection. As a result, his heart was led astray by his foreign wives who encouraged him to worship their false gods alongside them. As a consequence of Solomon’s sin God divided the kingdom of Israel into two separate kingdoms, Israel and Judah. 

From that point onward, Israel’s history went from bad to worse. Every single king in the northern kingdom (Israel) was wicked and evil, and over half the kings of the southern kingdom (Judah) were equally as bad. But what do I mean by bad? That their tax policy was sub-optimal? Or they didn’t build enough schools or hospitals? Their roads were poorly managed, and inflation was through the roof? No, I wish that’s what I meant, but these evil kings were involved in unspeakably wicked practices pertaining to worship. They would have shrine prostitutes for their evil ceremonies and worship of false gods and would even sacrifice their own children to supposedly appease these foreign gods as well. Some pretty sketchy and horrific stuff went down during this time, and it’s definitely an R-rated portion of scripture. God was so grieved by what His chosen people were doing. They had forsaken the beautiful covenant that they once had.

But God was so patient with his people; for over 300 years, he sent prophets warning them to turn from their wickedness and start worshiping the one true God again because if they didn’t they would be destroyed. Jeremiah was one of these prophets, and he continually warned the Israelites for 29 years to turn from their evil ways, to repent, and turn back to the one true God. Yet for all those years they pushed snooze on Jeremiah like he was an annoying alarm clock, hoping he would go away. This is one of the reasons why Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. Could you imagine preaching to the people that you loved for nearly three decades, only to be rejected, ridiculed, and persecuted? To make matters worse, false prophets were preaching the opposite message, that everything in their nation was fine and that the people should carry on doing what they were doing. Despite this, Jeremiah continued to proclaim God’s message that judgment would come if God’s people didn’t change their ways. 

In 597 BC, Jeremiah’s words came true. Babylon attacked Jerusalem, captured the people, and took them back to Babylon, like Daniel and his three friends. 

All of this is the backstory for chapter 29 of Jeremiah’s prophecy. God’s people are in a foreign land as a direct consequence of their hundreds of years of sin, wickedness, and rejection of God’s love and grace. They would have remembered the words of Jeremiah and the other prophets, and they would have come to the sobering realization that they were now reaping the consequences of their actions. They must have thought, “We blew it. We were God’s chosen people, but we rejected Him, so He must have also rejected us.” 

But this is the beauty and the power of Jeremiah 29:11, that even though they had failed, they were not forgotten. 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

They would have thought God had given up His plans for them, that they would suffer continual harm because of their sin, and that hope was lost. But God used the same prophet who promised destruction to give this hopeless, broken people with a shattered identity – hope. This speaks to the amazing grace and love of our God. God was saying through the prophet Jeremiah, “Even though you’ve blown it, your story isn’t over. I still have great things to do through you.” And what that hope ultimately points to is Jesus.That they would be restored and reconciled back to God. Jesus is the hope that was given for their future, and He is still the hope that is given for our future as well. He wants to build His perfect Kingdom here on earth through you and me. 

Jesus said that even though there is trouble in this world, we must take heart because he has overcome the world. He has defeated all the powers of darkness, and He gives us a hope not only for now but for all of eternity. As followers of Jesus, we also have His powerful Spirit in us, a hope that our nation desperately needs. 

God’s plans are always good, and He wants to use us, His church, to bring the same kind of hope that Jeremiah brought to his people, to the people of our nation as well.