God’s Word for You
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, April 20, 2015
10 This is what the LORD says, “After seventy years have gone by in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious word to bring you back to this place. 11 For I alone know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans to give you peace, not harm, to give you hope and a future.
False prophets had spoken many bold things. Some said Judah would not go into exile. Others said (as we have seen) that the exile would last only two or three years, or that Babylon would send all of the plunder back to Jerusalem in no time at all. After we heard Jeremiah counter all of their predictions, it might seem like a wise prophet should never predict anything at all. That way he will never seem to be wrong.
But that wasn’t God’s plan for Jeremiah, and that’s not what God wants his prophets to do. The Lord revealed to Jeremiah that the power of Babylon would last three generations (Jeremiah 27:7), long enough that the Jews in Babylon should settle down there. But it was still a short enough period that some of the people going into exile would return. Did God tell Jeremiah it would be exactly seventy years? Or was Jeremiah looking for a round number that fit three generations, a lifetime, and yet not quite a lifetime? In fact, seventy years was almost exactly right. The first captives, including Daniel, were taken away in 605 BC. Cyrus the Great ordered the return of the exiles in 538 BC—67 years. For some exiles, the actual time in Babylon may have been more than 70 years, for others, quite a bit less. But God’s word was fulfilled, nevertheless.
God is not the author or creator of evil. That is part of what he means by saying “peace not harm.” But God is not just defending his actions. He is telling us his plan for us. His plans are for peace, and for mercy.
What is God’s plan for you? We only know that God wants us to come to faith in him, to show that faith, to share it, and to remain faithful. Any blessing he gives—a spouse, children, a good job, a long retirement—is up to the Lord. We thank him for the gifts he gives, but we can never insist that he must give us any particular thing. We only thank him for his generosity, and for his mercy.
12 You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek and you will find me, for you will seek me with all your heart. 14 I will let you find me, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back from your exile. I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have exiled you, declares the LORD. I will bring you back to the place from which I caused you to be exiled.
For a child, what could be more painful than to be rejected by your mother? For a wife, what could be more painful than to be abandoned by your husband? The pain from this kind of rejection is indescribable; anything that seems to come near it must really be a distant echo of the agony that is felt. There were many people in Judah who were feeling as if God himself had turned away from them. They were not part of Zedekiah’s court. They knew nothing about the apostasy of Josiah’s sons and grandsons. Perhaps they heard the false prophets, but they didn’t fall for their message. They listened to Jeremiah and other true prophets like Zephaniah. But despite all of these things, they were still in exile in Babylon.
So the Lord sent them this message. “Call on men, pray to me, and I will listen.” God would bless them, even though the sins of others turned their lives upside down.
God looks after us through nature, through the government, through our schools, and in many other seemingly ordinary ways. We call this his providence. But don’t forget that God looks after us in other ways, as well, including miraculous ones. Praise him for the way he looks after us. Ask him to look after you. Pray to him—this is exactly what he is inviting us to do in this passage.
Pastor Timothy Smith
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