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. 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 on 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.” (Jeremiah 29:10-14)
For several hundred years the nation of Israel had run after other gods and served them instead of the One True God. Even so, their national identity was found in the Temple in Jerusalem, the place where the God of Israel lived.
After all of those years of spiritual adultery and living sinfully in the land, God brought judgment against His people. The judgment was unthinkable for the Israelites: they would be removed from the Promised Land and Temple worship would stop. What’s amazing is that the Exile would only be for 70 years. Israel sins against God for hundreds… but the discipline is only for 70. This is God’s grace on display!
It’s in this context that the well known verse (Jeremiah 29:11) is delivered. It’s a hopeful verse but even more powerful when you understand the context. God has plans for this adulterous people. They are under His tough discipline, but He does not plan to harm them, but rather prosperity is His intent. Their circumstances are bleak and painful, but God has a hope and a future for them!
The future prosperity and hopeful plans for them is less about the Promised Land and all about their relationship with God. The people will be able pray and call on God! He says that He will hear and answer them! They will seek God with all of their heart and He will be responsive to His people. God is leading them to this great future!
How often when our circumstances are bleak do we feel that God is absent? Whether it’s His discipline in our lives or just difficult circumstances, we can think God’s plan is not good.
The message of the Gospel is about ‘Immanuel – God with us.’ In Jesus God has come near and the things that separate us from Him have been removed. Our prosperous life comes not from houses or lands or bank accounts… it comes from this relationship with God through Jesus.
What’s cool is that beyond this blessing there is a future Promised Land. We are aliens and in exile here, but one day Christ will come and take us Home. That’s a hope worth living for!
Thank You, Father, for Your grace. Your discipline is always for my good and not punitive. You do not give me what my deeds deserve, but You love me. In Jesus You hear me when I seek You with all of my heart. Give me a heart that fully seeks You. I live for You today.