Seek the Welfare of Your City (Jeremiah 29:1-7)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | November 2, 2014 | Based on a sermon by the same title by Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Lansing, MI.


Text:

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 produce.  6 ‘Take wives and 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 ‘And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’  8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,  9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.  10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear 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 I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. (Jer. 29:1-14) 

Notes:

  • God called Jeremiah to warn the kingdom of Judah of its impending destruction.
  • When Jeremiah began preaching, Judah was relatively prosperous, free, and secure, but the kingdom’s fortunes changed dramatically as Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon asserted his power in the region.
  • Judah suffered under his heavy hand for twenty years before he destroyed the city of Jerusalem and exiled its citizens to Babylon.
  • Throughout these events, Jeremiah warned of judgment and destruction while recording his own experience of the pain and conflict these announcements brought.
  • As God tenderly begged his people to return to him and receive salvation, Jeremiah beautifully conveyed God’s promise to restore Israel as his people.

The question is How does this fit into God’s big picture, and how is the modern church like Israel in exile in Babylon?

SETTING

  • During the decades before Jeremiah’s birth, Assyria dominated the ancient Near East,
  • King Manasseh of Judah became an Assyrian vassal, swore allegiance to the Assyrian deities, and worshiped idols (see 2 Kgs 21:1-7) for most of his long reign (686–642 BC).
  • As a result, the kingdom of Judah became a spiritual wasteland (but see 2 Chr 33:10-17).
  • Manasseh’s son Amon followed his father’s negative example during his short reign (2 Kgs 21:21).
  • When some of the palace servants in Jerusalem assassinated Amon (2 Kgs 21:23-24), his eight-year-old son, Josiah, was quickly crowned king of Judah.
  • Josiah served the Lord and rejected his father’s and grandfather’s support of paganism.
  • In the twelfth year of his reign, he decreed that pagan idols and altars should be destroyed (2 Chr 34:3-7).
  • In his eighteenth year on the throne, he funded the repair of the Temple so that the priests and people of Judah could participate in worshiping the one true God (2 Chr 34:8).
  • During these repairs, the Book of the Law, which had been forgotten during Manasseh’s reign, was recovered.
  • It so clearly described Judah’s sins in Jeremiah’s time that its teachings became a significant basis for Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry.
  • Jeremiah was born into a priestly family in the small town of Anathoth, a few miles north of Jerusalem.
  • He was familiar with the history of God’s relationship with Israel and with the covenant God had made with Israel under Moses.
  • That knowledge was enhanced by the recovery of the Book of the Law.
  • Jeremiah’s ministry began about 627 BC, soon after the Book of the Law was found.
  • King Josiah’s death in battle with the Egyptians in 609 BC(2 Kgs 23:29) spelled the end of revival in Judah and the beginning of the end of the nation.
  • Between 612 and 605 BC, the Babylonians rose to power and crushed the Assyrians and beat back the Egyptians;
  • Judah’s security and prosperity ended as the Babylonians gained control of the region.
  • Between 605 and 586 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked, defeated, and finally destroyed the kingdom of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.
  • But before the captivity took place, we read in Chapter 27 how Jeremiah illustrated what was about to happen. by making a wooden yoke and fastening it around his neck. He explained that…
    • Judah will be subjected to yoke of Nebuchadnezzar because of her sins for a lengthy period of time, for 70 years.
    • And He warned the people not to listen to the false prophets’ promises that either judgment will not come, or that their exile will only last a short time.
  • For example, in chapter 28: false prophet Hananiah, took the yoke off Jeremiah’s neck and broke it in pieces. don’t listen to Jer, only 2 years
  • By chapter 29, the exile had begun, and Jeremiah, while living in Jerusalem, wrote a letter to encourage the exiles in spite of their situation. \
  • Vv.1-4Now 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,

Three commands for the exiles:

  • settle down in the city;
  • seek the peace of the city;
  • pray for the peace of the city.

Settle down (for the long haul), settle in…

5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce.  6 ‘Take wives and 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.

