Doubting God’s Plans (Jeremiah 29:4-11)

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     Finding meaning and purpose in life can be one of the most difficult and frustrating, yet rewarding, journeys we embark upon in this life. Dr. Charles Montgomery preached this weekend out Jeremiah, focusing on Jer 29:11. We learned that Jeremiah prophesied to Israel during a period of captivity in Babylon. While Jeremiah told the people that God will redeem them after 70 years, another prophet named Shemaiah said it would only take 2 years. Dr. Montgomery made a key point about our expectation of God – our God is not always a microwave savior but sometimes He’s a crock-pot redeemer…who specializes in slow cooking. While we might be waiting, don’t fall into the trap of excuses – blaming others, blaming our past, or blaming places. Dr. M said, “You can prosper in the city you’re in…here’s how you deal with prosperity – You start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. You cannot start where you are not! You cannot do what you cannot do and you cannot use what you do not have.”
     We need to start by maximizing the moment, or put another way, participate in our prosperity. If we want the results of vs. 11, we need to start with the prescription in vv. 4-10. First, we need to prioritize relationship with God. Next, we must participate in constructive activities, not destructive ones. Next, we need to participate in God’s economy – embracing the reality that biblical prosperity means wholeness (Phil 4:19). Next, work on your relationships – build community. To do this we need to cling to Hope. Eugene Peterson said “hope means a confident, alert expectation that God will do what He said He will do”. The last word from Dr. M was that we stop hiding behind “stuff” that keeps us from relationship with the father. God will remove that stuff if necessary to draw near to the child He loves. In 5 minutes or less, briefly give a synopsis of this week’s sermon. What insight, principle, or observation from this weekend’s message did you find to be most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling? Explain.

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

• What are one or two things from this weekend’s sermon that really stood out to you?
• What was your childhood dream job? How far did you get toward accomplishing that goal?
• Today, do you feel closer or further from God’s plans for your life? Please share briefly.

Scripture Study
Study Goal: Life is much more like a journey than a destination – especially when we know we’re just resident aliens. So wherever we find ourselves, we want to cling to the hope we have in Christ.  That He’ll accomplish his plans and purposes in us and through us, and to trust that God is with us every step along the way. People who live with this mindset draw close to God, and know God in ways that anchor their lives whether on the mountain top or in the valley. Additionally, the process of knowing God and His plans is dynamic. Like with Moses, God revealed himself more and more to Moses and the Israelites along the way – and He supplied Moses with what he needed no matter the circumstances. Our job is to trust Him – that He will do what He says He will do.
Context: Moses has been in the desert for many years after fleeing Egypt. He had a wife, a family, a job, presumably a comfortable place in Midian society when one day, out of the blue, he sees a bush on fire that’s not burning up. Ruth Hayley Barton makes this point in her book Strengthening the Soul of your Leadership – it was AFTER Moses noticed the bush (vv. 3-4) and God knew he had Moses’ attention that God actually speaks to Moses. Barton asks the question, is there space in our lives to notice burning bushes? Sometimes we’re moving so fast and God is present around us, yet we miss Him because we’re so distracted, so busy. Do you have space in life to see evidence of God around you? In you family? In your friendships? At work? In your neighborhood, etc? Have you ever had a “burning bush” moment, large or small?
From the burning bush, God tells Moses about his plans to save His people (vv. 7-9)  – we’ll pick up the story at the beginning of their dialogue.
Read Exodus 3:10-14
10 “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain. ”
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
14 God said to Moses, “I am who I Am” this is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
·   Vv. 10 -11– How confident in God’s plan is Moses at this point? What’s his first thought? Who was Pharaoh – was Moses right to be afraid?
·  Has anyone ever experienced a call from God, whether big or small, to “go, I’m sending you…” for a specific purpose? How did you feel? What thoughts did you wrestle with?
· Vv. 12-13 What is God’s response to Moses’ fears? Can you recall another place in scripture where God tells doubting and fearful people “Go…” (Read Matt 28:20). We have the same promise that Moses did. As disciples of Jesus, in what ways do you struggle with or doubt what God is asking you to do?
·  V. 13-14 In spite of God’s promise(s) Moses (human, like us) asks what question?  At this point, how well does Moses know who God is (apparently not too well – vv. 5-6)? Remember that in Ancient Israel, a name was connected to one’s being, the nature of who that person was. What is the relationship between how connected you are to God, and who He is, and how well you trust and know his promise(s)? Can you share a story from your life illustrating this principle?
· V. 14 What is God’s response[1]? With that interpretation, can we really know God simply by talking about God? What is one aspect of God’s character or personality you didn’t know or understand when you first began following Jesus, but now know because you’ve walked with God for a period of time?
             Now Read Exodus 15:1-2; 11-18:
Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
    “I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.
    Both horse and driver, He has hurled into the sea.
“The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.
  He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.
11 Who among the gods, is like you, Lord?
     Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?
12 “You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies.
13 In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.
   In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
   the people of Canaan will melt away;
16 terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone – until your people pass by, Lord,until the people you bought pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance—
    the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established.
18 “The Lord reigns for ever and ever.”
· Who wrote this song[2] of thanksgiving and praise? 12 chapters before – what was Moses’ response? What’s happened to Moses since Chapter 3 (just hit the highlights)? Did Moses have the entire “game plan” at the burning bush? Anyone in the room have their entire “game plan” for life? Yet God is asking us to trust Him…
· V. 2 – he has become my salvation – that word become did not necessarily happen instantaneously. Like Dr. M who said God is less often like a microwave than a crock-pot – it took 12 chapters and a deliberate process by God and a gradual revelation of God’s faithfulness to move Moses to this point.
·  What verses resonate with your heart? Which ones feel really foreign to you right now? Why?
·  Whom are you more like – the Moses of Ch. 3 or the Moses of chapter 15?

