IN 626 BC., JEREMIAH BEGAN PREACHING. JOSIAH WAS KING OF JUDAH. ISRAEL HAD BEEN CONQUERED BY ASSYRIA.
During the reign of King Josiah, the Lord said to me, “Have you seen what faithless Israel has done? She has gone up on every high hill and under every spreading tree and has committed adultery there. 7 I thought that after she had done all this she would return to me but she did not, and her unfaithful sister Judah saw it. 8 I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery. 9 Because Israel’s immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood.10 In spite of all this, her unfaithful sister Judah did not return to me with all her heart, but only in pretense,” declares the Lord. Jeremiah 3:6-10
WHEN JOSIAH DIED, SO DID MUCH OF THE PROGRESS.
Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp.11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jeremiah 25:8-11
The unthinkable had happened. Israel was no more. God had allowed Assyria to overtake her as a form of discipline. Only 400 years after David was crowned king and the struggle appeared to be over, the dream was over.
Jeremiah preached to the southern kingdom of Judah. It's king, Josiah, listened and led the people to change its ways. He certainly didn't want the southern people to experience the same things their brothers in the north endured. But after Josiah's death, things returned to form and the downward spiral continued.
But the people struggled to understand God's actions. It didn't seem fair. Why would God allow His own people to suffer that way? And how could He use enemy armies in the process? The punishment didn't seem to fit the crime.
It's here that one very important truth is revealed.
GOD WILL USE TROUBLE AS A TOOL TO TRANSFORM ME
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Go down to the potter’s house, and there I will give you my message.” 3 So I went down to the potter’s house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5 Then the word of the Lord came to me. 6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. Jeremiah 18:1-6
GOD DID NOT NEED THE PEOPLES’ PERMISSION OR BLESSING. Because, through the years, God had been patient and had always been quick to give mercy, the people got the wrong idea. They seemed to think God had relinquished control to them. They felt free to determine their own destiny. Free will can be confusing at times. But GOD’S PATIENCE PLUS MY FREEDOM DOES NOT EQUAL AUTHORITY.
If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and if that nation I warned repents of its evil, then I will relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And if at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and if it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, then I will reconsider the good I had intended to do for it. Jeremiah 18:7-10
Now that's good news. God is willing to change the path. His ultimate plan will remain. He will see to it that we arrive at the planned destination. But He has not set the path in stone.
GOD’S PATH CAN CHANGE. GOD’S PLAN WILL REMAIN.
After Judah was taken captive and many of the people taken off to Babylon, Jeremiah sent a letter.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:4-7
GOD EXPECTS ME TO THRIVE IN TROUBLED TIMES; NOT JUST SURVIVE
It would have been easy for the people to give up. To accept their place and quit trying. To cry, moan, and mourn. But God said, "Nope. As difficult as things are, I expect you to choose joy. Give honor to those around you. Live with faith! And untimely, believe that a blessing is on the way.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to 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 will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:10-14
IF GOD ALLOWS LIFE TO WRECK YOU, IT’S BECAUSE HE HAS PLANS TO RESURRECT YOU
Be patient and trust His plan.