May 7 – Devotion Sharing (Jeremiah 26-30)

Submitted by Michelle Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

Key Verse
Jeremiah 29:11-13
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. 12 Then you will call upon 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.

God is …
One of the main themes in these chapters is that God sends Judah to exile and Babylonian captivity for their sins. God punishes the nation for their great pride and rebellion by having them serve under Babylonian captivity for 70 years. In Jeremiah 27:6-7, it reads, “Now I will hand all your countries over to my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; I will make even the wild animals subject to him. All nations will serve him and his son and his grandson until the time for his land comes.” However, this exile isn’t the end of the story, but in Jeremiah 30 we read that God will be compassionate and after the 70 years are over, he will break the yoke and tear off their bonds and restore them to himself again. Jeremiah 30:8-11 reads,

8 “‘In that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty,
‘I will break the yoke off their necks
and will tear off their bonds;
no longer will foreigners enslave them.
9 Instead, they will serve the LORD their God
and David their king,
whom I will raise up for them.
10 “‘So do not fear, O Jacob my servant;
do not be dismayed, O Israel,’
declares the LORD.
‘I will surely save you out of a distant place,
your descendants from the land of their exile.
Jacob will again have peace and security,
and no one will make him afraid.
11 I am with you and will save you,’
declares the LORD.
‘Though I completely destroy all the nations
among which I scatter you,
I will not completely destroy you.
I will discipline you but only with justice;
I will not let you go entirely unpunished.’

From this text, I can see the paradoxical nature of God’s character, how he is both wrathful and just and will punish us for our sins but at the same is merciful, forgiving and compassionate. God rightly punishes his people for their great rebellion and refusal to obey him because after all he is a holy God, but there is a note of grace because this punishment doesn’t last forever but is confined to a specific time period after which God promises that he will restore his people once again. This is very hopeful for me because it tells me that my sins don’t have the last word and that in the end I can always hope in God’s grace and mercy. Just like God leads his people through this difficult time of exile, God leads me through periods where I am being disciplined and where he may correct and shape me. When I am going through these times, it may be difficult to struggle, seem gloomy and hopeless at times, but I need to rest in the truth that after the time of bondage and captivity, God will restore me to himself again. God disciplines Judah so that they might learn from their sins and rebellion and so that they can properly and genuinely repent and return to him. I need to realize that this is God’s heart for me when he leads me through these exile-like times. God isn’t out to punish and harm me, but in the end he wants to restore the broken relationship and this is why mercy and grace prevail in the end.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 states, 10 This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call upon 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. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

These verses give me a glimpse of God’s heart when he disciplines me. These verses show me that God loves me so tenderly and dearly like a father loves his child and that he has great plans for me, plans for me to prosper and to give me a hope and future. During these moments when I am struggling with my sins and am being disciplined and being refined in my faith, I may have a gloom and doom mentality, feel like I want to just give up and not struggle and may be unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, these verses remind me that God is in control, that even in the midst of this discipline, he has greater plans and visions for me. I need to keep struggling and pushing on and trust in God because he promises me that if I will seek him with all my heart then I will find him and be restored again.

Lessons for me …
From Jeremiah 29:11-13, I remember how these verses really spoke to me about 10 years ago when I was first seeking God and struggling to make a decision. Back then God seemed so mysterious, distant and unreal. I didn’t understand how I could possibly relate to someone who is invisible and how I could ever surrender my whole life to him. Yet at the same time, I was intrigued by all the things I learned about God and felt like all the stories I read in the Bible always perfectly addressed me. I remember feeling torn and not knowing what to do. On one hand, I wanted to just keep living the life I knew–pursuing the tangible things of this world and making a name for myself through success and ambition. However, on the other hand, there was this God who kept speaking to me, who I couldn’t run away from, who beckoned me to come to him and seek him out with all my heart. I vividly remember reading these verses in Jeremiah 29:11-13 and frequently meditating on them and praying through them. Finally, after a series of struggles and letting go of distractions, I took hold of this promise that God gave me and decided to follow him. Since then, I have really seen these verses come true in my life as I have found God and I have personally experienced the greater plans and hopes and visions he has for my life. I am so thankful that during that time 10 years ago, God called out to me, drew me to himself and rescued me from just settling down for the cheap things of this world. I pray that I can keep clinging on to these verses today. During those times when I feel like I am in exile and when I am being disciplined, I pray that I can cling on to God’s promise that he has greater plans for me through all this, that I just need to keep persevering and sticking it out so that I can experience that deeper and richer life in the end.

