We hear this word a lot, especially lately, ‘ready.’ Sometimes it comes as a statement of being, other times it’s a question, and still at other times it’s a command, get ready, stay ready, live ready. Recently Pastor Kevin Moore from Restoration Church (formerly Gardena Valley Assembly) closed a Bible study with a prayer that ended with the phrase, ‘help us Lord to live ready.’ When he prayed that prayer, the title of this blog and its content came to me. Enjoy the blog.
When I was a little boy I was in a program called Royal Rangers, it was (and still is) a Christian boy scout type of organization that is hosted by the Assemblies of God denomination; the fellowship I am ordained with. The motto of Rangers is ‘Ready.’ The creed goes like this, “Ready, ready for anything! Ready to work, play, serve, obey, worship, live, etc..” While it may seem a bit obsolete and out of date, I assure you, it is not. There have been many days when I have found myself praying the Ranger Creed out loud. “With God’s help I will do my best to serve God, my family, church, and fellow man. To live by the Ranger Code, to make the golden rule my daily rule.’ The golden rule is, ‘Do unto others what you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31).’ The idea of living ready is the position of being ready, for whatever the next thing is that is coming down the pike.
The key word in the phrase ‘live ready’ is the word ‘live.’ When we think of living today, it can be a bit conflictious and difficult because of the blatant debauchery we are seeing all around us. The America of today is NOT the America of yesteryear, or even three years ago. We are seeing the shadow of the tribulation being cast upon the nations of this world as the hand of God Almighty is moving. However, there is hope for the Christian as they work and wait on the Lord in these last moments.
In Jeremiah 29 we see a similar thing happening. This this chapter where we read some different letters that Jeremiah wrote. As we read them we can get a better understanding of the fallout and effect the Babylonian captivity was having on the Jewish exiles who were living in Babylon. Jeremiah’s chief message was to comfort and warn God’s people in Babylon as they endured there, waiting for their eventual release and return to Israel. I should like to state that Babylon for the Jewish exiles is akin to this world for the NT believer.
- In verses 1-14 we see a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the exiles.
- In verses 15-23 we see a letter concerning some Jewish false prophets in Babylon.
- In verse 24-29 we see a letter from Shemaiah to the temple priests concerning Jeremiah.
- In verses 30-32 we see a letter from Jeremiah to the exiles concerning Shemaiah.
While this blog is not an in-depth study on Jeremiah 29, it is however a brief look at what Jeremiah was saying to the Jewish captives in Babylon as compared to what God is saying to His people, captive on this planet until He returns for us. First and foremost, the question is sometimes asked, how did these letters get from Jerusalem to Babylon in Jeremiah’s day? We know that correspondence like this wasn’t difficult to maintain in Jeremiah’s day as there were regular diplomatic missions between Jerusalem and Babylon after the captivity; plus, Jeremiah had support and favor within the government. The letter he wrote to the exiles is as follows:
Dear exiles in Babylon… “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. 6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. 8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.” – Jeremiah 29:4-9
- Sometime after the deportation in 597BC, Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles in Babylon to tell them how to live properly in Babylon. He was a man with the heart of a true shepherd and he wanted to enlighten and encourage the exiles in their life in Babylon.
The exiles were still governed by special laws concerning clean and unclean things, so the Jewish people would have a difficult time adjusting to this pagan society. Jeremiah wanted them to be model citizens living among the idolatrous Babylonians. He also wanted them to be good stewards of their faith in God even though they were separated from their temple and its services. He addressed the needs of three kinds of people here:
- Those with no hope (vs.4-6) – these exiles lost everything but what they could carry. They lost their freedom, they were forcibly taken from their homes and from their livelihood, they were separated from friends and relatives, of whom some (if not most) may have perished in the Babylonian invasion or the dreadful march to Babylon.
- Those with false hopes (vs.7-10) – the false prophets had convinced the people that the stay in Babylon would be a brief one, maybe two years. They didn’t have to ‘settle in’ and resume a normal life even though Jeremiah told them to do that very thing. Jeremiah said that they would be there for 70 years, which was plenty of time to build houses, plant vineyards, get jobs, and grow families.
- Those with true hope (vs.11-14) – God gave these exiles a gracious promise to deliver them one day, but it would be in His time. God’s plans are the best plans and He had a plan for the exiles and He has a plan for us today. The process of chastening, although uncomfortable at times, yields a peaceable fruit in the end.
Jeremiah continues, “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.” – (vs.10-14)
- It was important for the exiles to settle down in Babylon and make the best of the situation. 70 years was a long time; many of the exiles died from old age or other reasons before those years were spent. Thus, they would leave their offspring to receive the ‘remnant’ mantle when the time came for them to return to Jerusalem. The command to obey God, be fruitful, build houses, plant vineyards and multiply was all part of God’s great plan of salvation.
