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Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland
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Jeremiah, the reluctant prophet

#12
The Promise of Return


Jeremiah 29:4-14 (New Century Version)
4 This is what the L
ORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says to all those people I sent away from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow. 6 Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married so they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children in Babylon; don’t become fewer in number. 7 Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the LORD for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also"  8The LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: "Don’t let the prophets among you and the people who do magic fool you. Don’t listen to their dreams. 9 They are prophesying lies to you, saying that their message is from me. But I did not send them,” says the LORD.

10
This is what the
LORD says: "Babylon will be powerful for seventy years. After that time I will come to you, and I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11 I say this because I know what I am planning for you," says the LORD. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. 12 Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! 14 I will let you find me," says the LORD. "And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place, but I will gather you from all the nations, from the places I have sent you as captives," says the LORD. "And I will bring you back to this place."


It was never God's plan to destroy Israel as a nation -- as a people.  He did intend to destroy their property and remove them from the land.  

However, the nation was already on a course of self destruction, and God wanted to spare them.  In their pursuit of pleasure, they would have ended their own existence as a nation.  And worse, individually they would find themselves eternally separated from God.

Jesus said,
"Whoever will save his life shall lose it, and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it.  For what does it profit a  man if he gains the whole world, but lose his own soul?"  (Mattew 16:25-26)
When children become defiant and rebellious, a wise parent will immediately respond by withholding the child's treasured privilages, until the child corrects not only his behavior, but also his attitude.  This is escientially what God did with the nation of Israel.  The time had come for firm discipline.

God deals with us in the same way.    God will often allow us to lose that which the world treasures as valuable --  physical beauty, abilities, posessions -- if they interfer with our inner development.  His goal for us is to reflect the character of Christ Himself.

God said concerning one who might have been chosen as a king for Israel:
"Do on consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things make looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  (1 Samuel 16:7)
An energetic and athletic Christian teenager named Joni Eareckson broke her neck in a swimming accident.  She might have drowned, had her sister not found her in time.  However, the accident left her completely paralized from the neck down.  She has no use of her arms, hands, and legs.  Eventually she learned that God could use her more effectively reach people for Christ from her wheelchair that she could able-bodied.  She has touched thousands of people, through her story.  She has made the church aware of the needs of disabled people around the world.   Every day she lives that the Apostle Paul wrote:
 So that I would not become too proud of the wonderful things that were shown to me, a painful physical problem was given to me. This problem was a messenger from Satan, sent to beat me and keep me from being too proud.  I begged the Lord three times to take this problem away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.” So I am very happy to brag about my weaknesses. Then Christ’s power can live in me.  For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.  (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NCV)

GRACE:

For centuries Israel had been living like a heathen nation.  But God did not give up and
write them off as another heathen nation.  God still had plans of fulfilling His promise He had made to Abraham 1,400 years earlier.  God had promised to Abraham that He would bring salvation to us through Abraham's descendants.  God was not finished blessing the Jews yet!   And He was not finished brining His blessing to the whole world through the Israel.

Through Jeremiah, God promised Israel that their "Time Out" in Babylon would be 70 years:
10 This is what the LORD says: "Babylon will be powerful for seventy years. After that time I will come to you, and I will keep my promise to bring you back to Jerusalem. 11 I say this because I know what I am planning for you," says the LORD. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future. 12 Then you will call my name. You will come to me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will search for me. And when you search for me with all your heart, you will find me! 14 I will let you find me," says the LORD. "And I will bring you back from your captivity. I forced you to leave this place, but I will gather you from all the nations, from the places I have sent you as captives," says the LORD. "And I will bring you back to this place."
(See what happened 70 years later:
    Daniel 9
    Ezra 1
    2 Chronicles 36:20-23)

But until that time when God would fulfill His promise, He still had plans for Israel -- it just was not what they had planned:
4 This is what the LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says to all those people I sent away from Jerusalem as captives to Babylon: 5 "Build houses and settle in the land. Plant gardens and eat the food they grow. 6 Get married and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons, and let your daughters be married so they also may have sons and daughters. Have many children in Babylon; don’t become fewer in number. 7 Also do good things for the city where I sent you as captives. Pray to the LORD for the city where you are living, because if good things happen in the city, good things will happen to you also"
APPLICATION #1
American Christians live in a pagan society:  This is not our home.  There is still the promise that
      (a) Christ will return and
      (b) we will get to go home with Him. 

