(I’ve been working several days to hammer last Sunday’s sermon into a concise outline; here it is for your devotional study or teaching/preaching use. The key text is Jeremiah 29:1-14, especially verse 11. You can find the whole sermon here.)
Scripture — Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Introduction/ Background (Jeremiah 29:1-3): Sometimes things are not as we want them to be. Despite our best efforts, our circumstances aren’t user friendly. In this passage, Jeremiah was trapped in the city of Jerusalem which was being dissembled by the Babylonians. False prophets were telling the people, “Don’t give up; there’s still hope. God will surely send a miracle of deliverance as He has in the past.” But Jeremiah’s message was, “There’s no last minute miracle on the way. The judgment of God is falling.” In chapter 29, he wrote to exiles who had already been deported to Babylon, giving the same message, but in the middle of it we find this remarkable verse of comfort and hope (v. 11). In looking this chapter, we can learn something about responding to negative surroundings. When we are not where we want to be, how should we respond?
1. Make the Best of Things (vv. 4-6): This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.” Jeremiah’s point is: There isn’t going to be a last-minute miracle or any sudden solutions to the problem. All you can do for now is make the most of it, do the best you can, rejoice in the Lord, and keep on going.
2. Pray Where You Are (v. 7): Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Ask God to bless your surroundings. If they prosper, you will prosper. Jeremiah was telling the people to pray for the “shalom” of the nation where they had been exiled.
3. Beware the Wrong Voices (vv. 8-9): Jeremiah warned the exiles not to listen wrong voices. There has never been so much deviant propaganda directed at so many unthinking people through so many mesmerizing media.
4. Take the Long View (v. 10): This verse contains a remarkable prophecy. The removal of King Jehoiachin occurred in 597 B.C. The complete collapse and fall of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem happened eleven years later in 586 B.C. On several specific occasions, Jeremiah predicted that the nation of Judah would be destroyed, its capital city burned, its people deported, and the entire nation would be wiped off the face of the earth, but that within 70 years, Judah would be back. The nation would be reestablished. Compare Jeremiah 25:8ff; Daniel 9:1ff; Ezra 1:1ff. We live in a day in which everyone wants immediate gratification, but Christians are looking forward to God’s long-term faithfulness (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
5. Get Hopeful about God’s Plans (v. 11): Remember that these words were spoken to a displaced, defeated, depressed group of exiles. They had hung their harps on the willow trees and had lost their song. But with the Lord, things are never hopeless. For I know the plans I have for you…
6. Seek the Lord Above All (v. 13-14): Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. Whatever our circumstances, we can make Him Lord of our lives and seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.