[1] He says “I AM WHO I AM”. There are various interpretations of what this means.  The most significant and the one to think about for a moment is this – the Hebrew grammar is flexible enough to mean both “I am” and “I will be”. Some theologians believe God is saying “I am who I will be”. I am the God who is here now, who exists now, and I will be here tomorrow, I will exist tomorrow…In other words, He is saying to Moses, I will never change, I will be God no matter what. His identity is firm.
I also believe he is telling Moses, this is not just the way you will know my name, but this is how you will know me – you will know me by who you will see me to be. You will know me by what I will do. You will know me to be God in every situation, in every scenario. This knowing will only come through me showing you. That is my answer to the question of who I am and what is my name.
[2] Historians believe this is the first poetic writing every recorded in the Bible. Simply, it’s one of the earliest worship songs every written.

Ministry Application
Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.
·      15:17-18 is Moses’ declaration of hope in the Lord and in God’s ability to accomplish the things He’s promised. We may not be able to sing and declare in the same way as Moses that God is King (of all), but nevertheless it’s true. Perception is reality, and some of us may need to have our perceptions changed, our eyes opened afresh to who our God is and His capacity to bring us through whatever we’re facing. Sometimes confessing to others our doubts, our fears, our lack of trust in God provides an open door for God to move. Try that with a few others in the group and pray for the Kingdom to break in.
·      Some of us may still feel like we’re sitting in the desert waiting for that burning bush – you can’t see any evidence of God’s presence or direction and you’re needing God to reach out and touch you. Our God longs to be near to us (Matt 28:20), share your struggles with another and invite God’s touch.
·      Some may know (or at one point, knew) what God wants from you, but feel like you’ve disqualified yourself somehow, or you’re wrestling with excuses like Dr. M spoke about. We need to remember God’s promises and know there is no condemnation in Christ, nothing that can separate us from God’s love. We may need a period of renewal with Christ, but let’s get on that road and “maximize the moment”. Turn to God in prayer with a trusted brother or sister and ask God to show you specific ways forward.
·      Some may know exactly what god wants you to do – to “go…” and you’re looking for further confirmation, or wrestling with doubt. Share with the group, or a few others, so they can pray and invite the H.S. to speak again God’s faithfulness or God’s wisdom and discernment to move forward.