” ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’ ” ~ Jeremiah 29:11
This verse is well-known and well-loved, a comforting promise from God. And the context of this verse is a blessing and a comfort, as well.
Judah had been attacked and defeated by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Many, many people had been taken as captives, exiled to Babylon, away from their beloved land. Why had this happened? God had repeatedly appealed to His people through the prophet Jeremiah, and others, to repent and return to Him, but they refused, time and again. The judgment God had warned them about had finally come to pass.
But God did not abandon them. He is righteous and holy, so sin must be dealt with and consequences paid. But He is also loving, gracious, and merciful, so He sent a letter from Jeremiah, full of encouragement and the promise of restoration, “to give you a future and a hope”.
” ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’…
For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’ ” ~ Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10
These verses leading up to vs. 11 are full of important details, and contain good lessons for all of us!
“Whom I have sent into exile.” The exile had been allowed by God and under God’s complete control and authority. This was not a disaster in God’s eyes. It was part of His plan, and He would use it for their good.
“Build houses…and plant gardens…take wives…bear sons and daughters.” God urged them to settle in, experience the little pleasures of life, raise families- to make the most of where God had planted them. Make some lemonade!
“And seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf”. Once again, God was gently reminding them that He had sent them there. And He instructed, even commanded, them to seek the welfare of Babylon, and pray for Babylon. Pray for the enemy.
“When seventy years have been completed…I will bring you back to this place.” God gave them His promise, to “fulfill My good word”, that they would once again return to Jerusalem. Likely not they themselves, but their children and their children’s children. Hope.
Oh, we can take away so much hope and encouragement from this! Feeling like an exile? Is life difficult? Are you feeling hopeless? Take courage! God’s “got this”. He knew these things would happen, and He allowed them for a reason. Learn the lessons He has for you. Make the most of your circumstances and enjoy the little bits of joy and sunshine that come your way. Acknowledge that every good thing comes from God (James 1:17). Love and pray for your enemies (Matthew 5:44). And claim God’s promises, His “good word”, and wait and hope in Him. He will bring deliverance. Eventually. But in the meantime, He will see you through this (Hebrews 13:5).
” ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ ” ~ Jeremiah 29:11-14
We were created to have a relationship with God, to be with Him. Sin broke this relationship and exiled us from God. But God loves us too much to leave us exiles! He sent Jesus, His only Son, to make a way for restoration by dying for our sin on the cross. He paid our consequences. We can accept this gift of Jesus, repent, and be restored to our relationship with God. And while waiting to go Home (heaven) to be with Him, we can make our lemonade out of the lemons of this world and share it with the other exiles around us, praying for them and loving them and showing them the hope offered to all of us by God. 🙂