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Jeremiah 29:11 1
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Background

Jeremiah was speaking to the people. His message was one of encouragement. It would be the kind of message to build a person up. And to help them go beyond. But it comes as a long view, not a quick fix. The Israelites were in exile, a punishment from God as result of their disobedience. The prophet Jeremiah confronts the false prophet, Hananiah, who had boldly proclaimed that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years (spoiler alert: God doesn’t do this).

Jeremiah calls out Hananiah’s lie, and then states the promise we read in 29:11. God does indeed have a good plan for the Israelites, and it is a plan that will give them hope and a prospering future. Sounds good, right?

The thing is, before he shares this promise, he gives them this directive from God: “Seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (29:7)

This is not at all what the Israelites wanted to hear! They wanted to be told that they were going to go home. They wanted to be told that their suffering was going to end. Instead, God’s plan was for them to stay right where they were, and to help prosper the nation that enslaved them!

And then came the biggest blow of all. In verse 10, God says that he would fulfill this “after seventy years are completed in Babylon.” This meant that none in the current generation of Israelites would ever return to their home. What a crushing thing to be told!

God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately He will give us a glorious future. But as we walk out our lives on this crazy earth, let’s remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find
surprising joy. What hard thing are you currently going through? In the midst of your suffering, cling to Jeremiah 29: 11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that he will give you hope in the
midst of it.

Items for Discussion

  • If you are going through a difficult time what do you hope to receive from God.
  • How would it feel to hear the message in these verses?
  • What if you could see into the future and know that the message in these verses would be
    fulfilled after 70 years?
  • What might help you to keep on going even when discouraged?

Luke 19:1-10
1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. 3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. 5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Background

Jesus, near the end of his journey to Jerusalem, is passing through the border town of Jericho. In that town is a man named Zacchaeus who is not just a tax collector but a chief tax collector which means, as Luke’s Gospel explains, that he is rich. He wants to see Jesus, but because he is
short he cannot see over the crowds, so he climbs a tree. When Jesus arrives at the place where Zacchaeus has perched himself, he calls him down and invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home, which simultaneously brings Zacchaeus joy and scandalizes the crowd, because they know that
Zacchaeus is a sinner.

Zacchaeus desires to see Jesus, but even as he is trying to catch a glimpse of this prophet Jesus looks up, calls him down, and honors him by coming to stay at his home.

Luke, more than any other evangelist, is consistently concerned about matters of wealth and, correspondingly, treatment of the poor. In this story a rich man receives Jesus with joy and gives (or promises to give) half of his wealth to the poor and restores (or promises to restore) fourfold any amount he may have defrauded, and Jesus announces that the impossible has now happened as “salvation has come to this house”.

Finally, Zacchaeus is short, not just in physical stature, but also in terms of his moral standing among his neighbors who, no doubt, despised him; hence their reaction when Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home. The bystanders are outraged by Jesus’ behavior.

Items for Discussion

  • Was Zacchaeus considered a misfit? Why or why not?
  • Why do you think Zacchaeus climbed the sycamore tree when he found out that Jesus
    was passing through Jericho where he lived?
  • Why not just stand among the crowd of people who were also curious about Jesus? What
    did he hope to see?
  • This event in the life of Zacchaeus happened 10 days before Jesus’ crucifixion. Jesus
    stopped to talk and make time for Zacchaeus. What does that tell you about our Lord?
  • How important do you feel you are to the Lord?

Discussion Challenge

  • Who are the people that we exclude or discourage from our own faith walk? Jesus accepts ALL! How should we be responding?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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