Study One : Removed (Jeremiah 29:1-4)
The Situation. In 597bc, King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian army led thousands of citizens of Judah into exile. The captives included Jehoicahin (whose uncle, Zedekiah became king in his place), Ezekiel and Daniel. By the rivers of Babylon, the captives were strangers in a strange land. The prophet Jeremiah wrote to them; his letter is recorded in Jer 29:1-23.
The exiles in Babylon are not the only ones to be described in the Bible as strangers in a strange land. 1 Peter 1:1, 1:17 and 2:11 describes Christians in this way too! Those who follow Jesus live throughout the world, but the world is not their home. Sometimes the strangeness is particularly apparent.
The Strangeness. One study, quoted in “Everyday Church,” describes the strangeness like this. The Church has moved from being from in the centre to the margins; from being a majority to being a minority; from feeling like settlers to feeling like sojourners; and from having a position of privilege to being one voice in a plurality of faiths.
We can see this in Jer 29:1-2. The Judeans in Babylon no longer had the symbols of their faith (the temple, the Promised Land, the king), so it was harder for them to show who they were. Their ceremonies were nearly impossible; they were now living in a place where “Sabbath rest” or “clean food” meant nothing. The call to sing “one of the songs of Zion” (Ps 137:3) was just mockery to them. They were being pressed on every side to forget about the Lord their God. Some clung to the hope that things would soon change, and that they would get back to what was familiar and safe.