Our Seventy Years in Babylon
“…(we) desire a better country, that is a heavenly one"
The people of Judah had rebelled against the principles upon which their
nation had been founded and fallen from grace. 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. 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 B.C. 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 repentant remnant of the people of
God were permitted to go back home and begin to rebuild their devastated
cities. It would be the Persians who allowed the rebuilding to begin by a
remnant of what was left of Judah and Israel in 536 B.C. This was, of course,
70 years later just as the prophet had said.
Believers in God are not surprised to find such prophetic accuracy in the
pages of the Bible. 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 Exiles-Jeremiah 29:1
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 and others of faith. “All these 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).
Our stay in this world is only temporary; relatively speaking. It corresponds
well to the seventy years that Judah spent in exile in Babylon away from their
home. 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;
Accepting Life as it Comes-Jeremiah 29:4-7
Sometimes we are called upon to face tremendous difficulties as a result of
our choosing to follow Jesus. 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 (I Peter 2:12).
Patience is a Virtue-Jeremiah 29:10
I am sure that seventy years seemed like a long time for the people, but that
is what had been decreed. There would be no short cuts. God knew how long and
how much. When Daniel saw the seventy years drawing to a close, he was
concerned because he saw no evidence that the captivity was ending. Gabriel
answered Daniel's prayer about this and assured him that all would be brought
about in due time, according to the Lord' word. History affirms that it was
(Daniel 9:1-5; 16-18).
God 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-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 (1 Peter 1:8,9)
Beware of False Hopes-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 if you do not
get your life right this time, you will come back again reincarnated as
another person. The truth of God is better than the lies of men.
We are exiles. Sometime we sing a song: “This World Is Not My Home” that looks
to beyond this life to something better; eternal in nature, prepared for us by
the Son of God. Here we are exiles, but we are headed for home. The journey
there will be a success for those who travel the road by faith.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 17.4; April 2010