This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you lies in my name. I have not sent them,” says the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Dear God, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard verse 11 misapplied by people who don’t understand this passage. Along with “by his stripes we are healed” at my church when I lived in Waco, it’s probably one of the most misapplied verses I know. The key to verse eleven starts in verse 4. “Hold on. Don’t lose hope. Your eyes and other people will deceive you for the next 70 years and you’ll think I’ve abandoned you as my people, but I haven’t. Yes, most, if not all, of you will only know this situation for the rest of your lives, but for the good of the nation, keep living your life despite your circumstances. Build homes. Get married. Have children. Don’t wait for things to get better because for pretty much all of you they won’t. But for the sake of the nation, press on and do your part.” How’s that for a loose translation?
I have had difficult things in my life, but at the end of the day I don’t know what suffering is. I have experienced despair, but I’ll be the first to tell you that on a scale of 1-10, I’ve never exceeded a 5. So it’s difficult for me to sit here and say that people need to get realistic about this passage and stop treating it as something that is a promise by you that you’re ready to rescue them from their current predicament. If they want to say, “Sometime in the next 70 years I’ll be rescued,” then I’ll go with that because the only real rescue is in the new Heaven and the new Earth.
Father, this has been more of a rant this morning than a prayer for improving myself. I guess my prayer for myself is that you would find me faithful. Help me to look beyond my circumstances and to not judge a situation as being or not being of you based on what my eyes see. Help me to find my peace through my relationship with you, and help me to share THAT peace with others.
In Jesus’ name I pray,