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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: November 14, 2022

In our Old Testament readings for this week from the book of Jeremiah, we are going to witness the beginning of the end for the kingdom of Judah. God is bringing his righteous judgment upon this wicked and rebellious nation. God is about to make an example of this stiff-necked people. He is about to make good on his threats. He is about to turn their once prosperous kingdom into a garbage dump—a horror, a curse, a hissing, a reproach.

It helps to see how it all got to this point.

Nearly 1500 years earlier, God called a man named Abram out of a land of idolatry and made him a promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his offspring. Some 500 years after that, God called his people—now over a million in number—out of a land of slavery and promised to give them a land of abundance—flowing with milk and honey. And 500 years later, God called a shepherd boy named David out of a pasture and promised to give him a kingdom that would never end.

Again, and again, and again, God plucked his people out of obscurity and filled their ears with the proclamations of his gracious and unmerited favor. And yet, again, and again, and again, the people rebelled. They went after other gods. They listened to lying prophets. They defiled themselves with their sins and polluted the land with their wickedness. And now, 500 years later, God is bringing this earthly kingdom—the one that he built out of nothing—to a decisive end.

By the time we get to the end of Jeremiah’s prophesy—the walls of Jerusalem will have been leveled, the Temple will have been looted and burned, and the reigning king—Zedekiah—will be forced to watch as the king of Babylon slaughters each of his sons just before he then puts out Zedekiah’s eyes and leads him away in chains.

And yet, it’s into this context that God gives Jeremiah these words:

“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. 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.” (10-11)

We love to put these words on t-shirts and coffee mugs, but do we really understand what they mean? When we rip this promise out of context, at best we get some vague motivational pep talk that we use to get us through the rough patches of life. At worst, we get something like the prosperity gospel—the promise that God will give us health and wealth if we just believe. But we need to understand this promise rightly. God gives this promise to people who are about to be destroyed for their unfaithfulness. To people who will soon be asking the question: “Is God finished with us? Have we gone too far this time? Have we exhausted his mercy?”

When we put this promise back into its context then we discover that these words are more amazing than we could ever imagine. These are grace words. Forgiveness words. Resurrection words. This is God hanging up his rod of judgment and saying to the very people who rebelled against him—to the people who deserve to rot in exile, “I’m not through with you! I will restore you! I will gather you! You will never exhaust my mercy. My anger is for a moment, but my love is never ending. You will be my people, and I will be your God!”

500 years later…the true fulfillment of this promise came. The offspring of Abraham. The faithful Israel. The righteous king. He came to find a people who had lost their way. He came to those who were sitting in darkness. He came to call them out of their exile and into his righteous kingdom. He came with grace words. Forgiveness words. Resurrection words. He hung on a cross in the place of his people and made himself a horror, a curse, a reproach. He came so that his people would never again have to wonder if they had gone too far. He came to show them that God’s mercy is never exhausted.

The promise God gives to his people is fulfilled in Jesus. And now—because of him—their promise is now your promise. So go ahead. Keep putting Jeremiah 29:11 on t-shirts and coffee mugs. Keep taping it to the refrigerator and the bathroom mirror. But, as you do, understand it rightly. It’s a promise about Jesus. It’s the promise of grace. The promise of forgiveness. The promise of resurrection.

In Christ, you have peace. In Christ, you have a future. In Christ, you have a hope.

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