Jeremiah 28:1-29:32, 1 Timothy 1:1-20, Psalms 86:1-17, Proverb 25:17
Today is the 16th day of October. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. I am Brian and it’s great to be here with you as we move through the center of a week, another one of the weeks that make up our year. And we’re working our way through the book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament and then when we reach the New Testament, we will move into another letter from the apostle Paul. This is a personal letter. So, the first time we’ve read a personal letter this year. And we’ll talk about that when we get there. We’re reading from the New Living Translation this week. Jeremiah chapter 28 and 29 today.
Introduction to first Timothy:
Okay. So as we talked about at the beginning today we’re moving into a personal letter from the apostle Paul and this letter was written to a man named Timothy who was a protégé of Paul and this is…this is the first letter of a collection of three different letters, two of them to Timothy and one to a man named Titus. These are personal letters and their known in the Scriptures as the pastoral epistles or the pastoral letters because…because of what they are. So, it’s been centuries now, centuries, that biblical scholars have debated about whether the apostle Paul was the author of these letters himself, or if these were pastoral letters that indeed carried the name of Paul that were written in his name. And that debate actually continues vigorously until the present time. So, scholars who favor the view that Paul was not the actual author of these letters do this by observing the structure, the church structure that is in these letters, the polity, the hierarchy, the way that it’s run. So, the scholarly speculation is that some of the things that are talked about in these pastoral letters, as far as structure, these were things that were invented later after Paul’s lifetime, which would then make the letters…well…later than Paul. And there is a…there’s a difference in the language from the other epistles of Paul. And, so, this has also been noticed by scholars. Now the biblical scholars favoring that the tradition is true, Paul was the author of these letters, they do that in part because the letters authenticate themselves, right? So, the author identifies himself as Paul in these letters and the earliest of church fathers made use of these letters. And, so, even…even though scholars know there’s a difference in the style of language in these letters, following the traditional view, they would simply say, “that…that’s because they’re personal letters.” Like, he wasn’t writing to a church, wasn’t necessarily planning that the letters were to be passed around among the churches or for that matter even passed around among the pastors. They were personal letters. So, they were meant to be read aloud. And, so, that that would make…that would explain that, which kinda brings up why they’re called pastoral letters. They’re personal correspondences to two different pastors, Timothy and Titus, who had been sent to directly care for churches that had been established by the apostle Paul. And, so, these churches needed a strong leader who understood the teachings of the apostle Paul regarding the Christian life and how Christian community and Christian worship should be established. So, Titus, we’ll talk about Titus when we get to the letter written to Titus, but the first of the pastoral letters was written to Timothy who was a young man who grew up in the shadow of the apostle Paul. So, we met Timothy when we were reading the book of Acts. His mother’s name was Eunice, his grandmother’s name was Lois, and they were early believers from the city of Lystra which is now in modern day Turkey. So, Paul introduced the faith to Timothy and then Timothy became a loyal disciple or follower or companion of Paul. Paul loved him. He called him many times his spiritual son and he directly mentored him in the faith and raised him up in church leadership. So, Timothy traveled pretty extensively with Paul. He’s mentioned by name in six of Paul’s other letters and often when Paul wasn’t able to travel Timothy was his first choice to go in his place, which means that Timothy was often sent to serve and assist in a pastoral capacity to assist the churches. And, so, when this letter that we’re about to read was written the apostle Paul was nearing the end of his ministry. In fact, he was nearing the end of his life and Timothy had become the pastor of the church in Ephesus and it was written from a spiritual father to his son in the faith so that, as a father, as a spiritual father, Paul could offer guidance and counsel in the task of pastoring a church in Ephesus. And it’s a…it’s a loving letter. It’s full of hope. It gives us clues to what the apostle Paul thought was most important to give to those that he had raised up in leadership, the coming generation. And it’s also the letter that teaches us to fight the good fight of faith. And, so, we began. First Timothy chapter 1.
