Far From Home
The people of Judah had fallen from grace. They had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded. Judah had turned its back upon God and rejected any attempt by those sent to her to call her back. As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage; this time in Babylon.
They had refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine. They ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come. They were proud and arrogant. The Lord spoke through Jeremiah and put it this way; "Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north...and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon...against this land and against its inhabitants...and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (JEREMIAH 25:9-11).
Indeed, history shows us that the words of Jeremiah turned into fact as they were fulfilled down to the last detail. The desolation began with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 606 A.D. and the first deportation of the best of the land into slavery on foreign soil. In this number was Daniel who later would also be a prophet while a servant of Nebuchadnezzar. Further deportations followed and finally Jerusalem was destroyed, just as the prophets had warned. It was seventy years in exile before the now repentant people of God were permitted to go back home and begin to rebuild their wrecked cities. It was Darius, king of the Persians, who allowed the rebuilding to begin by a remnant of what was left of Judah and Israel in 536 B.C.
Believers in God and the Bible are not surprised to find such prophetic accuracy
in the pages of the Scripture. It is exciting for us to investigate such
fulfillments as it deepens our respect for our God's power and wisdom. After
Jeremiah's prophecy began to be fulfilled by the first deportation into slavery,
Jeremiah wrote a letter to those serving in Babylon. These were sad people who
had lost everything; their homes, freedom and in many cases were separated from
their families. They
were brought to live in a strange land with strange customs and language.
Jeremiah's instructions to these exiles seem pertinent to God's people today as
we are also
exiles in a manner of speaking.
GOD'S ADVICE TO THE EXILE
"Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to...all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon." (JEREMIAH 29:1). The Christian today is also an exile. The New Testament tells us that men and women of faith have always looked at this world as only a temporary home. We are invited to approach life with the same attitude as Abraham who "died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he has prepared a city for them." (HEBREWS 11:13-16).
This world is only temporary. Our stay here is very short, relatively speaking.
It makes little sense to live with every focus on the things of this world when
the time we spend here is so fleeting compared to the vastness of
eternity. " And if you address the Father as the One who impartially judges
according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your
stay upon the earth...Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain
from fleshly lusts, which wage war against the soul." (I PETER 1:17; 2:11).
ACCEPTING LIFE AS IT COMES
"Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce...take wives and become fathers of sons and daughters...seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you unto exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf..." (JEREMIAH 29:4-7). Life goes on. Sometimes we are called upon to face tremendous difficulties as a result of our choosing to follow Jesus. In history, some have decided that the only way one can be successful is to go off somewhere and live in a monastery. This has never been God's answer concerning how to live our lives here. Jeremiah told the exiles of his day to live as normal lives as possible. He also told them to pray for the welfare of the city which had taken them captive, much in the same way as Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies as well as for our government. The New Testament tells us to let our lives be examples to others; "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." (I PETER 2:12).
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
"For thus saith 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 29:10). God had the timing all worked out. I am sure that seventy years seemed like a long time for the people, but seventy years is what had been decreed. There would be no short cuts. God knew how long and how much. He also knows how long our exile here will last. The Son of God will one day appear in the clouds to take the exiles home; "...because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead." (ACTS 17:31). We are encouraged to be patient and wait for that day; to never give up because the day of our homecoming has already been decided.
TRUST GOD IN EVERYTHING
"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 hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you...and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile." (JEREMIAH 29:11-14). Through all of life's hardships there is one absolutely secure place wherein we can place our hope and future. God assured the exiles of Jeremiah's day that He loved them. Even in their bleakest hour God was there and influencing events toward their proper conclusion. He is still there today. His plans for our future fill us with hope; "...and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (I PETER 1:8,9).
BEWARE OF FALSE HOPES
"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them..." (JEREMIAH 29:8,9). It was something people really wanted to believe. The false prophets were telling them that they would be going home soon; it would not take seventy years. They were insisting that captivity would soon be over and there were probably many ears happy to hear the news. But it wasn't true! Today we have the modern counterparts of these false prophets. Some promise to make you well if you send them money. Some say they know when Jesus will come when the Bible says no one knows. Some say God does not exist and that there will never be a judgment and so you can live however you want to without regret. Some say human beings are simply uppity apes. Some say grab the gusto. Some say if you do not get your life right this time, you will come back again reincarnated as another person. Do not allow yourself to be made to trust in a lie. The truth of God is better than the lies of men.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 1.6; June, 1994