- Sermon Notes
Trust in God’s Faithfulness
The section we are in today is set in the time when the Jews were taken into exile to Babylon. From biblical history, we see that God warned them many times that if they would continue following after foreign gods and idols, this would happen.
To a certain degree, God was giving them exactly what they wanted, showing them the effect of idol worship, as they were taken away as captives to the idolatrous capital, Babylon. When the heart follows after other things it inevitably leads to captivity.
So now they find themselves in Babylon and you can imagine there could be some confusion about what they should do now. They were in this predicament because they did not worship God and were not faithful to God.
Some, like Daniel and his friends, were faithful to God, but were part of this collective.
Some might’ve felt that there was no hope left. Others listened to false prophets like Hananiah who prophesied that this hardship would all be over within two years.
So, either they were sitting in the corner, having given up on the future, or ‘living from their suitcases’ stuck in the waiting.
We then come to this section where Jeremiah sends this letter to the exiles in Babylon which cements the truth and shows them God’s heart. This would also give them direction and a vision for the future.
Although they as a nation have forsaken God and were experiencing the consequences, God was not done with them and had not given up on them. Although they were unfaithful, God stays faithful to His word and His promises. This season that they were going through was not the end as God was also in this.
There is much to apply to our lives as well. Many go through seasons that are sometimes difficult with questions that arise challenging their faith. Sometimes it is because of their own choices of the past. God will sometimes allow you to follow the desires of your heart so that you can see the destructive force behind it.
Or sometimes, like Daniel and his three friends, you find yourself in a challenging situation even though you were faithful to God.
We will see in the section that God is faithful and that we should hold on to His promises. The plans He has for us are to prosper, and not to harm, plans to give us hope and a future.
He wants to confirm our identity in Him, grounding us in our relationship with Him instead of the things of the world.
I. Hold on To God’s Word
In times of trouble and uncertainty, there are many voices with many opinions. As said before, there were even false prophets who brought different words, confusing the people concerning their future.
This is so relevant in the day and age that we live in. So many voices are stirring confusion in the hearts of people. Jeremiah was bringing the true word of God to cut through the lies and bring direction and hope to the people. Now they had to hold on to this word.
A. Look to God
- Verse 4 – ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel…’’ It is so comforting to see these words. After they messed up, God did not give up on them. He did not turn a blind eye to them. God still had something to say. God was and is intimately involved in the process.
- This showed God’s heart. He allowed this because He loved them and did not want them to be destroyed.
- Not only this, but God reaffirms His power, the Lord of Hosts, and their relationship to Him, reaffirming Himself as the God of Israel.
- In effect, God is drawing their attention back to Him, speaking truth into their situation.
Illus – Sometimes as a parent, you need to take your child’s face in your hands, look them straight in the eye, and speak words of encouragement and truth into their lives…
- We need to regularly be reminded of who God is, and what truth He is speaking over our lives, especially when we go through times of trouble and uncertainty.
- He is the God of heaven and earth. When He speaks, it will be done. He watches over his promises.
Philippians 1:6, For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 55:8-12, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor 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. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. For you will go out with joy and be led forth with peace;
Jeremiah 1:12, Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over My word to perform it.”
- By saying that He is the God of Israel, God is affirming His relationship with them. Even through the many times that they were unfaithful, God still identifies Himself as their God, that they belong to Him, and He is watching over them and has a purpose and a plan for them.
- What a wonderful assurance it is for us as well. If you have put your faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you belong to God. Even when we miss the mark, God is saying, I am your God. Even when you’re afraid, I am your God. I will not leave you, I will not forsake you, you are mine.
- Much of the onslaught on people is the targeting of their identity.
Illus – The other day I was reading an article on different types of disorders and addictions people are stuck in. This was written by secular psychologists. The recurring theme they identified on why people mentally got stuck in these problems was they had low self-esteem and self-worth. This results in them becoming slaves to destructive habits and forces. To this I ask the question, what should self-esteem and self-worth be grounded on? The only one that can define worth is the creator. Any other definition would fluctuate and be subjective.
- God is the one that defines you and determines your worth and He will not forget you.
Isaiah 49: 15-16, “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
- When trouble times come, and it will, it is not the time to look around anxiously trying to find strength in something else to sustain you. It is a time to look to God and his word and to stand firm on his promises.
- Remember, God was the author of this story, and when your life is surrendered to Him, He is the author of your story as well.
B. Keep on Living with Hope
- One can only imagine how overwhelmed they must’ve felt. Having been taken from their land to a new country against their will, into the unknown, not knowing what to expect. The words of the Psalm made famous by Boney M. give us some insight into their perspective.
Psalm 137:1, By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.
- They remembered everything they lost, everything they built up over many years taken away in an instant. Moreover, they were in a place where they didn’t want to be with people they didn’t like lording over them.
- No wonder the false prophets were telling them that this will end soon. They wanted to return to the status quo, to the comfortable life they were used to.
- But this was not to be. God was giving them a new vision, a new directive, even though it wasn’t necessarily what they wanted to hear.
- God knew what was best for them in the situation because if they were to go back to their old comfortable lives, they would once again fall back into their old destructive habits. God had a different better future planned for them.
- Remember, some of them were there because of their own doing, but some were part of this story even though they were faithful.
- All were instructed to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and grow crops. Pray for the city they were in. Its welfare would be their welfare. In other words, keep on living, planting, living invested where you are. Marry, have children. There must be offspring.
Illus. – In the year 1519, Hernán Cortés arrived in the “New World” with 600 men, and upon arrival, made history by “burning his ships.” This sent a clear message to his men. There is no turning back!
