I love Jeremiah, there’s just something about that man that resonates with me, something that inspires me, and challenges me. The more I learn about him, the more respect I get for this man of God, who had to sacrifice so much for what He believed, to do what he was called to do.
I read in chapter 29 a while back, and I’ve thought about it since. Verse 11 I’ve heart numerous times before, and know it by heart. But a few years ago I read the whole thing from verse 1 to 14, and suddenly it all just became so much more powerful (of course, the fact that, at the time, I was at a place where I really needed to hear it, might have had something to do with it, but it’s still powerful). Jeremiah is writing to a bunch of Jews that were taken capture and were far away from their homeland. They had grown up, learning how they were the promised ones, Gods own people, they were favoured, and He had great plans for them. They had heard the miraculous stories of how God had saved them so many times before, like the parting of the Red Sea, the walls of Jericho. They knew the stories of great Kings, like David and Solomon. And the hopes for the future had been great. But, as this country started believing in themselves instead of God, the blessings started to fail, until now, some of them had been shipped off to Babylon, like cattle, they’d been taken away from everything they knew, everything that was safe. But still, they were hoping God would do His miraculous thing once again, and come save them. But then they got the latest news from Jerusalem. Now even their king has been taken, everyone seems to be gone, and all hope seems lost. But then they get this letter from the prophet in Israel, the one who tried to warn them all, but no one listened to, least of all the king. He has a word from God to them, and the Lord says: “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
WHAT?!?!?!? HE is the one who got them there? Wasn’t He the One who was supposed to save them? But then He goes on telling them to live, really live and embrace life where they’re at. Increase in numbers, even be a blessing, and pray for the place where they’re at!
I love this, even if they had messed up, and because of it, were at a place where they should not have been, God wanted them to be prosperous, He wanted them to flourish, and even to be a blessing to the ones around them, to the country where they were at, to their enemies. Then He tells them to not listen to all these voices that they listened to before, all the so-called prophets, who, instead of telling what God says, tells them what they want to hear. He tells them to close their ears to all the wrong voices, so they can hear clearly the One True Voice; He is the One that will tell them the truth, the words that will bring peace to them instead of fear.
How often don’t we listen to every voice around us? TV, news, magazines, Facebook, every well-meaning person in our lives... I’m not saying we shouldn’t listen to people around us, they might have some very valuable insight to bring, and God might use them to talk to us, but we need to learn to listen to Him first, know His voice, so we can recognize and discern what’s from Him, and what’s not. “I will read my Bible and pray…” I don’t think there’s any better way to learn to know His voice and character.
Then He gives them a promise, and this is the part I really LOVE. God is so specific; He actually gives them a timeframe on His promise. “When seventy years are complete for Babylon…” Yes, it’s a really long time, and yes, it means most of the ones who hears this will be dead by then, but it does give them hope for the future and for their kids, it gives them a reason to keep teaching their children all the things of God, and all their stories, their history, it gives them a purpose. And THEN He tells them He has great plans for them, plans to prosper, plans to give them a future and hope (you know you’ve heard this verse before…) He tells them He’ll once again listen to them, they’ll pray, and He’ll let them find Him, just like before, the relationship between God and His people will be restored. And this is the sentence that really got me blown away: “and I will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile”. Yes, you might have messed up, done things you shouldn’t have, and because of it, you find yourself at a place where you should not be, outside of your purpose. And you might have a hard time to find your way, feeling lost and hopeless. But that doesn’t mean God has lost sight of you. Just because you’re at a place where you should not be, doesn’t mean you can’t be prosperous, it doesn’t mean you cannot be a blessing. And it most definitely does not mean you’ve lost your purpose in life. God can bring it all back, but you have to trust Him to do it in His timing, and in His way. You just keep trusting Him, and you’ll see, in time, all though it might be way longer than you like, He’ll bring you back (trust me, it’s way better to do it His way even if it takes longer…) You just keep living, keep seeking peace, keep being a blessing to those around you (and there are so many ways to do that..) and keep trusting Him, and in His time, HE will “bring you home again to your own land” (NLT), back into your promise, back into your dreams and purpose.