A Hope and A Future

Just thinking- many Christians love Jeremiah 29:11. It’s a life verse for many and they look at it as a personal promise to them. It does reveal the heart of God to His people. Many Christians think it is a promise to us today and I think we can probably apply it to us but we should also understand that the context was to Jews living in Babylon at the captivity. I covered this last winter on a Sunday evening, but let’s examine it again.

 

Jer 29:11For I know what I have planned for you, 'says the LORD. 'I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

 

Some preachers like to use this verse for the prosperity gospel and I don’t see it that way. God isn’t promising to make me rich. He was talking to Jews who he had displaced to Babylon because of sin. Because of worshipping idols and false gods, He brought King Nebuchadnezzar to kill many, destroy Jerusalem and the temple and carry many away to Babylon. When you read verse one we see that he was talking to these people.

 

Jer 29:1  The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles Nebuchadnezzar had carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon. It was addressed to the elders who were left among the exiles, to the priests, to the prophets, and to all the other people who were exiled in Babylon.

 

God also knew that they would be there for 70 years. He knew that after 70 years He would bring them back to Judah. God also knew that those carried away to Babylon were farmers and shepherds. While there they would earn livings as something else. They would become bankers, shopkeepers and merchants. They would start Sears, J.C. Penny’s and Dillard’s type stores. They would become very wealthy.

When King Cyrus would allow them to go back to Judah around 539 B.C., God knew that they would be so content in Babylon that they would rather stay and keep making money. Let’s look at verses 10 and 11 to put it in context;

Jer 29:10"For the LORD says, 'Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore you to your homeland.

Jer 29:11For I know what I have planned for you, 'says the LORD. 'I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.

 

God was encouraging them to leave the prosperity of Babylon because He had better plans for them. They could leave their businesses and be OK in Judah and Jerusalem. This promise was before Cyrus even came on the scene.

The early Jewish historian Josephus explained how prosperous the Jews were in Babylon and what he said has been confirmed by archeologists. Here is a picture of the Murashu tablets and an Article from Biblical Archeology confirming the account by Josephus.

 

As a whole, Israelites had some reason to feel comfortable in Babylon. The Murashu tablets were discovered in 1873 and are records from Murashu and his sons, wealthy bankers and brokers of the late period of exile, who seemed to loan out almost anything for a price. “Among their customers are listed about sixty Jewish names from the time of Artaxerxes I, and forty from the time of Darius II. These appear as contracting parties, agents, witnesses, collectors of taxes, and royal officials. There seems to have been no social or commercial barriers between the Jews and the Babylonians. Their prosperous situation may explain why some chose to remain in Mesopotamia.” (Yamauchi)

 

Christians often do count the cost of doing God’s will. We can pray and ask for God’s will and His plans for us and often it’s not what we want or planned on. I asked a college age student one time if they had prayed about Bible school after high school and they said; no, God may want me to do something that isn’t in my plans. At least they were honest. But I don’t think they realized that if God calls us to something we haven’t considered (because we usually plan on things we think will make us happy), He will also give us a peace and rewards us in ways we couldn’t dream.

 

Here is what Peter said when he was counting the cost of discipleship.

Luke 18:28  And Peter said, "Look, we have left everything we own to follow you!"

Luke 18:29Then Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of God's kingdom 30  who will not receive many times more in this age — and in the age to come, eternal life."

 

The message to the exiled Jews and to us is the same- if we go where we are called, God will take care of us. Don’t look back, look ahead-

-Dan Slyter, Associate Pastor