- God was having a ‘burning the ships’ conversation with Israel. There would be no going back anytime soon. Get invested where you are.
- Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you didn’t think you would be. You are not where you planned, maybe even with people that you didn’t see in your future. You might also be longing back to the times when things were different.
- If we truly believe that God is the author of our story and that our lives are surrendered to Him, it gives us great peace in the journey.
- Understanding this though, changes your perspective from ‘hold your breath till it’s over’ to actively engaging in the season.
Illus – We had a few disruptive seasons in our lives…
- God is calling us to live and be fruitful where we are. Build in the situation. Be proactive. Have a different spirit. Pray for where you’re planted. You are there as a light in the darkness. God can use you as an agent of change where you are.
- Do what is put in front of you. It might just be what God has purposed to work some fruit in you that you didn’t even realize you needed.
Illus – One of the results of this exile was that because of what God did through Daniel and his friends, God was honored as the most powerful and most high God by Nebuchadnezzar, even in Babylon!
- This is the challenge every Christian is facing in the day and age we are living in. We see the downward spiral of society. But this is not the time to sit in the corner and wait for Christ’s return. It is a time to be fruitful and available to be used by God.
II. Trust God in the Season
The challenge is to keep on having faith, trusting in God’s plan in the season. It is easy to learn the theory, but when the practical application starts one has to fall back on what you learned and trust the process. God has many promises, and we need to anchor our souls in the truth of those promises so that we can stand in the middle of the storm.
A. Rest in God’s perfect timing
- God wanted the people to know that this would not be a short endeavor but that it would also not continue forever. Although this was not what they wanted to hear it did give hope for the future. All was not lost.
- Verse 10 – “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.
- I just love this verse. God is not vague concerning the future, but He gives a definite time when the season would end and His purpose would be completed.
- When one is in the middle of a challenging season, it seems like it will never end. Worry and anxiety can consume your thoughts and paralyze you.
- When it seems like there is no hope or purpose, a vision for the future, everything might seem pointless.
Proverbs 29:18, Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained (perish)
- like Paul said in 1 Corinthians when he spoke of what people would live like without hope in Christ for the future, ‘Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die.’
- This is why God gave them a vision for the future. God didn’t bring the season to discourage them; in fact, He was using this to refocus them and make them stronger for the future.
- God was restoring a hunger for Him, His purposes, who they were as a nation and their covenant with God. They were remembering what they lost: Zion.
- It is important for us to also recognize that whatever season you are in God has set a time for it to be finished. We love this saying in our house, “It too shall pass’. He is not playing it by ear. He is intimately involved in the process and the timing.
Psalm 30:5, Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
- This gives us hope to hold on to. God will fulfill his promises. This did not only give hope, but in their history, it once again became proof that God was whom He said He was because it came to pass exactly as He said it would.
- God would fulfill His good word to them, to bring them back to the place of promise. His thoughts are good, and the promise was grounded in the covenant God made with Abraham, confirmed with Isaac, again confirmed with Jacob, and as such extending to them.
- In Christ, we are under the new covenant through the blood of Jesus Christ. Just like Israel standing on the covenant God had with them, we can stand strong on the promises we have in Christ Jesus under the new covenant.
2 Corinthians 1:20, For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.
B. God will restore
- Verse 10 – ‘…bring you back to the place.’ God promised to restore them after the appointed time had been completed.
- What they were restored to, however, did not look exactly the same as it was before because what they came out of was not healthy and good. What they went back to was different, but it was good.
Jeremiah 29:11, For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.
- This is the essence of God’s heart for us. God wants it to go well with us. He wants a beautiful future for us and to have us grounded in hope.
- If God did not intervene by allowing this exile, Israel could’ve spiritually gone totally off the rails and would’ve been lost. This could not be allowed to happen, as the hope of the world, Jesus Christ, was to come out of this nation.
- There is a deep truth in this. This promise speaks of Jesus. Our ‘welfare’ comes through Him. In Him and only Him do we find life and life in abundance. In Him only do we have a secure future and an eternal Hope.
- We have the privilege to look at this in hindsight. We see that God did perform exactly what he promised. After 70 years they did return to Jerusalem. They did rebuild, but more than this they were restored in the relationship with God in the time of Nehemiah. They once again found the scroll of God’s word. They once again repented and returned to God.
C. Seek God with all your heart
- This was the ultimate aim: A heart transformation. A relationship. Your relationship deepens as you journey with God.
- Verse 12-13, 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 search for Me with all your heart.
- This verse implies that their hearts would be turned to God and that they would seek Him.
- When we are in difficult seasons, it is the time to call upon God and to seek Him with all our hearts. This is where our relationship with God grows and deepens as we journey with Him.
- Ultimately, this word was a word of hope urging Israel to surrender to God’s timing and purpose, trusting in His faithfulness.
- Surrendering to God is the key. Knowing that He is faithful and wants the best for us, we can rest in His timing, not stop living, but continue living actively focused on His guidance and purposes.
Rom 8:28, And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
- This should be our prayer. Like Daniël, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego I will surrender to your timing and purpose, living productively where I am planted and to be used for your glory trusting in your faithfulness.
Jeremiah 29:1-14 NASB
29 Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the prophets and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the court officials, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.) 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, 4 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their [a]produce. 6 Take wives and [b]become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. 7 Seek the [c]welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its [d]welfare you will have [e]welfare.’ 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to [f]the dreams which [g]they dream. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,’ declares the Lord.
10 “For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I [h]have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 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 search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your [i]fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’