“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse many of us have clung to, but what does it mean? Is there a financial windfall in our near future? Is the LORD blessing our endeavors in such a way that we will soon experience a new success? How do we define this welfare, or this “prospering” as some translations render it? Regardless of how we have defined it, we need to know the way of the Lord is good and right. It is not good and right because we declare it so, but because it can be nothing else. Our God is good and right, and therefore His decrees which flow from His character are all good and right. In Jeremiah 29, the LORD speaks against those false prophets who have tried to redefine His timetable, declaring their own version of welfare. Let’s look to this passage and see how, in light of the LORD’s plans, He calls us to be present in the place where we are planted.
Wednesday, July 31st
Larger Portion of Scripture - Jeremiah 28 - 29:23
Focused Passage for Reflection - Jeremiah 29:4-14
Reflecting on the Text:
“How long, O Lord?” It is a frequent refrain in the Psalms (Ps. 13:1, 79:5, 89:46), and in our hearts. We wonder if we have been forgotten. We wonder how long we will have to linger in this place, or this condition, or this relationship (or lack thereof). It is a question we often wrestle with, and by virtue of its place in the Psalms the LORD even invites the question, modeling for us how to cry out in our longing. The longing is good and right, but what do we do with ourselves in the waiting?
In Jeremiah, a large portion of God’s chosen people have been exiled in Babylon. They’ve been sent there by the LORD Himself as a result of their refusal to turn from their idolatry and worship Him alone. He sent them there for the good of their own hearts, to draw them back to Himself. Jeremiah was left in Jerusalem, but he is writing/speaking the Word of the Lord to the exiles.
They want to come home. And false prophets have arisen who love to tell them what they want to hear. Hananiah was one of those false prophets, and in Jeremiah 28, he told the people it would only be two short years before they would return home. (Jer. 28:3,11) But it wasn’t a Word from the Lord. It was merely a case of a false prophet tickling the people’s ears.
So, the LORD spoke through Jeremiah in response. This is the context of His letter in Jeremiah 29:4-14. It would not be two years, but seventy. This exile would be long. So the Lord told His people to settle in, to build houses, plant gardens, have children, and give their children in marriage. In other words, the LORD told His people to live their lives in the place where they were planted.
He also told them something that may sound curious to us. He told them to pray for Babylon and to seek her welfare. But why? These were supposed to be God’s enemies. These were the people who had conquered Jerusalem and taken the people back as exiles. Why would God tell His people to do such a thing?
Do you remember the verse about His plans for His people? Plans for their welfare? This was all part of it. His using a foreign people to conquer Jerusalem was part of it. The exile was part of it. The suffering was part of it. Because the LORD was turning their hearts back to Him, where they would find eternal blessing. He would bring them back, but not yet. While there in exile, He was still blessing them, and using them to be a blessing, even to His enemies.
The LORD was telling His people their exile would be long, so He intended for them to live with intentionality in the place where He planted them, even if it was for a (long) season. This was His Word to His people, along with the warning not to listen to false prophets who tickled their ears telling them what they wanted to hear.
Questions for personal reflection:
In what ways are you asking “How long, O LORD?”
How might the LORD be telling you to live with intentionality in the midst of your waiting?
What does it look like for you to seek the welfare of the city where He has sent you?