Summary: This sermon comes from one of the favorite memory Scriptures of our time but this promise was made to Israelites who were in exile. What does it mean to us today?
Jeremiah 29:1-14 (Please open your Bibles to follow along in God Word)
This chapter contains a Bible verse which is a favorite among many Christians and that verse is
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
“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.”
This verse was written directly to the Jewish exiles but in an overarching sense it conveys the incredible patience hope for those like the Jewish exiles who have forsaken the Lord.
In the first verse of this chapter it is giving the context of what this actually is, it is a letter. It is a combination of instruction and prophecy and warning.
"This is 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 (Jeconiah - Hebrew variant) and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.)"
Jeremiah takes great pains to establish the exact historical context of not only the exile but the date of the letter as well.
'[Jeremiah] 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:
"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:"
Did you get that? The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel is the One who carried His own chosen people into exile.
Now in verse two is says that Nebuchadnezzar had carried them away into Babylon, so, why is the LORD saying that He carried them into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon?
The Israelites had replaced the LORD, creator of heaven and earth with idols made of wood and metal. They had forsaken the LORD their God.
The LORD had raised up Babylon in order to discipline the Israelites.
In all of this what was the Lord’s purpose? Was He just trying to be a mean, angry God?
No! NO! NO! His purpose was to bring them back to Himself.
Next we see in verses 5-6 the Lord giving some instructions that seem strange to us.
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 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."
Why does He want them to do this? It seems like He wants them to settle in and become part of the Babylon culture.
First of all, from verse 10 we know that they are going to be there for seventy years!
Second, if the Israelites know anything at all about the Lord their God they know that they are NOT to intermarry with the Babylonian people.
"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.”
When the Babylonians conquered a nation they would place the inhabitants in various cities.
Possibly enough for a community but not enough for a rebellion.
But the Lord does NOT want the exiles to rebel, He wants them to seek and pray for the peace and prosperity of the city.
Even in this we see the kindness of the Lord. The Lord could have raised up a nation that would enslave if not exterminate the Israelites! Instead, even in His punishment of the Israelites He is showing them kindness and mapping out a way for them to have a prosperous life.
Now, we as American’s always seem to jump to riches when we here the words prosper or prosperous.
Other translations say it this way:
… for in its welfare you will find your welfare
… for in its peace you will have peace
OK. Let’s jump down to verses 10-14 (We'll get to verses 8-9 next week ...)
"This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”