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.
Gospel Perspective - 1 : Unity
The Epistle of Paul to Philemon is a personal note, written about a slave called Onesimus (and probably delivered by him). It is also Scripture; the Church recognised its authority as the Spirit-inspired Word of God. It is a privilege to read; we sit in on a conversation between two godly men - the aged, imprisoned apostle Paul, and the well-to-do church-leader Philemon. The letter has a lot to teach about looking at life from the perspective of the Gospel - that is, how does my faith shape how I see things?
Part of the Perspective of the Gospel is UNITY. Those who know/trust the Lord Jesus Christ are united in Him. This comes across clearly in Philemon.
Exodus ch.20, vs.18 to 26
“Devotion” means: ? where people give themselves to some cause - a devoted teacher, say (so, we speak of devotion for God - loving Him with heart and soul); ? when something has been set aside for a particular cause (so, we speak of devotion to God). The Lord brought the Children of Israel out of Egypt to be His people (19:4-6) and then taught the people devoted to Him how to show their devotion for Him! This is also how God deals with us, when we come to trust in Christ. We find that He chose us before we chose Him (John 15:16), and that the directions He gives are not for us to follow on our own. He provides all we need - in Jesus. This is grace. The directions here, which the Israelites undertook to follow (see Ex 24:3), are given in the context of a relationship with God through grace.
#1 – The Beginning of Sorrows. Matthew chapter 24 verses 1 to 8
On the Mount of Olives, the Lord Jesus told His disciples about things to come – things that would be fulfilled in their lifetime (see v.34). His teaching shows that we live in what the Bible calls the last days – the time from Christ’s death and resurrection (see Hebrews 9:26) until the end (see v.14 here). Jesus described elements of this time as “the beginning of birth pains” (v.8). They mark a time of anguish that will turn to joy (compare John 16:21). In this regard, the Lord taught:
1. Don’t be distracted. The disciples were awed by the Temple buildings, (v.1). Despite the Temple’s grandeur, however, Jesus knew it was “desolate” (23:38) and told His disciples that it would be destroyed. They were not to be distracted by it!