This past week I've found myself pouring over the book of Jeremiah. I know it's an odd book from the Bible to "pour over". I'll explain.
Have you ever written out this verse in a graduation card or given it to a friend going through a hard time:
"'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." Jeremiah 29:11
Did you ever consider who God was talking to when Jeremiah wrote these words?
(I'm going to tell you no matter how you answered that questions...).
Way back in 605 B.C. God allowed Nebuchadnezzar (remember him from the book of Daniel?) to attack Jerusalem and take many Jews (including Daniel & his friends) to the foreign land of Babylon.
Even though I had a rough 2012, it greatly pales in comparison to what was going on back in 605 B.C. First of all, I stayed in my house. No one forced me to move to Mexico. Even though I felt captive by motherhood, there were glimpses of freedom. I have the hope of children growing and eventually become independent adults (bittersweet truth).
But the Jews lived in a strange place for eight years before they received these words from God via Jeremiah in chapter 29. What was God's message?
- "Build houses"
- "Settle down"
- "Plant gardens"
- "Have sons & daughters"
- "Find wives for your sons" (vs 5& 6).
Basically, make a new life in this place. He encouraged them to "seek the peace and prosperity fo the city to which I have carried you into exile."
Then the kicker...
"When the SEVENTY YEARS are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place." (vs 10).
(And THEN follows the famous "for I know the plans I have for you..." verse)
Did you catch how long they would be held captive?
This may have come as quite a blow. In those eight years they may have held the hope that "Any day we may get to go back to Jerusalem". Then they hear the news that captivity is going to last a wee bit longer.
Imagine you are one of the older Jews taken to Babylon. Your age + 70 years in captivity = never seeing the promised land again.
BUT God did promise restoration.
Even if they had to wait 70 years rescue was going to happen. God would make things right again.
Many years later, Jeremiah while imprisoned in Jerusalem wrote more words of encouragement from God:
"Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it (Jerusalem); I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security. I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before." (Jer 33:6-7)
No matter how long they had to wait, God was going to bring healing. He would rebuild Jerusalem. They just needed to stay connected to Him in the time of waiting.
"'You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you', declares the Lord, 'and I will bring you back from captivity.'" (Jer 29:13-14a)
I don't know if you feel like you are in a season of captivity. Maybe life isn't going the way you had hoped. Perhaps your husband is out of work. Or you are living in an unfamiliar town. Or maybe a loved one was just diagnosed with a sickness.
You are living in unfamiliar "land". You long for the comforts of home.
In my case, last year, I waited to feel like myself again. My mind was trapped in negative thoughts. Held captive.
But just like He promised the Jews, He has brought me out of that place. I am amazed out His provision to deliver me.
The other day at lunch with the boys I turned on my favorite "Les Miserables" Pandora station. I just couldn't sit and listen. So I began to show off my middle school ballet moves. Then, the boys fought over who would get to dance with me next (best kind of fight). As each song came on they listened with intense attention as I shared the amazing story of redemption of Jean Valjean. It was glorious.
"Yet in the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are deserted, inhabited by neither men nor animals, there will be heard once more the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, and the voices of those who bring thank offerings to the house of the LORD." (Jeremiah 33:10b-11).
Hold on dear friend. He promised to restore the Jews. If you seek Him, you will find Him. Seek Him with all your heart. He will bring the sounds of joy back in your home. He will bring thankfulness back to your voice. You will one day dance in the streets of the promised land.