When we are at wits end, hope dissipates quickly in various degrees and ways depending on the person, what or whom they believe, and how desperate the situation becomes. How should we handle depressing situations without losing hope? That is the question to answer when God’s plan “not to harm but to prosper” seems out of reach.
No matter what is happening to us, around us and against us, Jeremiah reminds God’s people to accept it from the hand of God and let God have His way. He knows what He is doing as we as what others who don’t believe are thinking and doing. Hanging our feelings on our sleeves while sitting around weeping does no good, although that may be a temporary normal reaction to tragedy. One of the first steps in turning tragedy into triumph is to accept the situation courageously and put ourselves into the hands of a loving God, who makes no mistakes. “I know the plans I have for you…”
The exiles had lost everything but their lives and what few possessions they could carry with them to Babylon. They had lost their freedom and were now captives. They had been taken from their homes and had lost their means of making a living. They were separated from relatives and friends, some of whom may have perished in the long march from Jerusalem to Babylon. No matter how they looked at it, the situation seemed hopeless.
How would this affect you and your family?
Jeremiah 29, The Message
Plans to Give You the Future You Hope For
1-2 This is the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to what was left of the elders among the exiles, to the priests and prophets and all the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem, including King Jehoiachin, the queen mother, the government leaders, and all the skilled laborers and craftsmen.
3 The letter was carried by Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah had sent to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. The letter said:
4 This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:
5 “Build houses and make yourselves at home.
“Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.
6 “Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.
7 “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
“Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”
8-9 Yes. Believe it or not, this is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God: “Don’t let all those so-called preachers and know-it-alls who are all over the place there take you in with their lies. Don’t pay any attention to the fantasies they keep coming up with to please you. They’re a bunch of liars preaching lies—and claiming I sent them! I never sent them, believe me.” God’s Decree!
10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.
“I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.
15-19 “But for right now, because you’ve taken up with these new-fangled prophets who set themselves up as ‘Babylonian specialists,’ spreading the word ‘God sent them just for us!’ God is setting the record straight: As for the king still sitting on David’s throne and all the people left in Jerusalem who didn’t go into exile with you, they’re facing bad times. God-of-the-Angel-Armies says, ‘Watch this! Catastrophe is on the way: war, hunger, disease! They’re a barrel of rotten apples. I’ll rid the country of them through war and hunger and disease. The whole world is going to hold its nose at the smell, shut its eyes at the horrible sight. They’ll end up in slum ghettos because they wouldn’t listen to a thing I said when I sent my servant-prophets preaching tirelessly and urgently. No, they wouldn’t listen to a word I said.’” God’s Decree.
20-23 “And you—you exiles whom I sent out of Jerusalem to Babylon—listen to God’s Message to you. As far as Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah are concerned, the ‘Babylonian specialists’ who are preaching lies in my name, I will turn them over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, who will kill them while you watch. The exiles from Judah will take what they see at the execution and use it as a curse: ‘God fry you to a crisp like the king of Babylon fried Zedekiah and Ahab in the fire!’ Those two men, sex predators and prophet-impostors, got what they deserved. They pulled every woman they got their hands on into bed—their neighbors’ wives, no less—and preached lies claiming it was my Message. I never sent those men. I’ve never had anything to do with them.” God’s Decree.
“They won’t get away with a thing. I’ve witnessed it all.”
24-26 And this is the Message for Shemaiah the Nehelamite: “God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says: You took it on yourself to send letters to all the people in Jerusalem and to the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah and the company of priests. In your letter you told Zephaniah that God set you up as priest replacing priest Jehoiadah. He’s put you in charge of God’s Temple and made you responsible for locking up any crazy fellow off the street who takes it into his head to be a prophet.
27-28 “So why haven’t you done anything about muzzling Jeremiah of Anathoth, who’s going around posing as a prophet? He’s gone so far as to write to us in Babylon, ‘It’s going to be a long exile, so build houses and make yourselves at home. Plant gardens and prepare Babylonian recipes.’”
