Friday after the Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Jeremiah 29:1-19 (NKJV)
1 Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive—to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, 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 who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the LORD.
10 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. 15 Because you have said, “The LORD has raised up prophets for us in Babylon”—16 therefore thus says the LORD concerning the king who sits on the throne of David, concerning all the people who dwell in this city, and concerning your brethren who have not gone out with you into captivity—17 thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will send on them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like rotten figs that cannot be eaten, they are so bad. 18 And I will pursue them with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence; and I will deliver them to trouble among all the kingdoms of the earth—to be a curse, an astonishment, a hissing, and a reproach among all the nations where I have driven them, 19 because they have not heeded My words, says the LORD, which I sent to them by My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; neither would you heed, says the LORD.
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer. 29:11)
The Lord had threatened to unleash His judgment against the children of Israel, and unleash it He did. They were over-run, looted, plundered; men were killed, women were “taken advantage of;” and many were taken off into exile in Babylon. The theology of “ex opere operato,” the notion that because the Ark of the Covenant was among them God would never let them fall, this false doctrine was proven wrong. When we imagine that a “sacrament” makes it safe to be wicked, we are making a faithless use of a gift that was given to strengthen faith, and God will not long tolerate that.
Now, broken and shattered and in exile, the Law had done its work. So God speaks this word of Gospel, this message of “a future and a hope.” Bringing Israel harm was not God’s ultimate goal. Bringing them to repentance and returning them to faith in Him was the goal. He did that. And their future would still be what God called them into existence for in the first place: that they would be His vessel for bringing the Savior into the world.
In the hour of grave trial, do not despair. For the Lord knows the thoughts He thinks toward you, too…thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you forgiveness of sins, life, and eternal salvation through our Savior Jesus Christ.