It can be tough to come up with fresh ideas for youth sermons. We love helping out here, so today we offer a sermon from the book of Jeremiah on God keeping His promises .
Bible passage: Jeremiah 29:1, 4-21
Key message: God keeps His promises
Synopsis: God had warned the Jews in Judah that He would punish them and send them in exile, because they had forgotten about Him. But the people didn’t listen. Now they were taken away and they were prisoners in a foreign land. They deserved every bit of punishment for forgetting about God who had done so much for them. God had warned them for years through the prophet Jeremiah that He would bring destruction if they didn’t change their sinful ways. But even though God punished them (and we read about the coming destruction of Jerusalem here in verse 15-21), He still kept His promise that He would never truly forsake them. He promised them that their captivity will last 70 years, but that He would bring them back to Israel. Also, He assured them that ultimately He had the best in mind for them. He wanted to bless them–but they do need to obey Him.
How does this all translate to our situation? First of all, this story shows us how seriously God takes sin. His holiness demands a response when His people so blatantly disobey Him. But God still keeps His promises. He has promised us our sins are covered and forgiven if we accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, so we needn’t worry that God will punish us like this. Secondly, we know that God ultimately does want the best for us (like verse 11 tells us), like He did for Israel. But the best doesn’t always mean He will make things easy for us. We have to learn to trust God and His Word. There isn’t a promise in the Bible that God hasn’t kept. Thirdly, He has promised us that all things will work for good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28), so even if we find ourselves in dire situations, we can trust God to keep this promise and make things work for good.
Context: Jeremiah is not an easy book to read, nor to preach from. If you want to get it right, you’ll have to spend some time not only studying the whole book and thus the context, but also the time period it takes place in. This is complicated by the fact that the book is not chronological, but rather haphazardly in order. Having a commentary that sorts this out for you, or reading it in a chronological Bible could really help you out there.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that’s often used to show how God thinks about us. But the context is a bit more complicated. This chapter is a letter written to the Jews from the kingdom of Judah who had been taken captive and who had been brought to Babylon. This was a punishment from God because they had abandoned Him and worshipped other gods. Daniel was one of the exiles actually, as were many noble families. There was still a king in Judah, Mattanja (who was renamed Zedekiah by Nebukadnessar), but he was a marionette king and didn’t have any real powers.
The prophet Jeremiah had been warning about God’s coming judgment for about thirty years when this happened. He had even warned the Jews would be taking captive and that their captivity would last 70 years (see chapter 25:12 which took place a couple of years before chapter 29) At the same time, there had been and still were many false prophets active who told people it would be all right, that peace would come soon. The people chose not to believe Jeremiah and kept going about their business, which was not honoring God.
Jeremiah was still in Jerusalem, with a remainder of the Jews, when God told him to write this letter to the exiles in Babylon.
Tips: Context is king here, so I suggest you offer a basic overview of what’s happening in Judah and Babylon. If you have a knack for this, you could do this in a narrative style, making it into a story. In that case you could consider using an easy translation to read from, or a retelling like The Message.
Make sure to explain clearly why God punished Judah this way, how they had abandoned Him. You could quote from the first chapters of Jeremiah for reference, for instance 1:16 or 2:4-10.
When you get to the application part, you have an excellent opportunity to preach the gospel. God punished Israel for its sins, because the wages of sin are death, but if we trust in Jesus, our sins will be forgiven.