The exiles could have waged constant warfare against the Babylonians from within the nation, but Jeremiah told them they were to be peacemakers, not troublemakers, and to strive to get along with the people of Babylon. I am sure there was some ‘racial’ tensions among the people there. If the captive Jews would have rejected the ‘wooden’ yoke of submission, they would end up wearing an ‘iron’ yoke of subjugation. God’s plan was for them to yield to the Lord and the people over them in Babylon; no matter how badly they were treated.
The Apostle Peter gives some good instruction regarding this very issue from a NT perspective: “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. 25 For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” – 1 Peter 2:18-25
- Peter’s words reflect the very heart of God regarding our attitude toward those in authority over us. To indulge in false hopes and false prophecies only hampers what God has planned for us if we would only wait on Him and obey His voice.
In every situation, God’s people have the privilege and responsibility to seek the Lord, pray, and ask Him to fulfill His promises to us in His time. What the exiles in Jeremiah’s day were experiencing in Babylon was a chastisement that drew them to repentance in a foreign land. It was within the context of that repentance that Jeremiah penned those famous and often quoted words by young people,
‘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.’ – Jeremiah 29:11
- This promise was not just for the exiles of Jeremiah’s day, but for all Jews, living globally and throughout history. This promise also extends itself to the Christians who have been grafted into God’s plan through Jesus. It speaks to a coming Millennial Kingdom where the true Messiah, Jesus, would eventually rule and reign from Jerusalem and the world would finally be at peace.
Many young people who quote this passage and make it their ‘life verse’ need to remember that is was written to a people who were captive and living in a foreign land. It was a word of hope and encouragement for them from the Lord, through Jeremiah, to prompt them to press on in their life and have faith in God’s future plan.
Fast forward to the end of the 70 years. Even though it was time for the Jews to leave Babylon, a lot of them wanted to stay in Babylon because they had established a life for themselves there. God would have to send the Assyrians to invade Babylon to get the Jews to move back home to Jerusalem. In like manner, this world, for the believer, is a lot like Babylon in Jeremiah’s day. We are captive on this planet, planting vineyards, building (buying) homes, growing families, and being blessed of the Lord as we obey His voice and share our faith in Him with others. The day is coming very soon when we are going to be called away to our heavenly home via the Rapture. While this is a readily accepted truth by many believers, many more believers are too focused on this life; so much so that they have lost touch with their walk with God and the time in which we are currently living in. I am one of those believes who lives ready. I am planning for a long stay in Babylon, but I am hoping for a soon jump into my heavenly abode. The older I get, the more excited I am about this hope and reality. Like the exiles of Jeremiah’s day, we need to plant our vineyards and build our houses, but we must never lose sight of the bigger plan that God has for us. This plan requires us to live ready.
The Apostle Paul reminds us of this very thing, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:1-3
Currently my wife and I are establishing a Trust for our family. We are investing in rental properties and building our business of providing quality homes for certain families to rent at a fair and reasonable rate. We are putting together a portfolio that will sustain us long into the future and our retirement years. We are doing this because it is the right and responsible thing to do. While this is a good thing and something that I feel led to do, I am very much aware that our time of captivity is just about over. We are about ready to launch into the many promises of God, His Word, and His joy to receive us into His Kingdom. I feel the Lord telling me that if all things were equal, this would be a good plan, but all things are not equal. The Lord telling me that He is holding up His end of the bargain, the promise, the plan, His plan; however, His judgment is soon to be bestowed upon this world, but before that happens, He will take His children home, leaving all of our earthly blessings behind.
I am sure that when the Assyrians invaded Babylon, they came upon some nice homes and fruitful vineyards that were left there by the Jews who obeyed God and left when they were supposed to; before the Assyrian invasion. The plans that God has for us do manifest on this side of the veil, but the real plan, His real blessing is manifest when we finally get home to glory. We need to keep our mind on the things that are above (heaven), not on those things that are beneath (this world). The one thing that we can take from this world is other people, won to Jesus, by our testimony; this is what matters most. Don’t get me wrong. I am stimulating the economy and so are you. We are buying things that we need to live, we are employing people to help us with stuff, we are tithing and giving to missions, we are supporting those entrusted to our care, we are doing business (occupying) right up until the very day that Jesus takes us home. This means making long term plans, all the while knowing that the Master can return at any moment.
Jesus said it this way, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; 36 and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. 38 And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. 40 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” – Luke 12:35-40
In other words, we are to have our tool belts on our waists and the Holy Spirit working within our hearts as we work and wait for the Master (Hebrew: Adoni). When He returns, it will be immediate, and we will be blessed if He finds us working and watching where He commanded us to be. We need to be ready, live ready, and stay ready. Whatever practical way that manifests in your life, you need to be living it out, all the while knowing that we’re about ready to punch out of this world and into glory.
Encouragemen is a blog written by Pastor Rob Lee, recently relocated to Northwest Missouri. He lives with his wife of 32-years, near their three adult children, their spouses, and children (their grandchildren). Pastor Rob is an Ordained Assemblies of God minister, a former Lead Pastor (25 years), police chaplain, and community advocate. He continues to serve, consult, and disciple men of God, including those who are in the ministry.