Pray: To open your time together.
Read: Jeremiah 29:1-14
Consider: Some thoughts for your group
While the idea of exile is, for our modern ears, a narrative theme in the Bible, it was a lived experience for the people of Israel. After several generations had lived in hope of the kingdom of God that was promised to Father Abraham in Genesis 12, the dream had finally come true. Israel had a king of its own in Saul, and then David, and then Solomon. And with each king the nation grew in political power, military strength, and economic security. It seemed that the promise had been fulfilled.
But the book of Judges gives us a brutal and disheartening account of the failure of Israel’s leaders to become that promised blessing to the world. From the founding of its kingdom each generation of Israel seemed to become less like the God who had established them. And so, God gives his beloved over to Babylon and Israel is conquered and taken into exile far from their promised land.
Try to imagine the heartbreak of losing your home. The sadness of forcibly being taken away from all that you know, mixed with the anger toward your captors. It is important for us to remember to humanize the experience that we read about in the bible. These were people like us. Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters. Everyone lost someone and/or something precious to them in this process.
With that context, re-read Jeremiah 29:1-14. How scandalous of God to command His people to become a blessing to their captors. God seems to be shifting the mindset of Israel away from a place (the promised land) and into a purpose. The hope of God’s promise to Abraham, to make a people group who live differently in the world that the world might see them and know God, is still very much alive in this exiled people.
- Have you ever put yourself in the place of the exile? Take a moment to consider their experience and put yourself in their shoes.
- Why did God command Israel to settle into the community of Babylon? How should this instruction from God inform how we think about participating and blessing our community today?
- Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Does the context of Israel’s story change your perspective of this section of scripture?
For many generations, the people of Israel held onto the hope that God would restore them and bring them back to the land they had lost. Much of the Christian faith is learning to live in hope when circumstances seem bleak. What is the hope you are holding onto in this season? What is the hope God has called us to live into, despite our current circumstances?
Spend some time praying for one another. Pray for the renewal of our collective hope and purpose as God’s people. Pray that the community around us would be drawn to Jesus through our living testimony.