Foolish Decisions

Have you ever made a foolish decision and then just had to live with it for what seemed like too long a time? Or maybe you’ll have to live with some consequences for the rest of your life?

Today, as I continued my slow (but good) progress through Jeremiah, I found myself in chapter 29. In the first half, Jeremiah has written a letter to those in exile in Babylon and is telling them what God has to say to them, which is that they will be in exile for quite a while….for 70 years. So, they should get on with their lives: 5 ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.

They should not give up and pine away or just sit on their hands waiting for a quick rescue from their current circumstances. And not only should they get on with their own lives, but they should invest in their new location: 7 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 have welfare.’

Now, remember that Jerusalem was sacked and people were exiled because of their disobedience. God had said to them, as recorded in Jeremiah 16: 11 … ‘It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law. 12 You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me.

The people of Judah had made a whole series of foolish decisions that brought them to this place. They now were having to live with the consequences of their sin. God could have settled into His anger and bitterness and given up on them, because we are talking about generations of rebellion, but listen to what He says, as we pop back to Jeremiah 29: 10 “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’

Wow, look at the context for that verse that we quote a lot! (“I know the plans I have for you…”) I think it’s so much more meaningful to see that God is saying that to a people that are in the midst of judgment for rebelling against Him…a people chosen by God that knowingly, in their stubbornness, walked away from Him, and are now living in the middle of the mess they made! And to them, He says He has “plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Our amazing God has a HUGE heart for restoration!

We know that God disciplines those He loves. He does not rain down judgement just to vent. He disciplines His children, so that we can grow in our right relationship with Him and share in His holiness. So that we can be healed and experience peace. (Hebrews 12) But I think it’s easy for us to think that, if we’re living in the consequences of foolishness and sin, God is upset with us, or at least weary with us, throughout our “exile.” We think we either need to hide from Him or just keep our mouths shut in a self-imposed time-out or somehow make it up to Him. That’s not what I’m hearing in Jeremiah 29. Or in Hebrews 4, “ 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Embrace your season of discipline and any God-imposed consequences. Trust Him with the duration. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the power of Christ, live your fullest life in the midst, do good, and worship God. Oh, by the way, this exile that was spoken of in Jeremiah 29…four key people that were living in it were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. You NEED to check out their stories in the book of Daniel, if you don’t know them…talk about a future and a hope!