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Sunday, August 7, 2016

An Encouraging Letter (Jeremiah 29:1, 25)

"This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon."

Jeremiah doesn't begin his letter with greeting-trivia such as, "How's the weather?" or "How's the family?" Jeremiah cuts to the chase in his letter to those carried away into captivity by immediately instructing the people to dig in because they were going to be in Babylon for a while -- for seventy years. He also tells them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon. He warns them to ignore the false prophets who pretend to speak on Jeremiah's behalf. He ends his letter by assuring them of God's grace.

Jeremiah wasn't the only one writing letters. Shemaiah also wrote letters "back home" to people in Jerusalem regarding Jeremiah--he wants him reprimanded!

A third letter was exchanged as well when Jeremiah responds to Shemaiah's letter. In it he promises Shemaiah that he will pay the price for preaching rebellion against God.

The exiles living in Babylon needed encouragement. Their entire lives had been turned upside down. Jeremiah's letter does everything a letter should do for those living in captivity. It gives them a timeline (letting them know that the LORD has an "end game"), and it communicates grace (God will be found by those who seek Him). God let them know that He isn't some regional/local god (like the gods of the nations around them) remaining in Israel while His people are elsewhere, but that He is assessable by anyone anywhere who seek Him.

Jeremiah's letter contains good news for the exiles:
  • They don't need to resent the Babylonians; if they will pray for their peace they themselves will also experience peace
  • They will return to Israel in seventy years; though they've broken covenant with God, He has kept covenant with them
  • In spite of Israel's rebellion and unfaithfulness God still desires a relationship with Israel; if they will seek Him He will be found by them
Proverbs 25:25 summarizes Jeremiah's letters, "As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country."

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Jeremiah 29:1-32
  • To whom does Jeremiah write this letter and what are his instructions to the people?
  • What does Jeremiah promise the exiles?
  • What does God reveal about Himself and the people in 29:23?
  • Who is Shemaiah and how does he respond to Jeremiah's message?
  • Describe Zedekiah's reign. How long does he have before the final deportation occurs?
Jeremiah 49 (Elam is now southwest Iran and Khuzestan with Susa as its captital city)
  • What does Jeremiah prophecy regarding Elam's immediate future?
  • What promise does he make regarding their distant future? What does this tell you about God?
Jeremiah 50
  • What analogy does Jeremiah use to describe Israel and what are the implications of this analogy?
  • Who will destroy the Babylonians? Why? What does this tell you about God? Review Daniel 4:35 and Psalm 33:10-11
  • What does the LORD reveal about Himself through this narrative in today's reading?
Turning Truth to Prayer
Pray for our nation. Ask the Lord to open our eyes and our understanding so that we may be able to comprehend what is taking place in the political/spiritual realm. Pray also about writing a letter to encourage someone who is in the midst of a difficult situation.