Four Great Loves – Loving God’s Purposes A Mission from God – Lesson #8
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December 7, 2022
Love makes the world go ‘round. At least that’s how the old song goes. But we live in a broken, love-starved world. Relationships go sour. Families squabble and sometimes hurt us. Friends disappoint us. Even the church can add to our sense of aloneness.
The Bible gives us hope and encouragement. It reveals that we are called to be a loving community – loving God, loving God’s Word, loving God’s people in all their diversity and loving God’s purposes in the world. That’s an awesome task, but God promises to equip us for it. We can love because God first loved us unconditionally, in spite of our unfaithfulness.
But what does it mean to love God? How can we learn to love God’s Word? Who are the people we are called to love? Just what are God’s purposes in the world? This set of eight studies examines these questions in the light of Scripture – God’s written Word. You’ll be amazed at how the Bible provides startling, practical direction for your life today.
Begin each study with prayer and close each session with a time of prayer and worship, expressing your love for God. If you study with others, plan to spend enough time together that you can enjoy one another’s fellowship.
Most of all, enjoy discovering new things from God’s Word!
To know and trust God’s ultimate purposes for our lives.
After graduating from college with high honors and great expectations for serving God in her career, my friend Melissa faced a slow job market. Six months later she finally found what appeared to be a good position, but in turned out to be her worst nightmare. Her boss was an alcoholic who manipulated and verbally abused her staff. Her coworkers jealously guarded their own turf, often leaving Melissa feeling inept and alone. She seemed to receive all the assignments that no one else wanted. All her friends advised her to quit, but she couldn’t find any good alternatives. She grew angry with God and gradually slipped into a deep sense of hopelessness.
Describe a time when you felt confused about what God wanted you to do with your life?
As you think about the next five years of your life, what thoughts and feelings come to mind?
Babylon had been attacking Judah for years. The prophet Jeremiah constantly warned the kings of Judah that if they did not return to the Lord, the nation would be taken into exile. However, the more socially accepted prophets were saying that this was merely a short-term problem. The one prophet who agreed with Jeremiah was killed, but Jeremiah continued to prophesy faithfully, saying that Judah might as well surrender to Babylon because God intended to use Babylon to bring Judah to repentance. Eventually, Jeremiah’s predictions were realized.
Read Jeremiah 29:1-14.
1. This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.
2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.)
3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
7 Also, seek the peace and 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.”
8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.
9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.
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.
12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Lesson #8 Questions
1. Who are the original recipients of this letter (vv. 1-3)?
2. According to verse 4, why are the Israelites in exile? What difference would it make to know that God had put you in a difficult situation? In what way can you identify with the Israelites’ experience of exile?
3. How does God instruct the Jewish exiles to live during this Babylonian exile in verses 4-9? (Consider the significance of each command to the exiles and to their Babylonian neighbors.)
4. Think about a current difficult situation that you hope will be temporary – a job that you dislike, an unpleasant living situation, a class that you would rather not take or a church where you just don’t seem to fit it. What difference would it make if you followed the same instructions that God gave to the exiles in Babylon?
How might if affect those around you who do not yet know the Lord?
5. What is God’s purpose in imposing this seventy-year period of exile, according to verses 10-11?
6. What promises does he make to his people in verses 12-14?
7. As you consider your own future, what are your greatest hopes?
How do your hopes compare and contrast to God’s plans for his people?
8. What have you learned about yourself, God and others during periods of difficulty?
9. What would it look like in practical terms for you to live according to God’s plans in verses 12-14?
10. As Christians, we are to live as “aliens and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11 NSRV) among those who do not know Christ. Think of some practical ways you could do that in your present community, using the principles in this passage so that you might share the hope of Christ with those around you.
Pray specifically for the people you want to share the hope that you have in Christ with. Ask for God’s guidance.
Now or Later
Read Genesis 45:4-11. Joseph’s brothers had sold him into slavery in a fit of jealousy and revenge. He had lived through slavery and an unjust prison sentence before finally rising to power. At this point in the biblical account, his brothers had come to Egypt seeking relief from famine. They did not know that Joseph was in charge of the storehouses of Egypt. Why do you think Joseph was able to forgive his brothers? How does knowing that God has a plan for our good give you perspective on the events around you?