I think another lesson I can learn from this text is that there will always be false prophets who preach lies and who try to distract me from following God’s ways. Jeremiah 27:9-11 states, “9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your interpreters of dreams, your mediums or your sorcerers who tell you, ‘You will not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10 They prophesy lies to you that will only serve to remove you far from your lands; I will banish you and you will perish. 11 But if any nation will bow its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let that nation remain in its own land to till it and to live there, declares the LORD.”’”

There were false prophets who preached that Judah will not have to serve the king of Babylon and that they won’t have to go into exile and captivity. These prophets deceived the people and made them think that God will not punish, that he will not hold them accountable for their sins. Likewise, I think that there are many false prophets out there today who tell me what my itching ears want to hear and cause me to fall away from God. When I go through periods of exile and struggle in my own Christian life, there are voices around me that tell me that I don’t have to endure this struggle, that I don’t have to keep on pushing. The voices of this world tell me to just enjoy life, to have fun and to not bother about spiritual matters. Why make my life difficult by trying to obey God and struggling to understand his will when everyone around me is having fun and seems to be advancing in life? During times of struggle, it is easy to give in to these voices and to listen to these false prophets, but I need to be careful to be rooted in the Word of God and to be able to discern true prophets from false ones. Also, I need to grow in my confidence and trust that times of discipline are ultimately for my benefit and God uses these to purify and refine my faith and to bring me closer to him.

Prayer
Heavenly Father, I want to praise you and thank you so much that your justice and wrath do not have the last word. I confess that you are a holy God and that my sins deserve punishment and correction. However, I am so thankful that in the end there is your mercy and grace and that you promise to restore me after the captivity and exile. Lord, I thank you for your unending love and that you promise to save me. I thank you for my salvation and the fact that you called out to me so many years ago and saved me from settling for this world. Thank you for pursuing me and for really showing me the greater plans, hopes and visions you have for my life. I pray that as Christian life is hard, and I am sure that I will face times of exile and discipline in the future, that I will approach it with the right perspective. Instead of having a gloom and doom mentality, I pray that I can place my trust and hope in the fact that you are a God who restores and redeems and that your desire through the correction is to restore my relationship with you and draw me closer to you.

Submitted by David T. from Gracepoint Riverside Church
Key Verse
Jeremiah 30:11 – “I am with you and will save you,” declare the LORD. “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”

God is …
One common theme of chapters 26-28 is the refusal of the people, prophets, and priests of Judah to take Jeremiah’s prophecies of God’s judgment seriously – and they employ different mechanisms to try and to avoid dealing with Jeremiah’s prophecies: the priests and the prophets say that Jeremiah should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against Jerusalem (26:11) and again and again there are references to the false prophets who tell Jerusalem that they will not be exiled but that God will actually deliver them (27:9-10, 29:14-17, 28:2-4, 28:10-17). The message of these false prophets to the people is very clear – “Do not listen to Jeremiah and his words of judgment and ruin. Even though we have done wicked things, God will surely still deliver us – therefore, there is no need for worry.” These false prophets recognize that they are in a dangerous situation with the Babylonians about to overcome their city, but they think that somehow God will certainly come in to save the day, and even rescue those who were already exiled to Babylon within two years.

Jeremiah’s message is very different – he is clear that the threat of the Babylonians and the imminent conquest and exile are things that God is allowing because the Israelites have sinned, done evil, and turned away from God. But that is not God’s complete message – that is not where God’s message ends. With God’s pronouncement of judgment and the exile to Babylon there is also a message of hope and a promise of redemption and restoration. He repeatedly pleads with his people to submit to the imminent judgment – to willingly bow their necks to the conquest of the king of Babylon, so that they might live. And he promises that after seventy years in Babylon, he will surely deliver them and bring them back to the Jerusalem and the land that he had given them. Jeremiah 29:10-14 says:

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 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. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

And Jeremiah 30:3 says,

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their forefathers to possess,” says the LORD.

