Jeremiah 29 (NASB)
11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.
Many of us like these verses a lot. They are assuring and give us a sense of all things positive; that our prayers will be answered. Do you know the ‘context’ of these verses? What is context?
It refers to the parts of a written or spoken statement that precede or follow a specific word or passage, usually influencing its meaning or effect; it is also the set of circumstances or facts that surround a particular event, situation, etc.: Let us beware to take these verses out of context so we will interpret them correctly.
Who wrote these words down? v. 1 Jeremiah wrote them as a letter.
To whom was the letter sent? the exiles: people God sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon including the leaders – elders, priests and prophets; king, queen mother, court officials, princes of Judah & Jerusalem; craftsmen and smiths.
How were they exiled? King Nebudchadnezzar of Babylon captured King Zedekiah of Judah and took the people to Babylon.
Who were the messengers? Elasah – son of Shaphan; Gemariah – son of Hilkiah
Who sent them? King Zedekiah of Judah
Where and to whom was the letter sent? To Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon
Author of the letter: the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel
Addressee of the letter: to all the exiles whom ‘the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
What did God tell the exiles to do? and not to do?
1) Build and live in houses, plant and eat from the gardens, marry and become parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.. multiply.
2) Be good citizens of Babylon – seek its welfare, pray for it. When it prospers, so will you.
3) Do not be misled; do not listen to the false prophets and diviners who lie to you in My name. Do not believe them because I have not sent them.
4) Listen to me: You will be Babylon for 70 years. Then I will keep my promise to bring you back to your land.
What is the promise? God assures the exiles:
1) He knows what He is doing.
2) His purpose for them is prosperity and not calamity. His plan is for a bright future in spite of their dark past. He gives hope and not despair.
3) Then what? Then the exiles will “call upon Me, come and pray to Me.” They will seek and find God.
4) Then what will God do? He will listen. God will show Himself to them.
5) What is the condition? WHEN you search for Me with all your heart.
What follows these assuring words are words of rebuke and judgement for those who disobeyed God; those who did not go into exile; those who falsely prophesied and told lies to the people.
16 for thus says the Lord concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, and concerning all the people who dwell in this city, your brothers who did not go with you into exile”17 thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am sending upon them the sword, famine and pestilence, and I will make them like split-open figs that cannot be eaten due to rottenness. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, with famine and with pestilence; and I will make them a terror to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse and a horror and a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they have not listened to My words,’ declares the Lord”
32 therefore thus says the Lord, “Behold, I am about to punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants; he will not have anyone living among this people, and he will not see the good that I am about to do to My people,” declares the Lord, “because he has preached rebellion against the Lord.”’”
God’s plans to prosper, for a future and hope for His people are not like the plans of His people. We often think that prosperity comes in pleasant places. We have our own understanding of a bright and hopeful future – where we are most comfortable, at home and safe.
God gave words of assurance in the midst of adversity – to be exiled is to be sent to unfamiliar, hostile places, to be homeless. How tragic are those Serbian refugees, men and women, young and old, helpless children traveling to nowhere for food, clothing and shelter! For how long? They do not know. For the exiles of Jerusalem, God said 70 years. It’s a long time but better than not knowing, right?
What does suffering do to you? How do you react when life is hard? Do you assure yourself: “Oh, everything is going to be fine. This is not happening. I can do this. I will overcome this.” Or do you blame God: “Why did you allow this to happen? Where are you? I cannot see you. You are not listening.” How about “Lord, help me.”?
I have witnessed two responses people have when life is hard:
1) Turn away from God.
2) Draw closer to God.
Which is yours?
God’s plan is for His people to call to Him, come to Him, pray to Him. And He promises to listen. God promises to let His people find Him. How? Seek and search with all your heart.
Go to God, call to Him, pray to Him. Look, seek and find. He will listen and He will be found. Just search with all your heart.