Perhaps one of the most quoted verses in modern day evangelicalism is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It’s often quoted by those in the pulpits and the pews alike to say – God has a plan for your life; walk in it; it’s a good plan. It may be found in a picture frame in someone’s home or on a professional athlete’s shoes. It might be sent from one person to another via text or shared on Facebook time after time for encouragement. But while the verse is often shared, the context is often left behind, making it probably one of the misinterpreted passages of Scripture.
Tag: repentance (Page 1 of 2)
Today we have a first – this will be the first devotional that covers an entire chapter in the book of Jeremiah. But this isn’t the first time the LORD has shown one of His prophets a basket of fruit (cf. Amos 8:1-3). As an aside, if you keep your eyes peeled for all the figs references found in Scripture (cf. Nah. 3:12; Mt. 21:18-20; 24:32; Jas. 3:12; etc.), it may change the way you look at a trip to grocery store. Maybe not. But let’s first see what Jeremiah saw; namely, “two baskets of figs set before the temple of the LORD” (vs.1b).
Today’s chapter flashes forward quite a bit, approximately 20 years, to the latter portion of the last king of Judah’s reign prior to the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem. That kind of time-shift sometimes happens in the book of Jeremiah given the fact that it isn’t arranged according to a strict chronology. The chapter opens by informing us that God gave Jeremiah an answer to the question of King Zedekiah (vs.1-2) – a fact that was in itself gracious. Zedekiah sent two messengers to Jeremiah with the request that he would inquire of the LORD on their behalf (vs.2a). The occasion? To use the words of the messengers, “Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us” (vs.2b). The hope? “Perhaps the Lord will deal with us according to all His wonderful works, that the king may go away from us” (vs.2c).
Desperate situations can lead to desperate measures. They can also lead to counterfeit repentance. That essentially appears to be the idea behind the latter portion of Jeremiah thirty-four. Now, at first glance, the counterfeit had some of the external markings of the true. After all, when you beginning reading verses 8 through 10 you hear what appears to be a bit of good news. “The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD” (vs.8a) came “after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people who were at Jerusalem to proclaim liberty to them” (vs.8b). That’s a positive. But to be clear, this wasn’t a general declaration of freedom spoken to an already free people; this was an overdue announcement to people whose liberty was long overdue. Per Exodus 21:2, a reference God would implicitly remind the people of through Jeremiah (Jer. 34:13-14), slaves were only supposed to serve for six years and in the seventh year they were to go free (Ex. 21:2). But when we look at the words that come later on in the chapter (vs.14-15) it looks like Zedekiah and the people of Jerusalem had not followed that command up until this point. So Zedekiah, the people of the land, and just about everyone in between (vs.19), likely induced to a point of desperation because of the surrounding Babylonians, sought to make amends for their dismissal of God’s Law. With the pomp and circumstance of a covenant ceremony, they cut a calf in two, walked through the halves (vs.18-19), and issued the following proclamation:
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)
First, let’s notice what the people had asked Peter that provoked his response in verse thirty-eight: “What must we do?” (vs.37b). Their question appears akin to the Philippian jailer’s question in chapter sixteen, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30b). To which Paul responded by saying, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (vs.31). For starters, we shouldn’t think that Luke was unaware of this contrast when he comprised this volume. Although the language Peter used in Acts 2:38 is different than that of Paul in Acts 16:31, I would argue that both are saying the same thing using different language in different contexts.