Facing a Situation, You Don’t Understand- Jeremiah 29.4-7

A painting by James Tissot, "Flight of the Prisoners" (watercolor circa 1896-1902)

A Brief Backgrounder:

The text is an excerpt from a letter of prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles whom King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon has taken as captives from Jerusalem in 587BC.

King Josiah has been affecting reforms in the kingdom of Judah until his unexpected demise in 609BC. The kings that have followed him have done evil in God’s eyes. Prophet Jeremiah has preached against their evil ways and has prophesied about Judah’s eventual fall into the hands of the king of Babylon. Instead of repenting and turning to God in submission, they have even threatened the prophet with death. In fact, King Jehoiakim himself killed prophet Uriah (Jer 26:20), who has prophesied in the name of God, bearing the same message as Jeremiah.

Eventually as Jeremiah has prophesied, Nebuchadnezzar has destroyed Judah in 597BC. God has allowed the Babylonians to conquer Judah and capture the best and the brightest off to Babylon and among those are Prophet Daniel and Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar has appointed a puppet king, Zedekiah but later, he has rebelled against Babylon and has entered into an alliance with the Pharoah of Egypt against Babylon in a futile war. The Babylonians have returned to destroy Jerusalem and take all of Judah back to Babylon.

False prophets have preached to the exiles that God would destroy their enemy and would bring them home very soon. Their message is good to hear but apparently, it is not from God.

The text here comes from Jeremiah’s letter to the Jewish captives in Babylon to dispel all false prophesies. This letter bears the true message from the God of Israel.

However, the message is something the captives must have had a hard time understanding. First (in v.1), God has caused their exile, second (in v.4-6), God wants them to live normal lives in that foreign land while in captivity; get married and have a family, and work for a living. In the succeeding verses, the letter says that they will stay in that land for seventy years. If you have been one of those captives, you would want a quick release. Then thirdly (in v.7), and the most difficult, God wants them to seek the peace or welfare of the city where they have been taken to as captives.

They have encountered a situation that hit them so hard and they cannot understand why God is allowing it to happen. They are facing a situation that is way beyond their ability to change. They are stuck in that situation for seventy years. No appeal and they need to accept it. No matter how much they want to free themselves, God has something else in mind and they must submit to the will of God if they want to survive.

to be continued…

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