Society will see certain self-destruction (Jeremiah 12).   But, like the Jews in Babylon, God calls Christians to live as "salt" and "light" in a pagan society.  Through our lives and testimony, God uses us as a positive influence on those who don't know Him.
      [Jesus said,]  "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on.
     "You are the light that gives light to the world. A city that is built on a hill cannot be hidden.  And people don’t hide a light under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand so the light shines for all the people in the house.  In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and will praise your Father in heaven."  (Matthew 5:13-16)
Like the Jews in Babylon, God calls Christians to "pray for the welfare of the city, for its welfare is your welfare" (Jer 29:7).  In the New Testament, Paul wrote:
     Pray for rulers and for all who have authority so that we can have quiet and peaceful lives full of worship and respect for God.  This is good, and it pleases God our Savior,who wants all people to be saved and to know the truth.  (1 Timothy 2:2-4)
     All of you must yield to the government rulers. No one rules unless God has given him the power to rule, and no one rules now without that power from God. So those who are against the government are really against what God has commanded. And they will bring punishment on themselves Those who do right do not have to fear the rulers; only those who do wrong fear them. Do you want to be unafraid of the rulers? Then do what is right, and they will praise you.  The ruler is God’s servant to help you. But if you do wrong, then be afraid. He has the power to punish; he is God’s servant to punish those who do wrong.  So you must yield to the government, not only because you might be punished, but because you know it is right.
     This is also why you pay taxes. Rulers are working for God and give their time to their work.  Pay everyone, then, what you owe. If you owe any kind of tax, pay it. Show respect and honor to them all.  (Romans 13:1-7)
And Peter wrote:
For the Lord’s sake, yield to the people who have authority in this world: the king, who is the highest authority, and the leaders who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.  It is God’s desire that by doing good you should stop foolish people from saying stupid things about you.  Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Live as servants of God.  Show respect for all people: Love the brothers and sisters of God’s family, respect God, honor the king.  (1 Peter 2:13-17)

APPLICATION #2
In Jeremiah's day -- and all through the Bible -- Israel was distracted and deceived by false prophets.
 8The LORD All-Powerful, the God of Israel, says: "Don’t let the prophets among you and the people who do magic fool you. Don’t listen to their dreams. 9 They are prophesying lies to you, saying that their message is from me. But I did not send them,” says the LORD.
So also in our day.  We are bombed with messages that mock God and His Word.  And also we endure false prophets even in the church who deny the truth of God's Word and twist it to suit their own purposes.  

Just like Israel, we must be alert and hold to the truth as God has clearly revealed it in Scripture.


APPLICATION #3
God does not give up on you, just as he did not give up on Israel.  No matter how great your sin, He still loves you and forgives you and through His Son Jesus restores you to fellowship with Him.  Our disobedience does not negate the promises of God.

Examples:
    Moses
    Peter (and all the Disciples)
    Saul > Paul
    In the past you were spiritually dead because of your sins and the things you did against God.  Yes, in the past you lived the way the world lives, following the ruler of the evil powers that are above the earth. That same spirit is now working in those who refuse to obey God.  In the past all of us lived like them, trying to please our sinful selves and doing all the things our bodies and minds wanted. We should have suffered God’s anger because of the way we were. We were the same as all other people.
    But God’s mercy is great, and he loved us very much.  Though we were spiritually dead because of the things we did against God, he gave us new life with Christ. You have been saved by God’s grace.  And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the heavens. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus.  I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God.  It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it.  God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus, God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.  (Ephesians 2:1-10)
If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  But if we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins, because we can trust God to do what is right. He will cleanse us from all the wrongs we have done.  (1 John 1:8,9)

My dear children, I write this letter to you so you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have a helper in the presence of the Father -- Jesus Christ, the One who does what is right.  He is the way our sins are taken away, and not only our sins but the sins of all people.
 (1 John 2:1,2)