“I Know the Plans I Have for You”
Bible Study – Jeremiah 29:1-14
Presented During Festival Day – January 22, 2022
Major Shirley King, The Salvation Army appointee on the WICC Board
SETTING THE SCENE
We are going to travel back in time to the seventh century BC – a period of great turmoil for Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations.
God had chosen Jeremiah while he was still in his mother’s womb to be appointed as a prophet to the nations.
Young Jeremiah felt ill-equipped for so great a task, but God touched his lips and assured him of his powerful presence. Jeremiah faced fierce opposition and, in that environment, God gave a wonderful promise of hope and deliverance for the people.
The book of Jeremiah was written around the time of the Judean exile in Babylon (modern-day Iraq). Judah had been conquered and their holy city of Jerusalem lay in ruins. Their temple – the place they believed God to reside – had been destroyed. And an elite community of the people of Judah – the king and queen mother, the leaders, nobility, and craftsmen – had been carried off into exile. Everything they had known had been lost! Sound familiar? Their future looked bleak.
Psalm 137 opens a window for us that demonstrates how desperately homesick the exiles were and how they longed to return to Jerusalem.
We read the words: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion, there on the poplars we hung our harps, our captors ….demanded songs of joy saying: sing us one of the songs of Zion! How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a strange land?
Perhaps this lament is not so far removed from how we may be feeling in these days of uncertainty. Perhaps this experience of exile is closer than we realize as we move into the third year of this COVID land/this Covid experience. And we ask how can we sing songs of Zion in THIS land?
In Jeremiah 14 we become acquainted with a nation of people who, in the face of calamity and despair cry out to the Lord: where are you God? During such despair and desolation, chaos, confusion, it’s as if the exiled are throwing their hands up with a sense of utter abandonment from the one who declares His care and keeping – and then we come to Jeremiah 29!
· Let’s read verses from Jeremiah 29: We begin our reading at verse 4, and I am reading from the New Living Translation.
4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
10 This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
What is the lesson for us today?
THE MESSAGE-Finding Normal!
It is both interesting and comforting to me that God’s message to Jeremiah for the exiles, while enduring emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental trauma was, in a sense, FIND NORMAL.
Keep doing the things that you know to be normal….build houses, plant gardens, have a family and seek the welfare of the city where God had sent them to live. God’s message was clear. The message IS clear: KEEP ON GOING!
After the exhortation, a promise! I know the plans I have for you. God had not forgotten his promise to bring the people back to their own land. After so many years later, it would be the next generation going home to Judah! It would be 70 years before the exiles would return home. 70! Why couldn’t it have been 7? Perhaps we ask the same question in our exiled/strange land! Two years! Why couldn’t it have all been taken care of in two months?
GOD’S METHOD is the Provision of Hope and Promise of a Future.
For their part, the people of Judah had to rebuild their relationship with God that had been broken through sin and disobedience to his commandments. He also wanted them to build a relationship with the local inhabitants. They would achieve this in community and through prayerful action. The value of connecting with people is dynamic!
OUR MANTRA is to bring HOPE to the world.
Millions of people are in exile, having left their countries because of war, persecution, fear, and hunger. Others are on a dangerous and difficult journey to what they hope will be a place of safety. Perhaps, because of our experience with COVID-19, we too feel somewhat in exile as we are isolated, work through change, and live with uncertainty.
The fourth lesson I see here is THE MISSION. Be missional people!
We are called to PRAYERFUL ACTION
Jeremiah’s letter exposed the political and social tensions of his time, and a promise to guide them to their future.
We need to work towards a society where there is justice for all, especially for those who are the most vulnerable.
- What’s your WDP hope?
- What steps can you take this week which will help transform an injustice?
- The work that each of us is engaged in is exciting and necessary! We are hope-bringers.
- My challenge for you today is, Think of an issue that you’re passionate about. Perhaps you might want to write about it or share it with a friend or a group of friends and pray that God would use you in the execution of your ministry of hope.
It is my prayer that we might be inspired by Jeremiah’s message to trust that ultimately God will bring His perfect plan to fruition in our lives. We pray that God will use us to help others when life seems too great a struggle. He knows the plan for each of us…to give us hope and a future, plans to prosper you and not to harm you.
Reference: WDP 2022 EWNI Bible study resource.