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Jeremiah 29:1, 414comment (0)

July 21, 2011

By Douglas K. Wilson

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 29:1, 414

Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

Jeremiah 29:1, 4–14

This week’s passage is a portion of a letter Jeremiah wrote to Judean elders and exiles who had been relocated to Babylon. The expectation of prosperity often quoted as a personal promise in Jeremiah 29:11 originally was intended for people who had been taken against their will to live in a foreign land. God was going to bless them as they settled in Babylon and prayed for Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.

The exiles were given words of encouragement, but King Zedekiah and his rebellious followers received a word of condemnation from God. They were cursed by God for their unwillingness to listen to His words through the prophet.

Live a ‘New Normal’ (1, 4–7)
Build houses. Plant gardens. Get married. Have babies. Pray for your neighbors. Ask God to prosper the government. Sounds like normal living, right? Certainly! Now imagine receiving these instructions in a strange land, surrounded by people speaking a different language who don’t want you living near them. Jeremiah was writing to exiles in such circumstances.

Eight years ago, God relocated my family from upstate New York to lower Alabama. We miss the cool, crisp air in autumn and the snow that covered our yard for days. Rather than pine away for earlier years or long to move closer to “home,” we now have the privilege of serving God and His people where He has planted us. Before New York, we lived in Nicaragua. Each place is an opportunity for us to live a new normal.

Your new normalcy likely will be different. Keep in mind that whenever you find yourself amid strange surroundings and situations, God is willing and able to meet your needs as you live in surrender to His will.

Reject False Visions (8–9)
The people of Judah were sentenced to exile because of their syncretism, their mixing of covenant relationship with Canaanite fertility religions. They practiced forbidden sacrifice, astrology and divination for determining the future. In Deuteronomy, God forbade consultation with false prophets and diviners, since they sought to know the future apart from seeking God. Ezekiel 21:21 records how Nebuchadnezzar practiced various forms of divination. Jeremiah warned readers not to follow such Babylonian practices.  

Believers today often show no discernment between genuine spiritual teaching and the occult. Books and movies about wizards, spells and vampires have multitudes of confessing Christians captivated. A desire to escape into fantasy is leading teens and adults to lose sight of God’s Word. “What accord has Christ with Belial?” Paul asked (2 Cor. 6:15). Entertainment has become a poisonous substitute for worship.

God Is in Control (10–14)
God was in control and sovereign when Judah walked with Him. God reigned when enemy forces took leaders out of the capital and retrained them for service to another king. And He retained His control when He directed the heart of another king to release the captives.

For seven decades, Judah would experience exile for its unfaithfulness to God. In 586 B.C., Jerusalem was destroyed, its walls and gates devastated and its temple left in ruins. Seventy years later, the second temple was finally completed and dedicated to the Lord. God knew what was going to happen, and He revealed it to His prophet Jeremiah.

The chronicler cited Jeremiah in the final chapter of the Hebrew Bible (2 Chron. 36:21). Daniel was preoccupied with Jeremiah’s 70-year prophecy (Dan. 9:2). In the fullness of time, God allowed a remnant of His people to return to the promised land. Jeremiah had, indeed, spoken for God.

God is still in control. Where Muslim-background believers are considered outcasts from their families and communities for believing that Jesus died and rose again for sinners, He still reigns. Where whole communities of African tribesmen begin following the Jesus path, God is still in control. Whatever you are facing, do what God says. Even in the midst of rejection and exile, God is still in control.

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