Seeking the Peace of the University

By Thomas Trevethan

Bible Study Guide for Jeremiah 29:1-14

Tom Trevethan guides us through the importance of living within the university peacefully by studying the exile of the Israelites.

  1. Jeremiah 29 is the record in Scripture of a letter the prophet sent from Jerusalem to Jewish exiles in Babylon. Read Jeremiah 29:1-14 aloud, paying attention especially to what it commands and what it promises.
  2. Recall the historical background to this letter, as it is indicated in vv. 1-3. What was the situation in Jerusalem and in Babylon for the people of God? What are the background problems addressed by the letter, as they are reflected in the text of the letter?
  3. Certainly we are not suffering the privations of exile as university faculty, nor are we directly threatened by false prophecy. Are there aspects of the challenge of exile and false prophecy we do face in the contemporary secular college or university setting? Can you share ways you have personally encountered these challenges? How do the truths of verse 4 about the character of the LORD speak to these contemporary challenges?
  4. Spend time thinking about the verbal detail in verse 4. Who is the author of the letter? What is the theological claim implicit in this statement of authorship? What do you learn about the LORD from this verse? How are these titles and statements important for the exiles? How might they be important for Christian faculty living in the contemporary secular university?
  5. Verses 5-9 contain a series of commands that constitute a strategy for living faithfully in exile. Perhaps the key word in these verses is “welfare” (v. 7). This is a translation of the Hebrew word shalom, more commonly translated “peace.” Consider the following dictionary definition of shalom: Basically the OT word for peace, shalom, means “completeness,” “soundness,” “well-being.” It is used when one asks of or prays for the welfare of another (Gn. 43:27/ Ex. 4:18; Jdg. 19:20), when one is in harmony or concord with another (Jos. 9:15; I Ki. 5:12), when one seeks the good of a city or country (Ps. 122:6; Jer. 29:7). It may mean material prosperity (Ps. 73:3) or physical safety (Ps. 4:8). But also it may mean spiritual well-being. Such peace is the associate of righteousness and truth, but not of wickedness (Ps. 85:10; Is. 48:18, 22; 57:19-21). (NBD (1996), p. 891) What does this definition suggest the exiles should seek for Babylon? What might it suggest we should be seeking for our own university communities? Consider the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Faculty Ministry "mission, vision, and basic values statement." It was formed as a result of thinking deeply as we were able about this question. Does it add any further thoughts to your understanding of what it means to seek the peace of your university?
  6. Note each of the commands in verses 5-9. How do they sketch a strategy for living faithfully as faculty or as graduate students in the contemporary university? Which aspects of this strategy have you deployed helpfully and what has been the result? In which aspects do you need to grow? How might you pursue such growth?
  7. Verses 10-14 contain a series of promises addressed to the exiles. They are perhaps the most familiar words from this chapter. Why are these particular promises so important for the exiles? Are there ways these promises apply only to these particular exiles? How are they important for you? For you as a professor?
  8. As a part of the answer to the questions in question #6 and #7, think together about where this episode of Israel’s exile fits into the larger Biblical story? What had become of the Davidic monarchy? What was its future to be? Would a Davidic king ever again sit on a throne in Jerusalem as the monarch of an independent Israelite nation state? What is the future of the monarchy from the perspective of Jeremiah 29? What became of the Temple and Jerusalem as the worship center of the people of God? Who are the “spiritual descendants” of these exiles? How does the New Testament pick up and fulfill the concept of “exile?” See I Peter 1-2 as a significant part of the answer to this question. What do these considerations suggest about the application of the commands and promises of Jeremiah 29?
  9. One clear point of application is the call to “pray to the LORD on its' [Babylon’s] behalf.” How should you be praying for your university? Conclude your time together by offering prayers of intercession on behalf of your university, its leaders, its work of teaching, scholarship, and service, its justice and righteousness, its order and harmony.

Use the following corporate prayer from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer as a closing petition:

Almighty God, we beseech you, with your gracious favor to behold our university, that knowledge may be increased among us, and all good learning flourish and abound. Bless all who teach and all who learn; and grant that in humility of heart they may ever look unto you, the fountain of all wisdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Photo credit: Micheal Hickerson


Tom Trevethan was one of InterVarsity’s most gifted Bible expositors and he authored the books The Beauty of God’s Holiness (InterVarsity Press) and Our Joyful Confidence: The Lordship of Jesus in Colossians (DILL Press). Tom earned an MA from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and served as a Campus Staff Minister at the University of Michigan for many years serving both students and faculty throughout his career. Tom most recently served on the InterVarsity Faculty Ministry Leadership Team as an Associate Director for Research and Publications, writing many resources for faculty and grad students and contributing to the Lamp Post faculty newsletters for several years (now Campus Calling). Tom retired in 2014 after 47 years of service with InterVarsity. He lived in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife Barbara, where they enjoyed many years of singing with their church and with the local Choral Union which won two Grammy Awards in 2005. Our hearts go out to Barb and their family upon learning of Tom's passing in October 2023. His voice, in both writing as well as singing, will be greatly missed.

In the GFM Resources, Tom's Bible study on Psalm 90 remains a wonderful resource for both students and staff. Tom's writings on the InterVarsity blog in 2014 include, On the Dangers of "Using" Scripture, part 1 and part 2. His research and thoughts on the InterVarsity Doctrinal Basis might have been shared with you during your Orientation to New Staff years ago. You can access the seven part series, Studying InterVarsity's Doctrinal Basis here. Tom worked with Nan Thomas on the Faculty Ministry booklet, Taking Time Apart.