Monday, October 22, 2007

Instructions To The Captives

Yesterday the sermon text was from Jeremiah 29.

It is a letter from the prophet, Jeremiah, to the Israelis who were taken into Babylon. Historically it is called the "exile" or "diaspora" and refers to the event in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians under the leadership of Nebuchadnezzar hauled off a rather large group of Israelis.

The captives, as one might expect, wanted to return home. They had some seers and prophets who were quite happy to tell them what they wanted to hear: that a return would come sooner rather than later. But Jeremiah told them that return was not imminent and, indeed, would last 70 years and they best get about the process of living in this new reality.

5"Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce.

6'Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease.

7'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'

8"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream.

9'For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them,' declares the LORD.

This didn't have anything really to do with the message but I found it interesting.

When I began caregiving I remember feeling a lot like a captive. I struggled with how to balance my own life against my parents' needs. The hardest decision I made was when I decided to ask Judy to marry me. I knew full well that it was going to be very difficult. I also knew that I was not going to be able to give her the first priority in my life as long as I was caregiving. She knew all this, too, of course. But knowing and then experiencing it is different. It was really hard.

In some way we are all captives. Now I am free of the 24/7 confinement and responsibilities of caregiving but I have other constraints that are different but nonetheless real.

I think the application of this passage is to get on with your life and make of the best of it you possibly can. Make a place for yourself and enjoy it. Pay attention to your family. Pay attention to your community, too. I like that last part of that verse: "in its welfare you will have welfare."

Then I really like verses 8 and 9. In the NIV the end of verse 8 is "Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have." It is true in my experience that I can usually find some expert that will tell me what I want to hear. Either way though it is best to be skeptical of advice especially when the advice is something we long to hear.

Then, too, these captives were told that this was not to be a short experience. It was going to last 70 years. That means most of those who heard the letter read were going to die before the promised deliverance.

I thought about this part and my own family and the families of so many others I know. My earliest known ancestor that came to the United States arrived on a ship in 1738. He and his son survived the voyage. We surmise that others of his family likely perished. Upon arrival he sold himself and his son into indentured servitude. His would have been at least 3 years and probably more nearly 7 or longer. His son's would have been 14 years. That was how he paid for the cost of the passage.

Surely he wanted a better life for himself but I have to imagine that it was also as much for future generations of his family that he braved such terrible hardships. And that's been true in my family ever since that the parents sacrificed so that their children could live better.

There are some things worth great sacrifice and not everything happens immediately.


~Betsy said...

Great post, Terry. My dad used to tell me that patience is a virtue. He was an incredibly patient man and I always marveled at this.

Thanks for this - you have given me much to ponder this morning.

nancy said...

i enjoyed your post as well. it makes you realize what sacrifices our ancestors made to have a better life, not just for themselves but for future generations. so much of today's society is for instant gratification or the entitlement generation.

thanks for posting. very thought provoking.

Lori1955 said...

great post Terry. For me it spoke more to acceptance. Not always easy.

SKYGIRL said...

Yes, Thank You Terry. When I was on my 'own' pilgrimage in a very worn out Car,stacked to the rafters with camping equipment, etc, to seek for a different, and cheaper livng environment, I thought allot about the original pilgrims. I think I even stopped and read some historial articles about them, and "The Columbia River Gourge" (spelling?)

It is now damed up, and used for recreation purposes, but at one time (and evident if you see it, the line dividing Oregon & Washington State, basically!) It was a HUGE cravas, like "The Grand Canyon!" and at one time the biggest body of Wild-White-Water in the Nation?

They told stories of entire families in their Covered Wagons, making make-shifted bardges, with no way to guide them. They put their covered wagons on them, and lost many of them...Bye-Bye Jone's Family? Bye-Bye, the Smiths! CRAZY?

I wondered what 'fueled' them, why their passion was so strong, for a better life? Were they starving to death? I don't think so. They just wanted a better life, they were seaking, a Dream?

Anyway, I don't mean to be a downer, because obviously some of them made it, or You & I would not be here!

One of these days, Flinty, I want to hear about when your Life changed Course. Because I get the impression there was a defining moment, or a born again kind of experience? I have never had one of those, and would be intereted in hearing about it?