WEEK ONE: BIBLE STUDY OVERVIEW
Insights on God’s Plan – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Background for the Group Leader: In this passage from Jeremiah, we read that God had a plan for the Israelites once they were exiled from their land.
As group leader, you will begin the discussion by raising the questions below, inviting them to share their thoughts and feelings. You do NOT have to use all the questions. These are suggested questions and you may skip any that may not seem appropriate for the group. Do not insist that they talk. Let them pass if they choose not to speak. For some, they will want to take the whole time to talk about their reflections. Ask them to limit their comments to two or three sentences and remind them that they can share more in small groups after the activity is over. If you notice that an individual is deeply saddened by what he/she is saying, you may want to offer him/her the opportunity to share more with a social worker, a family member or friend. This is not a time for therapy. It is a time to experience spiritual wellness by recognizing the positive and painful moments in life and affirming the individual’s experiences.
Directions for participants:
Week 1: You will review terms used, listen to the passage and follow your guide’s suggestions as you view the art associated with it. At the end, you may want to share your thoughts based on the guide’s questions.
Week 2: You will read the same passage together and discuss the questions, delving more into its message.
Week 3: You will read the closing reflection, listen to the song associated with it and together answer the final discussion questions.
WEEK ONE – ART FOR REFLECTION AND DISCUSSION
Insights on God’s Plan – Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
NOTE FOR GROUP LEADER: In preparation for this reading, the group will discuss and reflect on the terms and historical information provided under “Terms to Understand and Discuss.” After discussing the terms, the group will silently reflect on the image, and then the passage (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) will be read while they continue to view it. The artwork will either be projected on a screen or printed out for easier viewing. The passage is printed below for further review, if desired. Follow the steps below:
Step One: Terms to Understand and Discuss:
Prophet: one who announces inspired revelations believed to come from God.
Exile: an individual who is forced from the home country.
Babylon: ancient capital of Babylonia about 55 miles south of Baghdad near the Euphrates River.
Babylonian Captivity: also called Babylonian Exile, the forced detention of Jews in Babylonia following the conquest of the kingdom of Judah in 598/7 and 587/6 BCE. The captivity ended in approximately 538 BCE, when the Persian conqueror of Babylonia, Cyrus the Great. gave the Jews permission to return to Palestine.
Many scholars cite 597 BCE as the date of the first deportation, for in that year King Jeboiachin was deposed and apparently sent into exile with his family, his court, and thousands of workers. Others say the first deportation followed the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586; if so, the Jews were held in Babylonian captivity for 48 years. Among those who accept a tradition (Jeremiah 29:10) that the exile lasted 70 years, some choose the dates 608 to 538, others 586 to about 516 (the year when the rebuilt Temple was dedicated in Jerusalem).
Although the Jews suffered greatly and faced powerful cultural pressures in a foreign land, they maintained their national spirit and religious identity. (https://www.britannica.com/event/Babylonian-Captivity)
Jeremiah: (c. 650 – c. 570 BC) Jeremiah, also called Jeremias or the “weeping prophet”, was one of the major prophets of the Hebrew Bible. According to Jewish tradition, Jeremiah authored the Book of Jeremiah, among other books.
Jeremiah was a prophet in the southern kingdom of Judah in the Old Testament, right before Judah fell to Babylon and the Jews were led away into captivity. God sent Jeremiah to a crumbling nation to warn of their impending demise – a warning they didn’t heed.
Jeremiah’s most lasting legacy may in fact be one of hope. One of the most oft-quoted verses in the Bible, Jeremiah 29:11 has offered hope to believers for centuries. (biblestudytools.com) The passage reads: “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.”
Letter to the Exiles — Jeremiah 29: 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. Jeremiah gave the letter to Zedekiah, king of Judah and sent it to Nebuchadrezzar who would give it to the Exiles. It said:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 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. 7 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.” 8 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. 9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 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.” (Jeremiah 29: 4-14 NIV)
Nebuchadnezzar: King of Babylon; In 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the Kingdom of Judah, and its capital, Jerusalem This led to the Babylonian captivity and the population of Jerusalem was deported to Babylonia. The Jews considered Nebuchadnezzar their greatest enemy up to that point, as a “destroyer of nations”.
Step Two: Art for Reflection (Items needed: Artwork)
Group leader begins by saying: In this activity we will reflect on an image of the Jews who were exiled from Jerusalem. The passage you will hear is the message from the prophet Jeremiah offering hope to the Jews during their time of exile. Consider the impact of this message. Who is in the scene? What is happening? What does this image say to you? Try to put yourself into the image. Where are you? Reflect on the feelings and experience of each person in the photo. What would your feelings and experiences be in this circumstance? I will give you three minutes to reflect. (Group Leader gives the group about three minutes of silence for the group to consider and meditate on the visual impact of the art. At the end of the silent reflection, go to Step Three.)
Read the passage or turn on the recording of the passage:
Stock illustration ID:495701176 — Vintage engraving of Israelites going into captivity. After the fall of Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan was sent to destroy it. The city was plundered and razed to the ground. Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. Only a small number of vinedressers and husbandmen were permitted to remain in the land.
Step Three: Items needed: Artwork, Passage from Insights on God’s Plan – Jeremiah 29:11 NIV (printed below) and questions for discussion and reflection.
Group leader now says: “I will read (or play) the passage from Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV). While you listen to the passage continue to reflect on the artwork.” After the reading, the group can discuss and reflect on any or all of the following questions.
- Describe the scene. Who is there? What is happening?
- Put yourself in the scene. Where are you? What are you doing? What are you thinking?
- What is the message? What is the implication of the message for those hearing it? For you?
- What do you suppose the exiles are feeling? Why?
- How do you think you would feel if exiled from your home?
- What would think or feel upon hearing Jeremiah’s letter and message?
- How do you think you would live, knowing that God has a plan for you?
- What other thoughts do you have about this image?
NOTE TO GROUP LEADER: At the end of the session, you may want to allow the group to have a few moments for open discussion and what the session may have meant for them.
Reading Passage: Week One
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 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.