Summary: Long before the sin, long before the discipline, God has already made plans for the restoration of the repentant. A future and a hope.
“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.”
This is the first sermon I have ever co-authored. The process was a pleasure as it turns out, because my partner in it was Jacquelynn Tanner. Her favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11, and when, in a moment of spontaneity, we discussed working on a sermon together, she said she’d like to have this as our text.
Now in the course of the discussion we had on the text verse and also the passages we needed to understand in order to stay in context, she reminded me of an incident that I probably never would have remembered otherwise; but it is forever etched into her memory.
She said it happened when she was about 4 or 5 years old. We were alone at the house for a while and her mom was at work. I needed to do some work out in the yard, so I told her to entertain herself for a while but instructed her to not answer the phone or the door if anyone came to it.
When I came back in the house later Jacq was in her bedroom playing and I noticed that the red light was blinking on the answering machine. I hit the button to check the message and heard both Lynn’s voice, and Jacquelynn’s.
Hearing her mother’s voice on the machine she had decided it was ok to disobey me, so she had picked it up but had not known how to stop the recording.
I went to her room and asked her why she had answered the telephone when she had been told not to and she denied answering it. So she got in trouble. Not for disobeying, but for lying.
She got a spanking and she was told to stay in her room for a while.
As I said, I don’t really remember this, but about 15 minutes later, (she says it seemed like forever but was probably only 15 minutes), I opened her door and asked her if she wanted ice cream. She said ‘no’, and when I asked why she said “Because I’m being punished”.
I told her that she had been punished already, but just because she had to be punished did not mean I didn’t still love her, and I wanted to give her ice cream.
Jacquelynn accepted the treat and while she ate she mulled over what had happened. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had inadvertently taught her a lesson that I had not learned until I was in my late 30’s. It was that through whatever lessons, testings, disciplinary measures the Lord has to take us, grace is there throughout and grace awaits us at the end.
Now let’s go to the prophetic book of Jeremiah and find out what that story about Jacq has to do with our text.
- The people’s apostasy
- False prophets, in Judea and in Babylon
We first need to know the historical context of what the prophet wrote. If we do not know that, then we can never know what it means for our present day world.
The first thing we have to know then, is that there were false prophets to contend with.
Not that the main or sole message of Jeremiah is that there are false prophets in the land; but he did contend with them throughout his ministry, as did Isaiah and other contemporaries of this prophet.
I make them a primary focus of this sermon though, because it is they the Lord was warning the people about in the very verses that precede our text verse. So we take a closer look.
First of all let’s make no mistake that the nation of Israel, split at this time into the Northern and Southern kingdoms, was in total rebellion against God.
In fact, the Northern kingdom of Israel had long since been taken away into captivity and while the Southern kingdom of Judah remained, so did their lewd sin and their idolatry and their rebellion.
Jeremiah’s ministry called them to repentance and worship of the true God of their fathers, but his message went unheeded.
What I want you to see for our purposes today is that through Jeremiah God warned the people against listening to the words of the false prophets, both while they were still in Judea, and even later after they too had been taken into captivity and carried away to Babylon.
In chapter 14 we find one example of what I’m saying. They were still in Judea at the time, but Jeremiah had been warning about the punishment God was going to bring down for their apostasy.