29 The priest Zephaniah read that letter to the prophet Jeremiah.
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30-32 Then God told Jeremiah, “Send this Message to the exiles. Tell them what God says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Shemaiah is preaching lies to you. I didn’t send him. He is seducing you into believing lies. So this is God’s verdict: I will punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his whole family. He’s going to end up with nothing and no one. No one from his family will be around to see any of the good that I am going to do for my people because he has preached rebellion against me.” God’s Decree.
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
The false prophets had convinced the people that the stay in Babylon would be brief; so, they did not need to settle down and try to resume a normal life. But Jeremiah told them just the opposite. Since they would be there for seventy years, they would have plenty of time to build houses and set up homes. It was important that the exiles have families so that people would be available to return to Judea when the captivity ended.
Dear friends, think about it! This small Jewish remnant was holding in their hands the future of God’s great plan of salvation, so they must obey Him, be fruitful, and multiply. We must consistently pray for discernment in seemingly hopeless situations against the false hope from lying, self-motivated prophets. Trust God. Seek Him first and always. Listen to Him. HE knows the plans HE has for us…
To indulge in false hope is to miss what God has planned for us.
True hope is based on the revealed Word of God, not on the dream messages of self-appointed prophets. God had given His people a gracious promise to deliver them, and He would keep His promise. God makes His plans for His people, and they are good plans that ultimately bring hope and peace. His people have no reason, therefore, to be afraid or discouraged.
In every situation, God’s people have the responsibility to seek the Lord, pray, and ask Him to fulfill His promises, for the Word and prayer go together (See Acts 6:4). The purpose of discipline from God is that we might seek the Lord, confess our sins, and draw near to Him and learn from our mistakes (See Hebrews 12:5–13).
According to Jeremiah 29:14, these promises reach beyond the Jews captive in Babylon and include all of Israel throughout the world. Jeremiah was looking ahead…to the coming Messiah to the end of the age when Israel will be regathered to meet their Messiah and enter their kingdom (Isaiah 10:20—12:6).
God’s plan for us? Jesus. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus came to bring hope, peace along with salvation. Jesus is Truth. Jesus is our Hope. Jesus is God’s Plan for us.
God’s plan for us is not as complicated as we try to make it as we muddy the waters with our own spin and opinions, desires and wishes. Relax. Lay down our will and listen to His Plan. Pray the prayer of the fully committed who ask God what HE wants for their lives and then follow HIS plan.
Oh friends, look again at what God promises to His people after their captivity and exile is over:
“I’ll show up and care for you…”
“I’ll bring you back home…”
“I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”
“When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.”
“When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.”
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.”
When I lose hope, I have to ask myself, how serious am I? Do I really believe what God says is really real? The answer is the measure of our Hope and assurance that God is real and does what He promises.
We sing songs of hope but do we walk in Hope? Do our lives display Hope in our demeanor? Jesus came to set the captives free from the punishment for their own sins. WE are the captives! Jesus delivers us from the bondage of sin that we tied ourselves up in of our own making. He forgives, sends us on our way to “go and sin no more” for that is not the life for us any longer. He gives us the Help of His Holy Spirit with our Hope so we will follow His plan to grow in His ways of love, grace, and mercy for others. The New Covenant with God is saying yes to Jesus.
Jesus’ promises to us are the same as God’s promises stated above—
“I’ll show up, bring you home where you belong with me. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen. When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.” Read the gospels and you will see the same message.
So…how serious are we? What life does to us depends largely on what life finds in us. If we seek the Lord and want His best, then circumstances will build us and prepare us for what He has planned. If we rebel or if we look for quick and easy shortcuts, then our circumstances will destroy us and rob us of the future God wants us to enjoy. The same sun that melts the ice also hardens the clay. God’s thoughts and plans concerning us come from His heart and lead to His peace. Why look for substitutes?
You are the Potter, I am the clay. Mold me and shape me to be all you created me to be. I believe. I repent of all my sins. I trust in your Plan to save me, care for me now while giving me a future with you forever. You are my Hope. Make my desires match your desires for me.
In Jesus Name, Amen