Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for July 16

Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for July 16

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By Jay T. Robertson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Mobile


Jeremiah 29:4–14

For decades Jeremiah had prophesied judgment upon Judah. Over and over he had said God would punish them with sword, famine and captivity. In 597 B.C. the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem, killing many and carrying most of the rest into captivity.

Thrive (4–7)

This chapter contains a rare example of correspondence preserved in the Old Testament. Jeremiah probably wrote this letter to the exiles shortly after 597 B.C.

He began his letter by reminding the exiles of the sovereignty of God. The God of Israel had multitudes of forces under His control. The Lord declared that He had sent them into Babylon and had used the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment on Judah. The sovereign God of Israel was in complete control.

Jeremiah must have heard that some of the exiles did not believe they would remain for long in Babylon and refused to unpack their bags, so to speak.

In the letter he urged them to build houses, provide for themselves and have families. They should not waste their time moping about what they had lost in Judah but should actually thrive in the new land.

They should also seek the well-being of Babylon and pray for the Lord to bless the new land.

This is the only place in the Old Testament where a prophet gave a direct exhortation to pray for a pagan city. If Babylon thrived, they would also thrive.

Ignore (8–9)

Jeremiah warned that they should not listen to the false prophets and diviners, who were apparently telling them they would soon return home. These deceivers were not only in Jerusalem but also in Babylon. They were prophesying lies in the Lord’s name although He had not sent them or given them His message for the people. If the people were incited by the false prophets’ lies to rebel against the Babylonians, swift punishment would be inflicted on them. This would have been disastrous, and it would have been a rebellion not only against the Babylonians but against God.

Hope (10–14)

The return home would not be soon, but they would return after 70 years had been completed for Babylon. The 70 years here refers to the duration of the Babylonian Empire, which fell to the Persians in 539 B.C. After 70 years, Judah’s restoration would begin because God said it would happen.

We must be careful as we interpret verse 11. It does not mean that believers will never go through hard times. Consider the context of these verses. It was addressed to the exiles living in Babylon, many of whom would never return home. This promise was made to the people of Judah corporately. They had suffered terrible loss and defeat because of their disobedience to God.

But this verse sparked hope that even in the most difficult times, they could look to God for mercy and goodness. The Lord assured them that what had happened was not a series of unplanned, accidental events. Everything that had happened was intended by God to give them a hopeful future.

God encouraged them to pray to Him, for He would listen to them. The Lord promised that if they would seek Him wholeheartedly, He would be found.

He would gather them from all the nations where He had scattered them and bring them back from captivity after they repented.