Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NIV): This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 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.”
These words were spoken to a people who were under God’s judgment. They had been carried off to Babylon several years before and, at first, were expecting to be rescued immediately. They reasoned that surely, in God’s might and in His power, He would not allow His people to experience these terrible things without coming to their rescue.
But then, as time drug on from weeks to months, and into years, hope began to wane. Perhaps, they thought, God was not as powerful as they had imagined. Maybe the gods of Babylon were stronger than He was!
But the problem was not with God, it was with them; they were still the same in their hearts as they had been when He had sent them into captivity. Nothing about them had changed or improved over those few years; they still had hearts that were not focused on God. They wanted Him only so that He could free them; so that their lives could return to “normal” again. But their normal lives were lives of sin, disobedience, idolatry, and dissipation.
God would not rescue them until the furnace of captivity had purified the people; until the struggles and hardships had given them a whole-hearted focus on Him. The majority of those who went into captivity never did return – their children and grand children were the ones who repossessed the land. Still, it was vital that the people understood that the hardships they were experiencing were more than simply punishment – they were designed to melt them down, to remove the dross of sinful actions and attitudes, and to purify them to be God’s people once again – that God’s plans for them were for their ULTIMATE good; plans to prosper them, not to harm them, plans to give them hope and a future.
But it was also vital for them to understand that it was going to take 70 long years of trouble and toil to get them there! They had sunk so far that no repentance of lips alone would put them back on the right track; they had to be changed INSIDE. Only when they came to the point where they sought God with all their hearts would He be found by them. Only at that point would He bring them back into the land.
It may seem strange, or even cruel to some, that God told His people that He had plans for their future, plans that would provide them with hope, but that it would be 70 years before He would work those plans – that many of the people would likely die before they became a reality. But without that hope, without that knowledge, none of the people would have begun the arduous process of reformation that would ultimately lead to their restoration as a people. None would have begun to really seek God wholeheartedly and begin to teach their children to do the same. God’s plans are for the ULTIMATE good of His people, and individuals can experience that good when they enlist in the future that He is presenting, and seek Him with all their hearts.
Father, as I read Your word, I see many places where You show us the hope and future that You have for those who love You, and who seek You wholeheartedly. You don’t give us a solid timeline as You did for the Jews, but the picture is there. Father, help that picture to implant itself firmly in our hearts, so that it moves us to follow You, to completely obey You, to seek You and Your will every single day, so that we place ourselves intentionally on that road, so that we, our kids, our grandkids, can ALL find You, and receive every good You have planned for us. Amen.