Sunday, November 26
God Promises Hope
Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.
When the people of Israel were exiled into Babylon, they had no idea how long they would be in exile, or even if their exile would ever end. Everything they knew was turned inside out – their homes, their families, even their worship. Jeremiah came with a word of hope for a hopeless people.
Even as they offered hope, Jeremiah’s words were probably difficult to hear. Through Jeremiah, God told the people to hunker down, to prepare for a long winter. Settle into the land, God told them, for they would be there for a while. Have families; encourage your kin to have families. Live off the land in which you are exiled. However, first and foremost, remember God.
One of the few things that makes suffering more tolerable is knowing that suffering will one day end – knowing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. An illness has a cure. Financial stress has the possibility of relief through work or other assistance. But suffering with no end date can be daunting. For the Israelites in exile, the thought of decades of settling into a foreign land was probably daunting. Nobody wants to be told their suffering might be indefinite.
But even in the midst of an undefined term of suffering, God promises hope – a restoration of all that the people have lost. For us too, there is hope. It is a hope that suffering will not have the final say. Sin and death will not prevail. God is with us, even when we must hunker down for a long winter. In the midst of exile, the people tended the land, raised families, and continued to know God. In our exile, we too, can be upheld by the love of family (biological or otherwise), we can continue to move forward however slowly. We can continue to worship God. Life goes on, even when it seems like it does not.
Narrative Lectionary Text: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord. For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.