For thus says the Lord: Only after seventy years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back to this place. For I know well the plans I have in mind for you-oracle of the Lord-plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.
When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me-oracle of the Lord-and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you-oracle of the Lord-and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you. ~Jeremiah 29:10-14 (NAB-RE)
Before we can dive into this passage I want to give you the background as to what was going on in Jerusalem at this point in time. To put it simply, things were a mess. The Israelites were misbehaving; they were worshipping pagan gods, worshipping idols and basically doing whatever they wanted. As God’s Chosen People they had been given Jerusalem and built a Temple to worship Him. They had their list of 10 things you must do to stay good with God and they were completely disregarding them. I’m sure that God felt like he was dealing with hundreds of toddlers. You turn around and suddenly they are back into the thing that you just dragged them away from and thought you had put out of their reach. I mean, all Moses did was go up a mountain to talk with God and get the 10 Commandments. By the time he got back the people had started worshipping a golden calf. “I leave you alone for 2 minutes and THIS is what happens??”
God is just like every father who gets exasperated with having to tell his kids YET AGAIN to stop doing whatever it is that they are doing. Then what happens? God puts his Chosen People in the corner and tells them to sit there and think about what they’ve done. Once they’ve had enough time to think about it, and hopefully correct their behavior, he lets them out of Time Out. In this passage the length of time they have to be in Time Out is seventy years. I realize this is a very simplistic explanation of what was happening in the book of Jeremiah at this time, but you get the idea.
You’ve probably heard some people say that the God of the Old Testament is wrathful and goes by the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ code. This isn’t true at all. In this passage He’s explaining that He loves them and wants them to prosper, but they have to change their hearts and not do evil things. Sometimes a parent has to let their children experience a little bit of pain before they will learn. You can be told numerous times not to touch a hot stove, but until you actually experience the pain you don’t really understand why you aren’t supposed to touch it.
God knows everything that we’re going to do, how we’re going to act, and what the consequences are going to be. None of this is a surprise, but it hurts Him just the same. And even when there is bad, He turns it for the good. We may not be aware of it, but that’s what He does because He loves us.
Even though it’s been thousands of years since Jeremiah shared the Lord’s words with the Israelites we can still apply this to our lives today. Do you feel like you are lost? Are you wandering the earth trying to figure out your purpose? Guess what? You DO have a purpose. You probably don’t know what it is as God doesn’t usually send it to us, written on an 8.5″ x 11″ piece of paper. If He did, though, I have a feeling that it would look something like this:
“Dear <insert name here>,
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to love the Lord God with all of your heart. Seek and ye shall find. Ask and ye shall receive. For more information on your mission please refer to the Bible. The pertinent information will be found between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21.
With ALL of My Love,
It doesn’t say that He will keep us from heartache or from suffering. In order to grow you need to suffer a little. You can’t learn to deal with adversity if you never experience it (similar to touching a hot stove). If you’ve never driven in snow then you don’t know how to handle the car as you’re plowing through a three foot drift. We are going to suffer. We are going to get the car stuck. We are going to experience hurt feelings. And it’s all good. Why? Because we learn. We know that God is watching out for us and He has a bigger plan for us. Maybe you had to experience a learning disability as you were growing so that you could get a career helping children overcome that same disability. Maybe you had to live with an abusive parent or spouse so that you could learn how to deal with it and help others. That’s how we should be living our lives.
What is one thing that you are struggling with today? How can you turn it for your good? Pray for God’s guidance to get through this time of trouble so that you can emerge from the other side stronger and able to reach back and help others up, too. And always know that no matter what, GOD LOVES YOU.