Archive for the ‘Jeremiah’ Category

Project 66 – Jeremiah

The passage I chose from Jeremiah is listed as #2 on Biblegateway.com’s top most-read Bible passages! Only John 3:16 has been read more often on biblegateway.com!
(interestingly enough, 25% of the verses on that list are contained in Project 66!)

Jeremiah 29:11-13 – Hope & a Future

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the LORD,
“thoughts of peace and not of evil,
to give you a future and a hope.
Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
And you will seek Me and find Me,
when you search for Me with all your heart.”

Context

Just what is the historical context of this precious promise that many hold tightly to their bosom clinging to the hope of a brighter future for them personally?

Well, with the northern kingdom of Israel already taken away by the Assyrians over a century before, the kingdom of Judah, under questionable rulership, remains behind between the two world powers of Egypt and Babylon.

Just before Nebuchadnezzer (King of Babylon) attacks Judah, Jeremiah prophesied that it would happen and that Neb would take the cream of the Jerusalem crop people-wise and export them to Babylon. Jeremiah said that the exiles would remain in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25).

This did not settle well with the ears of the people so the leaders tried to kill the messenger Jeremiah for having spoken of desolation, but he escapes.

What do you supposed happened next?

That’s right! Just as that lamentable Jeremiah had said, Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon, attacked Jerusalem, Judah, for the first time in 605 BC.

The king of Judah paid tribute and promised future payments to entice Nebuchadnezzer to withdraw. The Babylonians did so, but took away to Babylon some exiles, including Daniel and his three friends (whom we know best by their Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).

Seven years later, in 598-7 BC, Nebuchadnezzer returns, after the Judean king foolishly stops paying tribute. This time he deposes the king, sets up his own puppet from the Judean royal family, and takes thousands more into exile. Jeremiah remains in Jerusalem.

Jeremiah puts a yoke on his neck in chapter 27 to symbolize God’s judgment to be in bondage to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon for 70 years of captivity.

The message was bleak, and the people did not like it. So they collected prophets and teachers to themselves to tell them pleasant things.

The resultant contest between Hananiah the false prophet and Jeremiah in chapter 28 is a case study for discernment and contrast between true and false prophets; and as I read it I am left to wonder how I might have responded had I been there listening to Jeremiah and Hananiah.

Hananiah and other false prophets in Babylon and Jerusalem were claiming that the captivity was going to be very short – that God would break the power of Nebuchadnezzer and send the captives back to Jerusalem very shortly. In effect, they were saying, “God will prosper both you and Jerusalem in less than two years.”

Jeremiah had a sober and true message–dismal and condemning in the short term but not without a future hope. Jeremiah clearly says, “No! God is NOT going to prosper Jerusalem during the next several years. Don’t think you’re coming back soon – live out a normal life in Babylon!”

Jeremiah 29

Three years later in 594 BC, Jeremiah sends a letter (chapter 29to the exiles in Babylon. Regardless of the false-hope message of Hananiah’s short term victory and vindication, God had made up His mind–70 years of captivity.

In this context, the Lord instructs the people not to be overcome by the severity of the consequences, but to take heart in a long distant promise. They are to build houses, have children, carry on, etc., and not shrink back from all hope.

Here it is, in context:

Jer 29:10-14

For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.

13And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.

14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.

(Note that Daniel in exile is aware of this letter. In Daniel 9, written more than 50 years later, Daniel realizes the prophesied time of the captivity is almost over, yet the exiles are not living in accordance with God’s laws. So he confesses the sins of his people, and asks God nevertheless to fulfill the promise contained in Jeremiah for His own Name’s sake.)

Ironically, this verse–on so many hearts, posters and mirrors–is smack dab in the middle of God’s pronounced judgment of 70 years captivity.

70 years is generally regarded as a “type” of a human life span. It is the time that represents our sojourn here on earth.

Ps 90:10 The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

So it is fitting that so many of us have taken a shine to this verse. For we too have seem sentenced to live as exiles in this world for seventy years—so to speak—with broken hearts, dead-end jobs, shattered dreams, losing loved ones, etc.

Jeremiah 29:11 is thus a ray of hope in this dark world—not of short-term success and prosperity, but rather that after the just sentence of God has passed… we will be restored.

"I know the thoughts I think towards you," says the Lord.

Devotional

I’m comforted by the present tense of I think towards you. It’s not the thoughts He had about me when He planned for me, or created me, but that He is thinking right now. Even if I should find myself in a 70-year captivity that was brought on by my own poor choices, He is thinking about me.

Also, He shall not just think hopeful thoughts towards me for a year or two, but He shall go on, at least in this case, for seventy years, thinking thoughts towards me!

His thoughts are not only present and current, real time, but they are also towards me. His thoughts drift towards me.

When most I fear the Lord has forgotten me, He provides this verse that three times over repeats the word “I am thinking about you, even now!” It is as if He can’t stop thinking about me, for His thoughts meander over to me yet again!

When through the course of life, people give no more thought towards me, God has me on His mind all the time!

And the thoughts that consume Him about me are of peace, hope, future, bright, reconciliation, oneness with Him.

I don’t suppose there are angels in heaven trying to counsel Him regarding some wayward child, “Ah, just forget about her. She’s done nothing for You, she just keeps turning her back on You every chance she gets. It’s like she just looks for new and fresh ways to hurt You.” But even if such counsel existed, He doesn’t seem to pay mind to it. For His thoughts keep drifting back towards me presently with thoughts of good.

So many times when I have great problems, I think, “Oh, God’s forgotten me. God’s not thinking of me anymore.” Oh, that’s not so. God is thinking of me. But God is always looking down at the end of the road.

My common mistake is that I am always looking for immediate advantage, immediate fulfillment. And I don’t consider the end result or the consequences of the things that I do. How many times I jump into things not considering what the end result is. “Oh, but it looks exciting. It looks fun. Let’s jump in.”

And God is warning and He is saying, “No, the end of that path is destruction. Now I’m thinking about you. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you. I am thinking about you. And My thoughts concerning you are for your peace to bring to you this expected end.”

Return

It is at the end of that 70-year captivity that we call upon Him and He hears us. And I like that the promise is to the whole-hearted seeking of Him. I need to be moved out of my complacency.

I think that one of my problems is that I oftentimes have a half-hearted attitude towards God. I’m not really seeking God with all of my heart. “Well, God, if You want to, I’m here. And You can do it for me if You desire. I won’t stop You, Lord.”

And I oftentimes take a very passive attitude towards God, towards the things of God. Rather than really seeking God with all of my heart.

I don’t imagine really that I can do anything whole-heartedly. But I’ve been close regarding things or people on earth. And so I just want to seek the Lord with that same intensity and passion. I want to be as whole-hearted as Deborah Lein can be for where she is right now, and to have my thoughts presently, currently, real-time be about the Lord for good, and to have my thoughts just naturally drift towards Him and His goodness.

I cling to this portion of the promise the most…that He will captivate me with Himself, when I see Him as He is! The more I seek Him, the more I will be captivated, for to know Him is to love Him!

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