Okay. So, we read in its context one of if not the most famous verses in the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11. It’s funny. As I was growing up this wasn’t like the most famous verse in the Bible. That would’ve been like John 3:16 but like in the last decade or so this has become one of most popular verses in the Bible, “for I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Right? So, like, even as I read that some of you were saying it along with me, you’ve got it memorized. This is a very popular verse. And, so, every year when we pass this territory we have to talk about this very famous verse because it’s so interesting how we read things into the Bible and make them mean things that perhaps they don’t mean. So, these words for sure bring comfort into most situations that they’re spoken into, right? Because they offer hope in confusion or in times that we’re just suffering through, but if you’ve quoted this verse to yourself or if you’ve quoted this verse to other people who you see struggling and who…who you want to encourage and you don’t have any idea of the context that this verse comes from, then it can be surprising because Jeremiah 29:11 is for sure an affirmation of God’s good plans for the future and for a hope but the whole story is way more compelling for our lives and perhaps even more deeply meaningful for our lives than…than the way that we use this verse all the time. So, let’s just understand what’s going on here. Jeremiah is in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem has been conquered and it's…I mean the inhabitants were in the process of being deported, to a foreign land they had never known. The things that were happening to these people were inconceivable because their God had brought them into this land and put His name on this land and dwelled in this land and His temple was in this land. So, they’re thinking basically, “God’s gonna protect his land whether we obey pay God or not.” And, so, the drift had been happening but now Jerusalem has been conquered and people are being deported and the Hebrews had seen the crushing destruction of the lives that they used to know and the destruction of their…their capital city and they were being uprooted and relocated where nothing was familiar, and families had been torn apart. Lots of people had been killed in battle. And, so…so you can only imagine, this is just a time of great unrest, people just longing to go home, although the home that they knew was gone and the people that they loved maybe were gone. And, so, they were just hoping for some sort of restoration. And Jeremiah had been prophesying from Jerusalem’s surrender. Right? And we’ve talked about that before because this is a message that is inconceivable to them. “How can we surrender? We’re God’s chosen people. How can we surrender?” And Jeremiah, the prophet of God is saying, but I’m speaking for God, “I am…I am speaking as God to you…this is what God is telling you to do.” So, Jeremiah wrote this letter and he sent it from Jerusalem to Babylon by way of the ambassadors to the exiles who had already been deported to Babylon. And it’s in that letter that we find Jeremiah 29:11. So, like, if it wasn’t in a letter, if he was just trying to write a note of encouragement and it only contained Jeremiah 29:11, like only a couple of sentences. Then…then fine. And even Jeremiah would’ve been fine, but that one verse wasn’t the whole contents of the letter. And the letter’s instructions were incredibly disruptive. Here are the instructions. “Build homes and plan to stay.” In other words, plan to stay in a foreign land in exile, right? So, “build homes and plan to stay, plant gardens and eat the food they produce, marry and have children and find spouses for your kids so that you can have many grandchildren, multiply, don’t dwindle away, and work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.” Ahhh…this is like tough stuff because it’s like, “pray for the peace and work for the peace and prosperity of the people who conquered you.” Right? “Pray to the Lord for it. Pray for its welfare. Its welfare will determine your welfare.” And the letter goes on to tell the exiles that the prophets who are telling them that this is gonna be over quick, there’s a resolution coming, God is going to come and rescue you and take you back and it’s gonna be like it used to be. He’s like, “they’re not telling…they’re lying to you.” So, we see we have a very, very encouraging couple of sentences encased in a very disruptive letter. “This is what the Lord says” Jeremiah writes, “you will be in Babylon”, in other words, you will be exiled “for 70 years and then I’ll come and do for you all the good things I promised and I’ll bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” right? that’s how we get to this verse. So, even though these prophets were prophesying a speedy resolution, even though obviously the displaced Hebrew people were trying to get information about the rest of their family, like, all of this stuff that’s going on, even though they’re hoping God will see that they’ve learned their lesson quickly and that they can go home, that’s not the plan, that’s not the plan, it’s not the plan He has for them. He told them, “the plan I have is gonna take some time. 70 years to be specific. And rather than them being angry and bitter and obstinate and rebellious and stiff-necked like they had always been when they were enjoying prosperous times, they were supposed to establish roots in this foreign land, in this land that had conquered them. And rather than isolating themselves and resisting the whole time they were supposed to thrive where they were until God brought them back to their homeland. So, we personalize Jeremiah 29:11 because it assures us that God’s in control and that He’s got a plan and that hHs plan is that we’ll experience hope for the future, but the full context of Jeremiah’s letter isn’t about the immediate accomplishment of anything or the quick resolution of any kind of difficult season. The message is that they should exhale and thrive where they are because it’s going to take some time. And, so, they should thrive while they’re waiting. Man, which is essentially the backdrop of life…life on earth expect…expecting the fullness of God’s kingdom as it is in heaven. Right? Aren’t we here, doing the same thing? Isn't…isn’t it the same message that we are allowed to thrive here while were waiting? So, if you feel like life has basically exiled you and Jeremiah 29:11 is like posted on your refrigerator and on your bathroom mirror and in your car like…so like that you have this word of encouragement to keep going, awesome, perfect. God’s promise is of a hope and a future and that is a solid foundation. But rather than expecting that to come instantly and immediately in a way that like that our culture is used to, like instant gratification, maybe…maybe Jeremiah 29:11 gives us permission to come down, to exhale, to…to realize maybe things aren’t as we would like them but we have full permission to thrive where we are while we’re waiting for things to change. I mean God hold these exiles in this letter, “do not dwindle away” and “work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it. Its welfare will determine your welfare.” And, so, let’s invite the Holy Spirit to begin to reveal what that might look like in our own lives in its context. Like what does this look like in our own lives as it looked like the people who received this letter and not just to sentences of this letter. God has plans for you. He has plans for me. He has plans for all of us. He has plans for our species. We were, after all, created in His image and one day He will restore all things. These are good plans. They are plans for a future and a hope and they’re not plans for disaster. It just…it just might look different than you thought. And it might look different than I thought. But if we set aside those expectations, what we think we know and simply hope in God and trust fully in the goodness of our Father, well then, it’s like the apostle Paul said, “I figured it out. I figured out how to be content in whatever’s happening. We have permission to thrive where we are and multiply and not dwindle away and stay in it as long as it takes, endure as long as it takes. In this letter that was gonna be 70 years. That’s practically a lifetime. S
Holy Spirit, what does this mean for us? We’re all facing all kinds of different things. And, so, it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing and yet I believe that Your word has spoken to each of us in our own way. And, so, we invite Your Holy Spirit into all of the contemplation and all of the consideration that…that comes to mind and heart as we contemplate this letter that contains this famous verse. Show us how to thrive while we wait. Show us how to multiply and not dwindle away even…even when it’s very, very disruptive and very difficult. Come Holy Spirit into all of this we pray. In the mighty name of Jesus, we ask. Amen.
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And that’s it for today. I’m Brian I love you and I’ll be waiting for you here tomorrow.