Pomp & Circumstance

by DanWolgemuth on May 20, 2022

Ah, yes… graduation. Achievement celebrated. Transition initiated. The future anticipated.

And, of course, cards and gifts purchased.

For those biblically-minded gift givers, a laser etching of Jeremiah 29:11 is always a favorite.

“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.“

As God communicates with His chosen people (who are now in exile in godless Babylon), He makes a robust and hope-inspiring promise. A promise that looks wonderful in walnut, barnwood or in a plexiglass frame.

God has plans for us. Good plans, not evil. “Hope and a future!” What graduate doesn’t want this kind of promise?

Yet, I fear that by isolating a verse, any verse, and imputing meaning without context, we venture into dangerous territory. Potentially, heretical.

In fact, this promise in Jeremiah 29 is the hand, over which the glove of Babylonian captivity fit snuggly. 70 more years of captivity. Eugene Peterson, in his paraphrase of this passage puts it this way…

“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.”

The glorious promise of God through Jeremiah had a 70-year incubation period. 70 years.

I don’t see many graduation gifts being etched with that reality, but that’s what happened. 70 years in exile… and yet, God directed something profound and beautiful before verse 11. Something that informs and amplifies the promise. He commanded His people, the exiles, to bring “shalom” to the hostile environment that they were captive to. Don’t wait for Jerusalem. Be peacemakers. Here. Now.

God told His people to put down roots, to plant gardens, to have babies and raise families… in Babylon. Long before the return trip to Jerusalem. He proclaimed to His people that they should be exporters of peace before they became importers of the promise (see Jeremiah 29:4-7).

God put it this way… “And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away as captives, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7, NKJV)

In the face of Babylonian exile. Against the timeline of decades of limitations and loss. We seek the peace. We bring peace. We cultivate peace.

Not by Tweeting or posting or ranting… but by moving into neighborhoods, and opening up our tables, and loving our enemies, and listening, and dispensing compassion, and by living and loving the truth… and yes, by praying to the Lord on behalf of our cities.

Consider this a graduation challenge. A calling for every Christ-following, gown-wearing, tassel-donning diploma recipient. Be what God calls you to be. His agents and ambassadors of Shalom in the middle of the chaos, confusion and hatred. Even in exile. Especially in exile.

Only He knows the plans. But He promises good, not evil. For eternity.

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