Two interesting things stick out in these two chapters.
God tells Jeremiah to place a wooden yoke on his body before he begins prophesying. For all we can tell, he prophesied and left it on all the time because later, Hananiah, the false prophet, comes in 28:12 and breaks the yoke off of Jeremiah’s neck. To me at first read this whole wear your yoke around thing is pretty funny. I just think of a crusty old guy wearing something that animals wear, he probably would have been the butt of many jokes. If it was middle school, it probably would have been even worse.
I think its interesting that the Lord made Jeremiah prophesy with the physical object he was actually providing prophetic imagery about. I think this challenges me to make sure that I feel the burden for the people that I am called to minister to. Jeremiah, literally and figuratively felt that burden. I think that we will be the most effective in ministering to people when we get into their world, when we understand and feel their pains and struggles, otherwise God’s message doesn’t come with a burden. I believe that a burden from the Lord for people is really what will produce that change because then and only then do we have God’s heart for them.
Secondly, how could you read Jeremiah 29 and not talk about verse 11? It is one of the most famous verses in the entire Bible. I want to reframe verse 11 for us a little in that in our myopic western culture, we always interpret this verse in being something that is applying to us as individuals. While I do believe that God has a specific plan for our lives, the context of this verse is not to a person, but to a nation. It is to a people. What I want to challenge us with is that I believe our destiny more often than not is found in a vacuum by ourselves but rather in the context of family, in the context of a local church. At this point the nation of Israel was essentially one big church. I think that this is a big challenge for us in western culture, where we tend to make decisions concerning our future and our destiny by ourselves without many times understanding what the larger narrative that God is writing. As we seek God’s heart for our future and the destiny that he has planned for us, let’s seek it in the context of what he is doing in and around us.