God is promising his people two things – imminent judgment and eventual restoration. We see this idea again and again in God’s words to his people in Jeremiah 30.

• Jeremiah 30:7 – “How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.”
• Jeremiah 30:11 – “I am with you and will save you,” declare the LORD. “Though I completely destroy all the nations among which I scatter you, I will not completely destroy you. I will discipline you but only with justice; I will not let you go entirely unpunished.”
• Jeremiah 30:12-15, 16-22 – In the first set of verses, God tells his people that this has happened to them because of their great guilt and their many sins, but he follows it up by promising that they will be restored, that their relationship with God will be restored, and that they will once again be his people and he will once again be their God.

And so from this we can get a very clear picture of God’s heart – our God is a just God, and he could not pretend that he did not see the sins of the Israelites and he could not just ignore their sins and brush them under the rug and allow things to go well with his people. The reality was that they had sinned, they had done evil, they had dishonored God’s name, and they had forsaken God. So, judgment had to come because God is a just God. But that is not the whole story on God, because he is not only a just God, but also a God who is full of love and mercy. Even as he was bringing this judgment and punishment down upon his people, he was already promising them forgiveness and restoration. He would not destroy them completely, but would be preparing for their restoration. This is the God that we follow – he is a good God and he is a just God and he takes our sins seriously, even as he is full of love and mercy for us.

Lessons for me
One interesting thing about these chapters that stuck out to me is that both the false prophets and Jeremiah had prophesies of deliverance – but the difference was that the false prophets just made an arbitrary promise that God would deliver them, while Jeremiah’s promise of deliverance was that it would come after the punishment of exile, and in many ways it was through the punishment of exile that the people would come back to God and be restored. The destruction of Jerusalem and the exile would show the Israelites very clearly that their sins were serious – it would show them how serious forsaking God is, and it would also be something very humbling, as through the exile they would recognize how dependent they had always been on God to deliver them and sustain them. And so, at the end of the exile, when God would restore them to Jerusalem and the land he had given to them, their relationship with God would also be restored. And, I think we still see the same pattern in our lives today. I know that many times, part of me wishes that God would work as the false prophets described – I wish that my sins could just get swept under the rug so that we can all just move on, get on with life, and so that that I wouldn’t have to actually deal with my sin. But that is not how things work – God takes my sins seriously because my sins are serious – my sins cause serious hurt to God, to myself, and to other people. Thus, God will confront me on my sin and pronounce judgment on my sin through his Word, through my peers, and through my leaders, and he will insist that my sin get dealt with. And oftentimes dealing with my sins is painful – it is painful to closely examine my sins and all the people that have been hurt, there is the ego-devastation involved with admitting and confessing my sins to others, there are apologies that need to be made, there is the work of repentance, and there is the work of putting new boundaries and accountability to save me. But it is through this pain, grief, shame, and work that God brings his deliverance and restoration. Going through the work of repentance reminds me of my failure reminds me again of how I am an utter failure and a sinner through and through, and that reminds me of how amazing and undeserved the Gospel and salvation are. And it through this work of repentance that I am delivered and rescued from my sins that can ruin me and my future marriage and family, I get rescued from my pride and how it is going to ruin my relationships, and I get rescued from my selfishness and lack of love and how it is going to ruin those I am called to love and those I am trying to minister to. I would not get saved from these sins and their consequences if they were just swept under the rug, but because God deals with me seriously, I am saved.

Prayer
Father God, I want to thank you again that you are a just God, a God of mercy, and a God who saves. Lord, on my own and because of my sinfulness, I was destined for a life of destruction and a life of ruin – ultimately it would be an eternity apart from you, but it was also ruin and isolation and destruction in this present life. But Lord, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and through all the ways I have been disciplined and corrected, my life is very different and I have been saved from so many things. Lord, I see that there is evidence for how you have worked in this way in my life. I pray, please help me to remember this and to submit to your judgment and your justice and your discipline whenever it comes to me – to not try and escape it or avoid it. And I thank you that on the other side of your discipline is your mercy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Jammy Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church
Key Verses:
Jeremiah 26:3
3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done.

