Midweek Musing 7-5-22 Just Keep Swimming
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.
(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.)
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:
This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.
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.
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.”
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.
They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the LORD.
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
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.”
This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
In this passage of scripture, Jeremiah is writing to a people who have been defeated by an invading nation, taken into captivity, and relocated to serve the Babylonian people.
This is not a good season for the Hebrew nation as they are, according to the prophet Jeremiah, being punished for their inequities. During this time God has sent the Hebrew nation into exile, but Jeremiah also tells them that God promises to restore them in due time.
This text is a promise that God has not forgotten God’s people and a reminder that God can bring good even from dark, hard days.
It is also a set of instructions to the people regarding how they are to live and work and worship during these times when life is hard.
God does not tell these folks to cower or give up or sulk. God instructs the people to keep on living, even in the hard times.
There is a Disney Pixar movie entitled Finding Nemo that at one time we watched so much in my house that I could quote it.
The basic plotline is an overly cautious father fish named Marlin has a son named Nemo. Nemo is anything but cautious, always seeking adventure. Nemo’s adventure-seeking eventually has him being caught by some snorkelers and taken to Australia where he is placed in an aquarium.
Nemo’s dad is desperate to find his son and so he begins a quest that will take him on a treacherous journey to find Nemo. (Thus, the movie name Finding Nemo. Disney was not overly creative with this title.)
On the journey, he is befriended and helped by a fish with memory issues, but a heart of God named Dory. (FYI Dory is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres and she does a masterful job in the role.)
At one point all seems lost, and Marlin is on the verge of giving up when Dory gives some advice that not only resonated with the movie but continues to resonate with folks decades later.
She tells Marlin when things are at their worst the best solution available is to just keep swimming.
Perhaps Dory had read this text from Jeremiah. Perhaps she had a copy of the NIV waterproof edition.
Because inside the words of Jeremiah and his prophecy of the future when God will return the Hebrew Nation to their homeland, Jeremiah also tells folks to be sure to just keep on swimming.
This is good advice for the exiled Hebrew nation, Marlin as he searches for Nemo, and for you and me as we face hard days both individually and as a community.
This is not easy. Sometimes it seems like giving up is the prudent path – certainly, it is the easiest one.
However, that is not what God commands; instead, he wants us to discern good from evil, to pray and worship, to live and work and prosper even as we look forward to the day when all will be made right, and God’s promised day will be made fully known to us and we will once again be home with our God just as has been promised.
Until then just keep on swimming.
Stay well friends.