Scripture

Jeremiah 29:1-14

A Letter to the Exiles

 

29 This is the text of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders among the exiles and to the priests, the prophets and all the other people Nebuchadnezzar had carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.(This was after King Jehoiachin and the queen mother, the court officials and the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the skilled workers and the artisans had gone into exile from Jerusalem.) He entrusted the letter to Elasah son of Shaphan and to Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It said:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.

10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.11 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

Reflection

These words from the prophet Jeremiah were spoken to the people of Israel when they were not in Israel. They had been thrown out of their homeland and were living in exile. Many of them had lost hope. They saw no future and felt as if God had forgotten about them.

As a people of hope, we often focus on verse 11, but for a moment, I want to address the 10 verses previous. God clearly tells them, that in the midst of their displacement, their lack of a seemingly “good” future, they should live life to the full right where they are. God tells them to marry, multiply and thrive in this foreign land. God tells them to pray for the success and welfare of their new towns and cities. I think we often miss this important part of the text because we so desperately want to look to the future. When we aren’t happy or content with our current circumstances, we start placing all effort and energy on the future. Now don’t get me wrong, hope is important! Knowing God has our future is invaluable. We worship a resurrected savior, which means we have much to hope for. But the future does not negate the present. Sometimes, just like the exiled Israelites, we have to make the best of current circumstances. In fact, we should pray for the best in our current situation. And then we should act to make the most of where we are right now. For me, this is easier to do if I find gratitude for my circumstances right now. God reminded these exiled bewildered people that he was still with them, and they should continue to flourish, live life, and pray for those around them, even in the midst of confusion, pain, and suffering.

The hope found in verse 11 is important, “‘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.’” The word used here for future could be translated "an expected end,” or a “ground of hope.” I love that last one. A ground of hope. A grounding that will not move, and a hope that will not fail.

There will be a future in your life, regardless of what you are going through at present. There will be completion. You are a work in progress. God is with you now, and working in you still. Though we may not understand our current circumstances. God says to us “Hope in the future, but live in today.”

Prayer

Holy One, As I step into the future, I pray that you will continue to guide me. Give me your help and your protection. Aid me with your direction and support. You are my rock and my redeemer. Let all of my plans be yours, Lord. Open my soul to where and how you are at work in the world, and let me join you. Thank you for being with me regardless of success or failure. Use all of me and all of my life for your purposes, oh Creator God. I put my hope in you alone. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.