Jeremiah 29:10-14
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call upon 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. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

God is…
• God is hopeful that I will listen and turn from my evil ways
• God is willing to relent and bring disaster despite the evil I have done
• God is just
• God is patient
• God is faithful and holds true to his promises
• God is able to be found when I seek him
• God has plans for me
• God does not want to harm me
• God wants to gather and bring me back

Lessons for me…
As I was thinking about all this disaster that is about to happen, from Jeremiah 26:3, the word “perhaps” stands out to me and gives me insight into God’s heart. It’s an expression of possibility, an expression that there still is a chance, that the Israelites are not doomed to destruction. This disaster is upon them because of the “evil they have done,” but despite this God stills hopes and God still believes that they can listen and turn from their evil ways. I think about this verse and wonder if people know that this is God’s heart, that this is his ultimate message that even though we have done wrong, done evil in God’s eyes and in people’s eyes, that there is this message that God still hopes for them. I wonder how many people feel this guilt that there’s no turning back, that they are destined for ruin and all hope is lost. I wonder how many people hold onto this view of their life and end up continuing down this path of destruction. If only they knew God still hopes, that he looks at me and says, “Perhaps…”

While needing to realize that this hope that God has for me is of utmost importance, what preceeds this hope is that of listening. I need to listen to what God has to say, directly to me and through the prophets that he has sent to me. Listening is so important. In the chapters from today’s devotional text, God sends warning to the Israelites through Jeremiah that false prophets were to come their way and prophesy lies. It’s interesting to note that the context of what these false prophets prophesied about were that of what one would hope to hear. What was prophesied was freedom from King Nebuchadnezzar and his rule over the people. I think about in today’s context how we often hear this kind of message where freedom from rule and authority, from difficulty and hardship is promised. This, in the end, is what we all want to hear. We don’t want to experience difficulty and hardship in life. We’re afraid and we run away from any form of trouble and we don’t like it when things don’t go our way. This was the case for the Israelites as false prophets came their way to preach this kind of news. But what does Jeremiah, God’s prophet, say? In a nutshell God says that they will serve King Nebuchadnezzar, and they will be under his rule, but at the same time God says from 29:10-14:

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call upon 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. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

How important it is for me to listen to God! While the immediate situation for the Israelites were for them to be subjugated to the King of Babylon, God also promises that He will come to restore them. I realize that when following God, life is going to present its reality. Life is going to be hard, and it’s not always going to go my way, but ultimately I must listen to God and follow Him. The world is going to prophesy to me promise of security and safety, but I think we all inherently know that’s not how life works. God knows this and because life is a reality I can’t run away from, the better reality is to follow God. God says that when I follow Him, when I take his lead, when I listen to him and when I turn from my own wicked ways that I will be found by Him, that He willing to bring me back from captivity. This truth dispels the myth that God is somehow out to get me, and it reveals often that when I rebel from listening to God, when I follow my own ways, I go against what God wants for my life, which is ultimately for me to thrive and be set free from captivity of sin.

Prayer…
Dear Heavenly Father,
Forgive me for not listening to you and for all my wicked ways. Despite how I am and how I treat you, you still have hope for me. While you still uphold and maintain judgment, you don’t give up on me. Your thoughts are always that of “perhaps” he’ll change his way. You maintain hope in your people listening to you and turning from their wicked ways. O Father, forgive me for trusting in what the world deems as what will bring me peace and what will secure me safety. Money, power, fame, wealth, and comfort are the false prophets today that promise me hope. But these are all lies. They cannot deliver. God only you can deliver me. Help me to turn away from these things, to listen to you, to trust and follow what you tell me to do, to obey you even when sometimes the outcome doesn’t make sense and even when the going gets tough. Father, I know your heart is for me to thrive, that you want me to “prosper,” and that you are not here to “harm” me. Thank you, O Lord, that when I seek you out, that when I call out to you, even when I’ve rebelled and turned away, that you will gather me and bring me back from captivity, that you will break me free from the chains of my sins.

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