Summary: In the midst of tragedy and the misfortunes of life, it’s hard to remember that God still has a plan for your life... but He does.
OPEN: I once read the true story of a woman who told about how frustrated she’d gotten with her husband during the early years of their marriage. Apparently they both worked, but she took pride in the idea that she could still prepare good meals for them to eat. She’d prepare meals in advance and put them in freezer bags, carefully labeling the bags in large clear letters: “Meatloaf” or “Pot Roast” or “Steak and Vegetables or “Chicken and Dumplings” or “Beef Pot Pie.”
But when she’d ask her husband what he wanted for dinner – he’d never make a decision. He’d just say something like: “ah, whatever.”
So, she decided to stock the freezer with what food that he actually asked for. NOW, if you looked in her freezer you’d see a whole new set of labels.
You’d find dinners with neat, legible tags that say: “Something Good,”
“I Don’t Know,”
“I Don’t Care,”
or simply: “Food.”
APPLY: This woman had planned “good things” for her husband. She had spent a great deal of time preparing good food for her husband to eat. But he just didn’t seem to care…
I. God tells us – here in Jeremiah 29 – that He had prepared good things for Israel
He said: “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 29:11
In fact, God had ALWAYS planned things like this for Israel…
· good things
· things that would give them hope
· things that would give them a future
But they had become like the husband who didn’t care what his wife cooked for him. They took their relationship with God for granted. And now they were having to settle for table scraps.
Jeremiah 29:1-2 tells us that this was “the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.)”
For years, Jeremiah had been warning the Israelites that God’s patience was wearing thin.
For years, he’d warned them that they needed to repent or God would punish them for their evil deeds.
Finally, time had run out and God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to sweep down from the north and Jerusalem was overrun. Their armies were annihilated. And a vast number of Jews were carried away into captivity, most of them to never return to Jerusalem again.
NOW, Jeremiah is writing to these people - to the surviving Elders and priests and prophets and all the other people who were in Exile in the land of Babylon. And Jeremiah was telling them: God still has a plan for you
God still loves you
God hasn’t abandoned you
God still wants to do something in your life that will give you…
o A future
o GOD STILL HAS A PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE
II. Now - there’s a reason why God has chosen this point in Judah’s history to have Jeremiah send this message to the exiles in Babylon.
You see, the people of Judah hadn’t been in Babylon for very long, and they were still experiencing the shock.
QUESTION: Have you ever suffered through some tragedy in your life? The loss of your home, of the death of loved one? Then, you can understand the shock that these people must have been experiencing… for they had just lost their homes, they had lost many of their loved ones, they had lost the life that they had once knew… and now they had nothing.
In the midst of their misery and their heart ache there was the danger that they will slip right over the edge into despair. That they’ll become so overwhelmed by their helplessness that they’ll just shut God out all together. Or that they’ll start looking for their answers somewhere else.
When Christians are faced with hardships and difficulties in their lives there is the temptation to strike out at God.
ILLUS: I spoke once with a preacher who had had a difficult time in his ministry.
He told me that at one point, things got so bad, that he walked out into the middle of field, looked up into the sky and screamed: GOD!!!!!
He was mad… he was angry… and he so frustrated that the only thing he could think to do was turn it loose on God.
And, you know that’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you ever read the Psalms, you’ll find that David often felt depressed and sad, or angry and frustrated. And David would write things that I’m not sure we’d feel comfortable writing ourselves.