Today Alan Wilson guided us through Jeremiah 29:1-14. He began by looking at the wider context of the chapter, in which these verses speak to the people of Jerusalem in their time of devastation and loss as they began their exile of 70 years in Babylon. Although these verses instruct the exiles on how to spend their time in their painful circumstances, they also hold relevance for us today as we live as ‘exiles’ in this world.
Alan led us through three main points from this passage…
1. A perspective on the past
This message from God to the exiles of Jerusalem through Jeremiah provides a perspective on their past:
God was sovereign over this exile. He used Nebuchadnezzar to bring His people into exile. This echoes what Habakkuk heard from God, that God himself used the Babylonians to judge His people. This highlights that God can make use of situations that we may not understand and use them for His purpose. We see examples of this throughout the Bible, such as Joseph’s life, when God sent Joseph as a slave into Egypt through his brothers, so that Joseph could look back and say:
This is what it means to trust God in the midst of the mystery of His sovereignty. Sometimes there are no easy answers to the deeply painful situations we may find ourselves in, but we can trust that God is sovereign and has not abandoned us. God is at work in every situation, just as He was with the exiles in Babylon. The greatest example of God’s sovereignty is the death of Jesus on the cross, which God used to display the deepest expression of His love and the heart of His plan for redemption.
2. A plan for the present
Secondly, this passage gave the exiles a plan for the present. They weren’t to simply endure their years of exile, but to settle in Babylon as they trusted God.
God called the exiles to have a long-term perspective; to settle in the place they were put in for a season, whilst trusting His plan and purpose. We are in a similar situation, in which this world is not our home. This often provokes a sense of discomfort in that we don’t fully belong. However, God is calling us to trust Him where He has placed us; to be in the world, but not of the world. God also called the exiles to seek the wellbeing of the city:
It is difficult to seek the welfare of those who have deeply hurt us; however, by offering mercy, we glorify God. This is echoed in Peter’s letter:
3. A promise for the future
Finally, this passage offers a promise for the future:
Did you notice that this rest is something he gives? We don’t deserve it and we can’t earn it – it’s a gift of grace.These promises meant that the exiles could live in God’s plan for the present, trusting not in a short-term solution, but a long-term hope. Similarly, there will not always be a short-term fix for our circumstances, but there is always long-term hope and unshakable promises that are rooted in God’s character. The Israelites were exiled for 70 years, but every moment was under God’s control, and He did not forget His promises toward them. Therefore, as we live our lives on this earth as exiles, let’s remember God’s promises that He is for us and is working for our good.