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Nov 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jeremiah chapter 29 – 11/05/2023



Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles who I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare”
Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

Intro: A god who never surprises us nor could ever surprise us, a god we could know perfectly well,
whose every move we could predict, who has no secrets, so there’s no mystery, no confusion, no missing pieces, is not the God of the Scriptures
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,
declares the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9)
– the only gods that never surprise us are the ones we make
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them (Psa. 115:6-8)
– when it comes to living with God, however, we don’t like surprises
• we would prefer to be dogmatic and sure of ourselves
• if so, God may have to pry open that god-box in our brains

Jeremiah’s prophecies turn a corner in chapter 29

For the next five chapters, he delivers messages that are positive
– this new tone begins with a letter Jeremiah sent to the Jewish exiles in Babylon
• he told them that they were to make themselves at home in their captivity
“build houses . . . plant gardens . . . multiply”
◦ these words echo what God told Israel before entering the promised land
• they were also to pray for the cities where they were settled
for in its welfare you will find your welfare
◦ welfare translates that rich Hebrew word shalom
◦ their peace and prosperity was tied to those foreign cities where they now lived
– seen from God’s perspective, the exile was their punishment
• but it was also a time of purification (never again would they turn to idols or other gods)
◦ once they had served their sentence, they would return
For thus says the LORD: When seventy hears are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope Jeremiah 29:10-11
◦ then they would walk with God like before
Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile Jeremiah 29:12-14
“restore your fortunes” is a catchphrase that refers to the restoration and rebuilding of Israel
◦ it will appear seven more times in the positive outlook of these chapters

To say Jeremiah’s letter was controversial would be a gross understatement

It was scandalous and could even be perceived as treasonous
– Babylon was their nation’s enemy – their masters and oppressors
• it was a pagan nation, devoted to foreign gods
• how could a devout Jew embrace Babylon as their home?
◦ life in Babylon was the epitome of misery
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:1-4)
– remember how it felt when defectors left the USA to live in Russia during the Cold War?
• the reaction to Jeremiah’s letter would be like that
• in fact, there was a complaint in Babylon, carried all way back to Jerusalem
◦ letters were sent to priest in charge of the temple
The LORD has made you priest . . . to have charge in the house of the LORD over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “You exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce Jeremiah 29:26-28
◦ even in Babylon, they still resisted God and the reality of their situation

With a bit of imagination, we can identify with the Jews in exile

This was suggested by Stanley Hauerwas, a Christian intellectual
– he says that Christian believers are “resident aliens” in the world
• we do not belong to the State nor any institution
◦ our ultimate loyalty is to God and his son Jesus
◦ Paul made a similar statement in his letter to Philippians
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Php. 3:20)
• but saying this today is as controversial as Jeremiah’s letter, and to some people, a scandal
– many Christians in the U.S. are engaged in “culture wars”
• the battle fields include the media, the entertainment industry, politics, and education
◦ they want to enforce Christian standards throughout society
◦ ironically, they use the world’s methods to fight the world–unlike Paul who said:
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds (2 Cor. 10:3-4)
and we do not wrestle against flesh and blood . . . . (Ep. 6:10-12)
• there are lots of problems with this way of thinking and acting
◦ but pointing them out, you run the risk of them turning guns on you

There is no such thing as a “Christian” culture
– there are Christian subcultures–even movements that have become Christian subcultures
• but culture does not define a Christian or a Christian community
◦ culture is a human artifact
◦ it has to do with how a group of people behave and interact
• no culture on earth is perfectly good nor all bad
– Christian faith is something that is to be lived in every culture
• culture is not the problem – culture is not the enemy
◦ Christianity’s finest hours have emerged in the darkest cultures and darkest times
◦ the challenge is to live in a culture or cultures without being conformed by them

We will never find our true home anywhere in the world
– we are benevolent strangers in our culture
• the heroes of faith that are listed in Hebrews chapter 11
all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth (Heb. 11:13)
◦ and Peter wrote:
Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul (1 Pe. 2:11)
• our not belonging to this world, but to Jesus, exempts us from engaging in unnecessary conflict
– we can build our home here in popular culture
• it is just a temporary home

Conclusion: These are the thoughts that I draw from Jeremiah

Sometimes God shocks us with his openness and generosity
– Jesus shocked the religious folks in the way he treated the Sabbath
“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27-28)
• Jesus also told us that our heavenly Father
makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, and in the same way that he is merciful, even as your Father is merciful (Mt. 5:45)
◦ and for that reason we are to love our enemies (Lk. 6:35-36)

Sometimes God pushes us into places we would avoid
– a powerful example of that is God sending Peter to Caesarea
– the story is told in such a way that we feel Peter’s discomfort
• entering the home of a Gentile felt repulsive to him (Acts 10:28)
• he had to get over that
◦ the entire community of disciples had to get over it (Acts 11:3 & 16-18; Acts 15:1-2 & 13-19)

God sometimes opens a door that we didn’t even know existed
– our awareness of where God works and with whom he works is constricted and narrow
– what God has to say to us is vast, beyond our comprehension, but within the scope of our potential awareness

We need a different vision of our role in world besides culture wars
If we can become free from worldly attachments, we will be able to learn to love everyone
William James gave a lecture on “The Value of Saintliness”
he said saints were sometimes excessive in their charity,
but he also said at times, their excessive love was a “genuinely creative social force”
William James, “The saints are authors . . . increasers, of goodness.”
That is what we can be – increasers of goodness in the world
And that is the reflection of Jesus that the world needs in his followers

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