Today, we will look into a very well known verse. This is one of those verses that shows up on everything! Mugs, plaques, key chains, wall art. I’m sure you can name a few more.
And as much as I love this verse, there is a lot of context here that gets overlooked. At first glance, it’s a very happy, feel-good, no harm ever to be done verse. In reality, it’s rebuke of the disbelief and false gods that the Exiles were worshiping. It’s a reminder of the promise God made that would happen after waiting 70 years.
With context being so important to the teaching, I am posting the entire letter, because it makes a difference how we will interpret our observations and applications.
A Letter to the Exiles
29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 (This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) 3 He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:
4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” 8 Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have.9 They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
10 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. 11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 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.”
15 You may say, “The Lord has raised up prophets for us in Babylon,” 16 but this is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile— 17 yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will send the sword, famine and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten. 18 I will pursue them with the sword, famine and plague and will make them abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth, a curse and an object of horror, of scorn and reproach, among all the nations where I drive them. 19 For they have not listened to my words,” declares the Lord, “words that I sent to them again and again by my servants the prophets. And you exiles have not listened either,” declares the Lord.
20 Therefore, hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I have sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon.21 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: “I will deliver them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. 22 Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ 23 For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies—which I did not authorize. I know it and am a witness to it,” declares the Lord. ~Jeremiah 29:1-23; NIV
What if someone made you a promise and then said they wouldn’t fulfill it for seventy years! Can you imagine?? I won’t be around in 70 seventy years, so what good with that promise do me? Could I hold on that long without listening to false teachers? 70 years is a lifetime…and back then, it was a few lifetimes, because I don’t think many lived that long!
But here is what these verses are telling us. Trust God. His Word is good and will be fulfilled. But we know God’s timing isn’t ours. And so for 70 years, they had to wait before being allowed back home. But the Lord never forgot them, and reminded them that He had plans for them. Plans that would never harm them, allow them to prosper, and plans that would give them hope and a future. Even if it took 70 years in which to do, God fulfilled that promised.
If patience isn’t written all over this, I don’t know what is! I can barely wait 7 minutes, but to have to wait 70 years? Isn’t that what we truly are doing right now though? Think about it…what are we waiting for and what is the promise?
We are awaiting the return of Jesus, and with that comes a new world in which there is no suffering or pain of any kind. God knows the plans He has for us in that new world….plans to prosper, and harm no more…plans for hope, and a future unlike anything we can imagine. But we must wait…even if it’s 70 years. And while we are waiting, worship the God that made us the promise, and not the false teachers that try to say they know better.
Dear God, patience wasn’t something I was blessed with, or if it was, I just do not know how to use it! I’m like the Exiles who are so impatient and end up listening to false teachers because the waiting is so long. I want everything now even if waiting means it’s something better.
I know You try and teach me patience so often, and yet I still struggle. But I know You won’t give up, and I won’t either…even if it takes 70 years!! Thank You, Lord, for all You do for me, and for loving me more than I could ever ask for! In Jesus Name, I pray. Amen.