This weeks reading includes Jeremiah 28-32; my focus will be on a much used and often wrongfully used passage of Jeremiah 29:11. The context of the verse and the modern-day application are worlds apart. Much like the much maligned passage of Matthew 18:18-19. In the latter passage, the context is the conflict and restoration of a brother, and the steps to reconcile the problem. Too many times, a viewpoint or theology is developed based on a single verse. This is not exegesis, but eisegesis – the former is “reading out of the passage, the latter is reading into the passage. The first is acceptable theology and a biblically sound approach to scripture. In Jeremiah 29:11, there has been a very strong approach to personal blessing from God. In the article by Relevant you can read similar comments concerning this verse. http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/deeper-walk/features/21141-the-most-misused-verse-in-the-bible. When we look at the context of the verse we find that God is giving a message to Jeremiah about how God is not going to forsake them, but that the exile in Babylon will have its limits. While the sin of Judah, and for that matter Israel was grave in that it caused such discipline and punishment from God; they would not be discarded. God had “birthed” the nation with His plans in mind. These plans have not changed. Even today when the “church” is being disciplined for failure morally and neglectfully, God is still going to use His body the Church. Additionally, we know that from Romans 9-11, that God will visit Israel again and that just as they rejected the Gospel of Jesus as messiah; and the Gentiles received the Gospel because of their rejection; likewise when the “fullness of the times of the Gentiles” is complete, Israel will be grafted back into the Vine.
So when we read Jeremiah 28-29, the total message is that God will punish His people. But the message also is there is hope for a future for them and subsequent generations that follow. Jeremiah tells the first wave of exiles to “buy houses, plant gardens, take wives and such – in other words get settled for the long haul. While God had told Judah they would be in exile for 70 years, there wouldn’t be any time off for good behavior. At this point it needs to be stated the difference between captivity and exile. Captivity is what happened for 400 plus years in Egypt – Israel through Jacob moved there on purpose. However, the sin of Judah caused their captivity, where the land was invaded and the people carted off. As I said last week, it was better to be an exile then someone left behind, for those they would meet their death with the sword.
Jeremiah continues to instruct Judah to “seek the welfare of the city, and to pray to the LORD on its behalf.” These appear to be strange instructions from the prophet of God concerning his people in exile. However, this is not a different message, Jeremiah has been saying all along not to fight against King Nebuchadnezzar, for he is God’s arm of punishment against them. Jeremiah tells Judah quit listening to your prophets and diviners, they are lying to you.
I asked a question of my bible study folks [we are studying Jeremiah right now] – how do you know if someone is speaking for the Lord or of themselves? This is a predicament that Judah had – Jeremiah said one thing, and the other prophets said another – who do you believe? I think that may be a problem churches have today – too many voices, and all are saying they have “the Word of the Lord.” Answer to this is where is the Spirit of God, does the message align with scripture and does the character of the messenger reflect holiness and righteousness? Go with the person.
After reiterating the 70 years of exile – verse 10 says I will bring you back into the Land I promised you. THEN verse 29 – “for I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope.” But the message doesn’t stop there – verse 12 is highly reflective of 2 Chronicles 7:14 – this is both prescriptive and descriptive of renewal and revival. “Then you will call on Me, and come pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find Me when you search for Me with all of your heart. Judah would return to the Land and the Lord, exiled brought them to their knees. So as you can see quite a different message when looking at the context. While I know that God has plans for us in our lives, we find that elsewhere. But here we find the restoration of Judah promised – AFTER their punishment. Never read into scripture what you want the bible to say – it is sufficient to stand on its own message!