Big Idea: When your heart is aching and longing for something, you need to know God’s plans of peace for you. [God's Plans of Peace for His People.]
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you (give you shalom) and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart’” (Jer 29:11-13).
Jeremiah 29:11--a most beloved verse of Jeremiah, if not of the entire Bible--may be the best known verse in Jeremiah; indeed it is certainly a favorite verse for many Christians. But a full appreciation of this verse requires an understanding of it within the context of the rest of the chapter. It is always important to know that it is not a context-free promise made directly to us but rather a specific word of encouragement from God embedded within a letter written by Jeremiah in Judah directly to the Judahite exiles in Babylon.
Four important dates:
605 B.C. The battle of __________ (Jer 46:2).
597 B.C. First Babylonian exile (Jer 24:1).
587 B.C. Second exile (Jeremiah 39, 52).
539 B.C. Exiles return after 70 years (Jer 29:10).
J_______ wrote this letter from J________ in about 590 BC. Seven years earlier (597 BC) the Babylonians had conquered Jerusalem and took 3,000 Jews into captivity. Three years after the letter was written (587 BC) the Babylonian army would return to Jerusalem and destroy everything (the walls, the Temple, etc.). This letter then was written between the two invasions (see II Kings 24‒25). Verses 1‒3 gives us the basic introductory information:
- The letter is from Jeremiah living in Jerusalem (the city of God, the city of peace—Jeru-shalom). In reality, the letter is from ___.
- It is to 3,000 Jews living in forced exile in B_ (the city of man, the epitome of evil and godlessness; Rev 18). They are h_______!
- The messenger is Elasah (an emissary between Zedekiah, king of Judah and Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.)
- The reason for the letter is that Jeremiah (in Jerusalem) had learned that certain Jewish prophets in Babylon were predicting a s__ stay in exile and a speedy return to Jerusalem (28:2‒4). He warns the exiles not to trust in false prophets deceptive words.
When you are longing with an aching heart (like the exiles) there are very important things that you must:
- K____ (1). Who put you in this situation? Nebuchadnezzar?
- D_ (5-9). i. S_____ d____ for a l___ s___. It will take l_____ than you think! Don’t expect a quick d_______ (5-6). ii. Seek the s_____ of Babylon (7). Choose your B____ t_____/p______ carefully (8-9, 21-23, 24-32; 28:2-4).
- B_______ (10-14). Easy to conclude that God has f_________ them in Babylon.
- A_____ (15-19). Your shalom never depends on your l______/s_______. You don’t have to live in Jeru-______ in order to have s______. Don’t long for the g___ o__ d____ back in Jerusalem. What will happen to the Jerusalem they long for? Why (19)?
[Know, Do, Believe, Accept]
Our human condition: An aching longing heart is like being homesick, as the Israelites were in Babylon (Ps 137:1-6). The great challenge of the Christian journey/pilgrimage is to sing the Lord’s song---in a strange land (Babylon). We must find the grace to live as expat________ or perhaps as people with d___ ci_________. Much of the world’s great literature centers around this theme of homesickness as a most important thing we need to understand about ourselves.
- The Odyssey (Homer). Ulysses is trying to find his way home (Ithaca). One stop on his journey takes him to the island of the lotus-eaters. If you eat the lotus plant you will be “cured” of homesickness by forgetting your true home. Ulysses sees the danger and flees the island.
- E. T. (The Extra-Terrestrial). In the movie, both Elliot and E.T. are homesick, one for his absent father and the other for his extra-terrestrial home. Literally dying of homesickness, E.T. speaks, “E.T… phone… home…”
- The Stranger (L’Etranger) (Albert Camus). This melancholic book shows the meaninglessness of human existence and how alone and alienated we all are.
- Robinson Crusoe (Daniel Defoe). Marooned on an island, Crusoe tries to find meaning in a world where he knows he is far from home.
- The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien). Through their long journey, Frodo and Sam ache with longing to return home to the Shire. But when they finally return, Frodo realizes home is not what he imagined and he gets on a ship and sails into the sunset for his true home.
“But,” said Sam, and tears started in his eyes, “I thought you were going to enjoy the Shire, too, for years and years, after all you have done.” “So I thought too, once,” said Frodo. But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: someone one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King.
The cure for homesickness is this:
- Remember that God is the one in control of your circumstances, not Satan!
- Stop complaining and accept where God has placed you.
- God’s purposes for your life will probably take longer than you think.
- Be very careful about the preachers you listen to.
- Bloom where you are planted. Work and pray for the shalom of Babylon.
- Believe the promises of God… even when it makes no sense.
- Seek the Lord, with all your heart.
"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
Quotes from Ann Lamott (Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy)
Our frail fallible fallen humanity: “There are times in our lives — scary, unsettling times — when we know that we need help or answers but we’re not sure what kind, or even what the problem or question is. We look and look, tearing apart our lives like we’re searching for car keys in our couch, and we come up empty-handed. Then when we’re doing something stupid, like staring at the dog’s mismatched paws, we stumble across what we needed to find. Or even better, it finds us. It wasn’t what we were looking or hoping for, which was usually advice, approval, an advantage, safety, or relief from pain. I was raised to seek or achieve them, but like everyone, I realized at some point that they do not bring lasting peace, relief, or uplift. This does not seem fair, after a lifetime spent in their pursuit.”
Living in fear: Our self-centered fears whisper at us all day: our fear of exposure, of death, and that we will lose those we love most, that we will lose whatever advantage we hold, whatever meager gains we’ve made. We live in terror that our butts will show and people will run from us, screaming.</i></div> </div> <div class="gmail-">" But let’s say we believe that mercy and forgiveness are in fact foundational, innate, what we are grown from and can build on... What if we know that forgiveness and mercy are what heal and restore and define us, that they are the fragrance that the rose leaves on the heel that crushes it?