Read Jeremiah 29:1-11; Psalm 37:3-4
No doubt, it has happened to everyone at one time or another. Something valuable has disappeared, and therefore, we frantically search everywhere until we find it. May I simply say that chicken bones in the trash make the hunt a bit more unpleasant and leave it at that?
Jackee and Ben Belnap had such an experience earlier this month. They had laid out an envelope with $1,060 on the counter, money they had saved to reimburse Ben's parents for season tickets for the University of Utah football games. When they noticed the envelope was missing, they searched the house, including the garbage. Finally, Mrs. Belnap discovered the lost treasure. There it was in the shredder. Two-year-old Leo who liked to help Mom with the shredding had thought he was helping again. Jackee cried briefly, and then both husband and wife laughed. Fortunately, the couple, after calling the appropriate agency, discovered that there was something they could do now. All hope was not lost because the government has a policy concerning damaged money. If the currency has been chemically altered, rodent-chewed, burned or damaged in other ways such as shredding, there is a remedy. They were told to put as much of the money shreds as they were able to find into Ziploc Baggies and send them to the appropriate agency in Washington. In six months to three years, after analysts have examined what they have received, the Belnaps will receive back, what is deemed to be correct remuneration. If they do receive all or most of their money back, the Belnaps will likely be glad that they found out what they could do when they faced a less than enviable situation.
In Jeremiah 29:1-11, we read Jeremiah's letter to his exiled people. A bit of background before we look into what the prophet of God had to say to them. Because of their on-going idolatry and rebellion against God, a large number of the children of Israel had been taken from their homeland and brought to Babylon. I can't even imagine the culture shock they faced. The sad thing is that it wouldn't have to had been this way. Jeremiah, as well as other prophets had given the people clear warning from God. They had been told to repent. That meant that they needed to stop looking to false gods who couldn't help them and weren't capable of loving them. They were to love and obey the Living God, the One Who had with great power, brought them out of Egypt and had watched over them for hundreds of years. It was this same Savior Who had orchestrated the events that brought them to Babylon.
That is where we pick up the narrative in Jeremiah 29. The people faced an enemy more dangerous than the Babylonians. False prophets. What should they do now that they were in a foreign land so far from the land they loved? Those who lied to them, falsely promoting themselves as prophets of the Lord, told them to not put down any roots. These enemies of God taught rebellion against the Living God Who still loved His people, in spite of the chastisement they were facing. Therefore, Jeremiah wrote to them, offering them strong truth mixed with grace and hope. Jeremiah exhorted his people to trust God and do what was good. They were not to listen to the words of the false prophets, words that spoke in opposition to what the Lord declared to be true. Instead of fighting against the Lord, they were to pray for the welfare of Babylon and seek the best for the place where God had placed them. They were told to do the every-day tasks such as planting and starting families. They were to believe what God said. He had brought them to Babylon, and after 70 years, this same Savior would make the way for them to return home. Can you imagine the hope those words would provide if the people believed them? There was a definite ending time for their exile. God was truly in control, and He wanted them to prosper, even while they were away from their homeland. The Lord's love remained on them, and because He wanted them to know that, He told them "what they should do now". The bad choices the nation had made didn't have to continue there in Babylon.
What about us? We need to know what to do now too. No, we haven't been exiled to Babylon, but sometimes we make a wrong choice or a series of them, and we need to know what to do now. It may be something as simple as an unkind word aimed at our spouse. Or it might be comparing ourselves to someone else, desiring his gift or her beauty. It could be a flirtatious comment or thoughts that are lustful. It may be an on-going pattern or a bad way we began the day. The possibilities are endless. What will we do? Will we listen to the prevailing wisdom of the world? The lies that say that it doesn't matter how we live or that if we have failed, that God no longer loves us? There are many sections of scripture that speak truth for us, but let's look a bit into Psalm 37:3-4. When we boil down the Lord's instruction, given to us by the psalmist, we see that we are exhorted to every-day contentment and faithfulness. It is much like Jeremiah's word to his people in Babylon. We are to trust in God and do what is good, Psalm 37:3. We are to live in a faithful way. Isn't it good that God's commands apply to our every-day attitudes and circumstances? He wants us to delight ourselves in Him, Psalm 37:4. Even if we have sinned, we can turn away from what we have done wrong and delight in God's on-going cleansing and forgiveness, 1 John 1:9.
The important thing is that we, like the people of Jeremiah's day don't have to continue to make sinful choices, even if we have begun a day with one, or have lived in weeks or months of on-going rebellion. We can start now. We can live faithfully, doing what is good, one choice at a time. We can do this because God's faithful love remains on His children, Philippians 1:6, and He is at work in our lives both giving us the desire to please Him and then helping us do what is good, Philippians 2:12-13. It starts with the choice to believe Him, rather than the false ideas that come either from the world, the flesh or the Evil One.
Lord, please help us to live faithfully in the every-day choices of our lives. Help us remember that we can begin again, even when we fall. We can rely on Your on-going new mercies, Lamentations 3:22-23.