Jeremiah 29:4 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the LORD. 10 For thus says the LORD: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
God’s people had been rebellious for generations and it finally caught up with them. God sent the Babylonian army to overtake them, sack Jerusalem, and send the people to exile in Babylon. It was a humiliating defeat for Israel. There were prophets who were saying that exile would not last, but would end quickly – within two years. This passage in Jeremiah was God’s response to that idea. They would not return home anytime soon, but would be in exile for 70 years. 70 years! Hence, v.5-7 were God’s instructions for his people. Settle in because it’s gonna be a while. A LONG while.
Then there’s v.11 which is a fairly well known verse. I have quoted it many times over the years. What strikes me today is that v.11 comes on the heals of some really bad news. For the adults in Jeremiah’s hearing the exile would be a life sentence. They would never see home again. However, God had a plan. Many of their children and grandchildren would live to see Jerusalem rebuilt and the temple restored.
When I experience a particularly difficult season in life, it’s easy for me to believe God has abandoned me. Today I’m reminded that a time of struggle can be a part of God’s plan for me. Time in the wilderness might just be the kind of preparation I need to thrive in the season that is coming.