In Jeremiah 29 we find a letter from the prophet Jeremiah to the people of God in exile in Babylon. While it’s a letter written long ago its message still echoes truth to us. We can learn a few lessons if we have the ears to hear them.
Lesson #1: It is not always wise to listen to the loudest voice in the room.
With the people of God in captivity, false prophets were there to give the people false hope. False prophets were sneaking through the cracks in the walls: “Don’t worry. Things will get better soon. This will all be over before you know it.”
Yet, this was not a message from God.
We shouldn’t always listen to the loudest voice in the room. Rather, we should seek discernment. Discernment: Making the distinction between good and bad, better and best, your will and God’s will.
Three ways to discern:
- Christian Community
Which brings us to our second lesson to learn …
Lesson #2: It is always wise to listen to the Godly voice in the room.
The message from God shows up in Jeremiah 29 in the form of a letter from the prophet: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage. You will be in exile for 70 years.
This is not what the people of God wanted to hear. No one likes to be in captivity. No one likes the thought of captivity for 70 years. If you’re like me, you want things yesterday. Yet, God doesn’t work on our timetable. He often finds conflict with our Google calendars and five-year plans.
Which brings us to our third lesson to learn …
Lesson #3: Dark days are like an MRI for the soul.
MRI machines let us see what can’t be seen on the outside. Everything looks fine on the outside but an MRI machine allows us to see what is really going on. We tend to think that dark days are an indication of an absence of God. Perhaps dark days are God working inside you to bring about maturity, forcing you into spiritual depths.
We are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Yet, these words are spoken to people in exile. How can this be? Isn’t there harm in exile? What hope and what future can be found in such dark days?
We don’t like dark days, but in dark days we look beyond ourselves for answers. When we look beyond ourselves … we find God.
“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.” – Jeremiah 29:12-13