21 May, 2024

July 9 | Hope in God’s Plans

by | 3 July, 2023 | 0 comments

Unit: Jeremiah (Part 2)
Theme:​ ​Hope for the Hopeless
Lesson text: Jeremiah 29:1-23
Supplemental texts: Psalm 33:8-11; 119:41-43; Proverbs 16:1-4; Jeremiah 33:14-26; Hebrews 11:8-10
Aim: Follow God’s expressed plans, and hope in his care.

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Download a PDF of this week’s lesson material (the study by Mark Scott, the Application by David Faust, and Discovery Questions by Michael C. Mack): LOOKOUT_July9_2023.

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By Mark Scott

Robert Burns wrote a piece entitled “To a Mouse.” The most famous line in that poem was, “The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men.” It means that no matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Burns wrote it after destroying a mouse nest with his plough. He felt bad about it and wrote an apology. One could superimpose that famous line on Jeremiah 29. 

Jeremiah continued to warn the people of God of the coming judgment of God through Nebuchadnezzar. As the wicked king from Babylon advanced to Jerusalem, Jeremiah warned the people not to believe the false prophets who predicted that the exile would be short-lived. Jeremiah wanted the people who were hauled away to Babylon in the deportation in 597 BC to settle in and get used to their new normal and their hope in God’s plans. Thus, the famous letter to the exiles.  

The Details of the Letter 
Jeremiah 29:1-3 

Jeremiah’s letter (book or scroll) was sent from Jerusalem to the exiles (those “removed” or “carried away”—the word occurs six times in this text) in Babylon. It was sent to the surviving elders, priests, prophets, and others. The second verse is a parenthetical historical reference. Royalty (the king and his mother), lawyers, the skilled workers (carpenters or engravers), and artisans (metal workers) had already been hauled away. Two men—Elasah (i.e., God has made) and Gemariah (i.e., the Lord has accomplished)—were charged with the responsibility of delivering the letter.  

The Duties in the Letter 
Jeremiah 29:4-9 

Speaking on behalf of God via this letter, Jeremiah outlined nine duties for the exiles. Since the exile would be extended further than any of them knew, the people were told to build houses and settle down. Additionally, they were to plant gardens and eat the produce from those gardens. They were to marry and have children. Hearkening back to the dominion mandate (Genesis 1:28), they were to increase in number. They were to seek the peace and prosperity of the city where they lived. Beyond that, they were to pray for their captors and their cities to do well.  

Of course, all the above would take time, which meant no one would go home any time soon. Other voices spoke against the content of Jeremiah’s letter. But their prophecies and dreams were not from God. The Lord had not sent them. They were prophesying lies. So, part of their duties was “not” to do what other voices were crying out for them to do. 

The Destiny in the Letter 
Jeremiah 29:10-14 

Jeremiah marked out the destiny for the future of God’s people in this section of the letter. The Lord revealed to Jeremiah that the exile would last 70 years. This actually was referred to later when it was fulfilled in Daniel 9:2. When the time was completed, God would bring his people (his messianic remnant, for sure) back to the Promised Land.  

Verse 11 has received much attention in recent years. The verse is printed, it seems, on as many coffee cups as inside Bibles. People like to claim it in a personal way. It is often applied to mean that God has his own special plan for every individual. But it actually was part of a letter for corporate exiled Israel. God had plans for them, and that plan included prosperity (actually, shalom, peace, or well-being) in such a way that no one would harm (do evil to) them. God had a hope (reward) and a future for them. Had God not fulfilled that plan, the Messiah would not have come to save the world.  

Israel’s response to this destiny was twofold: to pray to God and to seek God. Prayer prompted God’s response and seeking him with their whole hearts caused God to be found. God ultimately gave them the desires of their hearts by bringing them home. That was their ultimate destiny. 

The Death of the Letter 
Jeremiah 29:15-23 

A quick shift takes place in the letter at verse 15. Jeremiah moved from destiny to death. The letter ended with a strong warning. The people who stayed in Jerusalem in defiance to the Lord’s word would experience sword, famine, and plague. They would be like rotten figs (cf. 24:1-10). The other nations would make fun of Israel because they did not listen to their God.  

The warning was also given to those who had gone into captivity and were listening to the lying prophets there. Many of them would not return. They would tragically die in Babylon, experiencing a curse for their outrageous (disgraceful, vile, or foolish) behavior which would never have been approved by God. The best laid plans are to follow God’s plans. 


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