In Jeremiah 29 the prophet wrote to the people of God who were captives in exile. Though many Jews had already been taken to Babylon, the final siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple had not yet occurred. God used Jeremiah’s message to bring a sure word of hope and warning to many of His children who were already far from home.
God’s directions to the exiles: Build dwelling places in the land of your captivity and live in them. Plant gardens and enjoy the fruit of your labors. Marry and give in marriage. Have children. In summary: Settle in. You are going to be here a while.
God told His people that they should seek the peace and prosperity of the place where they were currently living. Many of the elders there would presumably die in the land of their captivity, but their descendants would return and begin a new life in the land from which their fathers and grandfathers were cast out.
It would be seventy years before that return would take place. People who believe that they will live in a foreign land for seventy years live very differently than those who believe that they will come home in two years.
God had plans for His exiled people. These determinations were sure, but they would not be entirely fulfilled within the lifetime of those to whom He wrote. The Almighty spoke of His vision for His chosen ones as “a future and a hope” that would come to pass according to a multi-generational promise.
The God of the Jews was with His people in Babylon, but one day He would be with their descendants again in Jerusalem in a new temple. His presence would again be known in that holy place. This was the word of good news for them, but there was also a necessary note of warning. There were false prophets that were spreading lies in God’s name, giving unreliable messages to His people and distracting them from their present duties. Such misleading prophets had to be ignored.
One other important component of Jeremiah’s letter was the account of life back in the land of Judah. Should the exiles envy the people that were not taken away as captives? God assured His people in Babylon that it was far better for them to be in exile at this time, since the people who remained in the land of Judah faced grave danger, trouble, and death.
Finally, the letter addressed particular lying prophets and other specific individuals who had spoken falsely concerning Jeremiah. They would have no part in the better days that God had announced to His suffering people.
Centuries after the days of Jeremiah, Jesus talked to His disciples about the future. He promised certain events that would take place in their lifetimes. He also spoke of other prophetic details that were for another day beyond the mortal lives of those who first heard His words. Shortly after giving that revelation, He himself was abandoned by His friends and was put on display as a criminal. Yet He knew that He had “a future and a hope.”
Today we may feel very far from God. Our citizenship is in heaven and we live on earth. We need to seek the peace and prosperity of the place where we are. We can enjoy the gifts that God gives us here, and plan for our future together with confidence. Our title to a far greater land is secure through the blood of Immanuel. Like our Redeemer, we must keep on going with our good mission, even when it may seem to ourselves and to others that all is lost.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Father God, there is so much that we cannot comprehend. There is much trouble all around us. Who can understand the glory of Your plan? You have sent us into a particular place, and we are to seek the welfare of the place where we live. There will be an end to every act of divine discipline. Your plans for us are good. We will seek You and we will find You, for You have sought us first and have found us. Have mercy on us, O God. We have not paid attention to Your Word as we ought to. Help us to distinguish lies from the truth. Grant this discernment not only to the elders of Your church, but to all who have the joy of hearing Your Word. False shepherds would lead the sheep away, but we will do what You have commanded. Help us to reject all lies, despite the strange appeal of the false claims of men.