I recently read a blog post on Jeremiah 29v11 and how it is one of the most abused scriptures in the bible. I admit that I have quoted this scripture for more than half my life. Its been a scripture that has been with me through thick and thin. I will also confess that it wasn’t until I read the scripture a couple of weeks ago that I actually took full view of the context of the scripture.
I loved it even more when I read the whole thing actually. It was a letter written by Jeremiah to the exiles who had been taken to Babylon. In his letter he wrote what the Lord had told Him to tell His children. In essence its a letter from God to His children. I like to imagine things so bear with me here. I might receive some rebuke from others more spiritual or more theologically sound than I, but no matter. I enjoy receiving mail. Back in the days of actual post it was always really exciting to receive a letter in the post. You get it and first confirm that it’s not a bill or something like that, then excitement sets in. Maybe you might even recognise the handwriting. I can imagine that with Jeremiah’s track record, when the Israelites found out that he had sent a letter, they just knew that it was actually a letter from God. They were probably in anticipation of what the letter says and what God’s PLANS were for them. They were in a really rough place. They had just been through a war with Babylon and had been taken as exiles, marched a long distance on foot to a foreign land. A lot of their loved ones probably didn’t make the journey and some may have been lost during the fighting. They were tired, sick, down trodden, disheartened and I can imagine very aware of God, whether to cry for help or to blame Him for their predicament. They obviously knew the stories of how God would come to the rescue of His people because history had shown that He was a God who loved His people.
I can also imagine that in a new land which was probably very hostile to them they just wanted to go home. Homesickness was probably the feeling of the day, everyday. Then God writes to them and tells them and gives them instruction;
Jeremiah 294 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
The first part might have been crushing for anyone who was really praying that fire and brimstone would rain down and burn all the Babylonians, or that Nebuchadnezzar would have a change of heart and just release everyone. It’s very clear that God is saying that they are not going anywhere, they are there to stay, not just for their lifetimes but up to their grandchildren’s time. God is basically saying that … “get comfortable this is your new home.” But He doesn’t do it maliciously, it’s as if He is literally guiding a little child on what to do. To me these words despite crushing the hope of return to home, have so much love in them. He is not going to take them out but He is showing them how they can get life out of what seems to be a death situation.
Secondly He warns them out of the things that got them into this mess in the first place;
8 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, 9 because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the LORD.
After this comes the part that we all love. Praise God that writing words like these is a true characteristic of Him. He reminds them that they belong to Him and He still loves them. He reminds them that they are not forsaken. That although Nebuchadnezzar thinks he’s managed to conquer them, He actually has no power over God’s people. He reminds them that He is a God of His word and does not lie. He assures them that whatever lies ahead is not a disaster, His plans for them are for a good future, even in this foreign land! Then He assures them that although they are faraway from the temple in Jerusalem and from the priests and everything, He will still hear their prayers. They might be in this unHoly place but then He will still be there to listen to them and will be found by anyone who comes looking for Him. So often sometimes we feel that because we are far from our local church or from christian friends and pastors, that we won’t be able to find God. These guys must have felt that way. The temple was very sacred to them. But God was saying… “right here, right now, never mind the idols next door or the sin on the other side. Yes the place might not seem conducive but I will hear your prayers!” This is the part in the letter where hearts probably started swelling with Hope and people began to think about tomorrow and the day after. I can imagine that before this they were probably afraid to imagine as far as the end of the weekend, and in their misery probably didn’t even want to.
10 This is what the LORD says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen. 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. 14I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
After assuring His people that they are going to make it, that they will be ok, God then pulls out the poison from them. He exposes the false prophets that are in their midst. For anyone who still believes in these lying people, He gives a warning of what will happen to these people.How their fate will be such a terrible fate that it will forever be spoken about by generations to come. This is both warning to those who might want to also try false prophecy as a profession and to protect the seed of hope that has planted in His children’s hearts. The devil likes to come with negative words just after God has given His affirmation. Satan’s only aim really is just to steal, kill and destroy! God did not want that so He made sure He warned them away from these false prophets. No doubt these men were lying in wait to steal, kill and destroy.
20 Therefore, listen to this message from the LORD, all you captives there in Babylon. 21 This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says about your prophets—Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah—who are telling you lies in my name: “I will turn them over to Nebuchadnezzar[b] for execution before your eyes. 22 Their terrible fate will become proverbial, so that the Judean exiles will curse someone by saying, ‘May the LORD make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned alive!’ 23 For these men have done terrible things among my people. They have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives and have lied in my name, saying things I did not command. I am a witness to this. I, the LORD, have spoken.”
That was God’s letter. I love the way He was matter of fact about His word. Didn’t add a whole lot of words which would confuse anyone about exactly what He was saying and what He was going to do. I especially love that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. If that was His will and His character then, then it is the same today. He is just and at the same time full of love. So having read Jeremiah 29 I love it even more.