Summary: This sermon focuses on the three years we’ve spent with a big look to what the future will look like.
1 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.
Jeremiah had a tough job. That should go without saying… a prophet’s job is never easy. The job description of a prophet is usually “go and tell people the one thing they don’t want to hear.” But Jeremiah’s job was an especially tough one. I suppose we need to set the stage a little bit here.
The setting comes during a time when the great nation of Babylon had laid siege to Jerusalem and had won… occupying the holy city and taking captives back to Babylon. The proud Israel nation had been humbled and defeated and now lay once again under oppression.
The captives in Babylon were having an especially hard time of it. Imagine being displaced like that… in a strange place where you don’t know the people… don’t know the culture… don’t know how your family back home is doing… don’t know the best place to buy a burger!
Well not to worry… a few prophets in Babylon were announcing to them, “Don’t bother unpacking your bags… were going home soon.” Imagine the excitement that stirred in their hearts… imagine the hope that just burned inside them.
Now… poor Jeremiah… time to get back to him. The Lord comes to Jeremiah and says, “I need you to send a word to my people in Babylon…” Oh brother… what is it now. From chapter 29:3-10
Jeremiah 29:3-10 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said: 4 This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." 8 Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: "Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them," declares the LORD. 10 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.
Seventy years. Seventy years. How would you like delivering that message? Unpack your bags and get cozy cause the Lord wants you to stay in your humbled and oppressed position for seventy years. Now this is no small thing. It’s a kick to the gut. It’s insult to injury. It’s the Lord putting his people through more pain after they had just suffered a great unbearable pain.
Now, I want to put this on pause for just a few moments because I need to tell you about my choir director in college, Dr. Smith. He was an animated director who pulled the passion out of you. It was my Junior year and we were learning a new song for the spring tour… it’s first line was, “Fallen is she, proud Babylon the mighty.” And we were singing it (weak) “Fallen is she, proud Babylon the mighty.” And Dr. Smith stopped us right there, had us sit down.
“You have to understand what Israel was feeling. Israel had been beaten and demoralized, oppressed and persecuted. They had been under the boot of Babylon for a long, long time. Now, their day of deliverance has finally come and they were free from the terrible rule of the Babylon nation, and in this moment ecstatic joy… they sing “Fallen is she, proud Babylon the mighty.” We never sang it (weak) “Fallen is she proud Babylon the mighty” ever again.
So, in light of that we can begin to understand the kind of news that Jeremiah was about to deliver. It’s a tough job.
It’s a tough job to tell somebody something they need to hear in the midst of pain and trouble. It’s an even harder job to hear it… to take yet another blow of bad news when you were already huddled in the fetal position on the floor from a bad knock. It’s hard to hear “I’m sorry, you are just going to have to suffer through this, there’s really nothing anybody can do to make it any better.”