Monday, March 17, 2014

Jeremiah 29:11 Without the Rose Colored Glasses

Stop Reading The Bible with Rose Colored Glasses
Jeremiah 29:11 I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.

The prophet Jeremiah was talking to the people of Judah in Babylonia, at the beginning of the exile. He was left behind in Palestine and wanted to make sure that the people of Judah knew that God was with them and they were still going to face false prophets and false Gods. He wanted them to know that their God was not like all of the other ‘gods’, that he was the God of everywhere, and would help them right where they were.

One of the most often used ways to interpret the Old Testament books as guide in our lives today is to apply its message directly to our own lives. Straight up, apply this one verse, Jeremiah 29:11, directly to our lives would seem to be a magic pill. Hope, success and no suffering.

Before we do that, however, let’s look at what happened to the people of Judah in Babylonia. Knowing 2 things for sure; God does not lie and the bible is infallible, we should get a good understanding of what this text might have meant to them and what it might mean to us.

1) The Chaldeans doing what they always did, in fact what was common for the time and area, deported large chucks of the conquered nation back to Babylon and leaving many who survived the attack in the area. The king seems to have taken the leading citizens back to Babylon, leaving the poor and the farmers to famine.

2) The land that was Judah was no more, and absorbed into the empire, making those who left “homeless.”

3) It appears that they Jews, who were exiled, unlike those exiled from Israel by the Assyrians, were settled in a single community in their new home.

4) To these Jews, the exile was unexplainable. There entire existence was explained by God’s promise of the Land and to use them to shape human history as he protected them. Now there was no land, they were NOT protected. Their understanding of the scripture was evidently not complete, or the scripture was wrong.

5) We know from Daniel that the Jews were treated rather poorly if they set their faith above the other people living in the city.

On the whole, the Jews were ripped from their homeland, and their home land was destroyed. They were mocked and beat upon, and at times killed for their beliefs. The only strong point was that they had a sense of community, in that they were allowed to settle in the same area. However, history has not been kind to Jews who were settled in a community, and it seems to have played no better in Babylon than it did anywhere else.

Looking once again at the verse, “I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering,” it seems that on an individual basis, this was nonsense. They remained in captivity for nearly 4 generations, with not hope and no home land, the whole time knowing that the scripture they based their entire view of the world on was wrong.

Looking at it and taking the Long View, it has some validity, as I assume it was intended to. Jerimiah wanted them to know that for 70 years they were not going anywhere, but as a people, not to lose help. 3 or 4 generations hence they would go home, and that should be their hope of the future. That would be their success.

Not suffering is harder to understand. From the moment they returned to Judah until today, suffering has been a part of their lives. The only way I can make sense of it is to put it in contrast to what the average person of that age could expect. Historically, people had horrible lives if they were not in a position of power. As we discussed earlier, these were the privileged ones, or their descendants. They could expect some peace, based on temporal power, because of the return to their territory and kingdom.

Another way to see success, Joy, Happiness and no pain is to see that God’s original promise was going to be fulfilled in the body of Jesus. Jesus would deliver these things, to everyone. Heaven is the promise, and the kingdom of God has come, though not yet universally, and the promise has been fulfilled.

At NO time is he talking to YOU. He is talking to a nation, a group, not to an individual Jew.

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