Notice in 29:10 – 70 years

Also in 29:11 – I know the plans I have for you – not a promise of a perfect life now, but a perfect life in the NHNE

  • But not to be corrupted
  • John 17:11-19 – In the world but not of the world, safe from the evil one
  • We are in a spiritual warfare, but we will be kept safe
  • Live among them, Babylon is home
  • God sent them into exile – v 7
  • 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9-12 Elect exiles called to live among unbelievers for a time in in order to
    • proclaim the gospel – proclaiming the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into the light
    • and to live honorably among them that they too might come to glorify God
  • God uses persecution to scatter his people
    • Acts
    • New world
    • China
  • Luther – Xians are like manure;
    • when they are gathered all into one place they smell,
    • but when they are spread out, they do some good

Suggestions:

  • Settle somewhere for a length of time;
    • become part of the community;
    • in order to have the most impact for Jesus
  • Find ways to be an integral part of the community;
    • not merely against it, not separate from it; in it but not of it;
    • community events, programs; embrace identity;
    • this is my home, I’m gonna live like it
    • eg Kenny House;
      • from middle class white family in MD,
      • member of campus fellowship;
      • #1 singles UNCW tennis team;
      • Heart, working for racial reconciliation
      • Lives in inner city, predominantly black community;
      • Attends a predominantly black church;
      • Career as social worker in ILM nearly 40 years,
      • clinical director of Coastal Horizons, an emergency shelter for youth dealing with substance abuse; 

Not only settle down, but also

Seek the welfare (peace/shalom) of the city

7 ‘And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,

  • Shalom is all-encompassing peace
  • Further the public good
  • Though they were enemies and exiles – “How shall we sing God’s song in a foreign land?” Psalm 137
  • In the world but not of the world
  • It’s complicated
  • Allegiance to X, but also pursue other good things, patriotism
  • Seek the shalom of Perrysburg, Toledo, UT, BGSU, U.S.
  • Not always us against them
  • Participate in politics, government, arts, agriculture, sports, business, industry
  • Don’t just go somewhere else
  • Don’t just coast
  • Think about how to make the city more just, more safe, more humane
  • Even if not here a long time, make it your home
  • Bloom where you’re planted
  • Toledo is not just “lame”

Not only Settle down and Seek the peace of the city, also… 

Pray for the welfare (peace/shalom) of the city

7b and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ 

  • Civic responsibilities
  • When overwhelmed with what you can’t do, PRAY
  • When see crime, political maneuvering, urban blight,
  • When sick of stuff around you, PRAY
  • If they can pray for Babylon, we can pray for Toledo
  • Ps 122.6 what to pray for
    • For Jerusalem/Toledo
    • That it be secure
    • That it prosper
    • That it be safe
    • For God’s blessing
  • We all have work to do
    • Exiles from the city of God, to seek welfare of the city of man
  • God sent you here

As you settle, seek the peace and pray for the peace…

Call and point people to the KING

  • Who can provide lasting shalom bt God and man, a foretaste of God dwelling with his people
  • We know the Prince of peace, to whom all authority has been given, who can tear down the wall of hostility bt peoples
  • Word and deed
    • Not at odds with one another
    • Work for peace of city, to limit temporary suffering
    • Work for peace bt God and man, to limit eternal suffering
  • This provides a platform for the communication of the gospel
  • Remember: the Great Commission:
    • “in your going…” “make disciples…”
  • Outreach = connecting with people through community needs and interests.
  • Evangelism = connecting people with the (verbal) gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Asking the question: God, how do you want to express yourself THROUGH this church, IN this community, at THIS time?
  • Don’t give up! We’ve only started the vitalization process.
  • We may be discouraged. We may be tired. Not everyone may understand what we are doing. And we may be experiencing opposition from the enemy.
  • That’s what Nehemiah and the people faced when they sought to re-build the wall around Jerusalem.
  • Nehemiah told the officials of Jerusalem.
    • “You know very well what trouble we are in. Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.
    • Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and end this disgrace!”
    • Then I told them about how the gracious hand of God had been on me, and about my conversation with the king.
    • They replied at once, “Yes, let’s rebuild the wall!” So they began the good work.
    • But when Sanballat, Tobiah, and Geshem the Arab heard of our plan, they scoffed contemptuously. “What are you doing?
    • I replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed. We, his servants, will start rebuilding this wall. But you have no share, legal right, or historic claim in Jerusalem.” ( 2:17-20)
    • So everyone went to work together on the wall….
    • “But Sanballat was very angry when he learned that we were rebuilding the wall.
    • He flew into a rage and mocked the Jews, saying in front of his friends and the Samarian army officers, “What does this bunch of poor, feeble Jews think they’re doing?
    • Do they actually think they can make something of stones from a rubbish heap– and charred ones at that?”
    • Tobiah the Ammonite, who was standing beside him, remarked, “That stone wall would collapse if even a fox walked along the top of it!”
    • Then I prayed, “Hear us, our God, for we are being mocked.
    • May their scoffing fall back on their own heads, and may they themselves become captives in a foreign land…for they have provoked you to anger here in front of the builders.”
    • So at last the wall was completed to half its height around the entire city, for the people had worked with enthusiasm. ( 4:1-6 NLT)
    • Next time we’ll look at HOW, like Nehemiah, we are empowered to BE the Great Commission Church.

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