Jeremiah 29:4 ESV
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.”
The people of God had been living in open rebellion against the Lord, living in idolatry and in immorality. The Lord sent Jeremiah, the prophet of God, to speak to the people about their sins, to call them to repentance, and to warn them of divine judgment if they did not repent.
The people mostly ignored Jeremiah’s warnings, and they continued in their rebellious ways, in idolatry, in immorality, and in wickedness. So, God did as he had promised, and he did send judgment upon them, and now they were in captivity (in exile) in Babylon. And the judgment was to last 70 years.
Jeremiah 29:10-11 ESV
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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.”
There are many people today who are quoting vs 11 here out of context, and they are applying it broadly to all people who profess faith in Jesus Christ as some blanket promise of God that all will go well for us, that we won’t have troubles, that we won’t get sick, that we won’t have heartaches, but that only good will come to us, and perhaps wealth, too.
But obviously, if you read it in context, that is not what it is teaching, and it isn’t a promise to all people of all time who believe in God, in Jesus. It was a specific promise to a specific group of people at a particular time in history and under certain circumstances they were going through at the time.
These were God’s people at that time, who were God’s people by physical birth, although they still had to repent of their sins and walk in obedience to the Lord to inherit eternal life with God. For, God has always equated disobedience with unbelief and obedience with genuine faith which saves.
But they were under the judgment of God for their rebellion against the Lord because they would not listen to the Lord when he sent his prophet to call them to repentance and to obedience to God. But they continued in their idolatry and in their immorality, so he sent the judgment he promised.
Yet, there were false prophets who evidently were telling the people that they would not have to suffer 70 years of judgment, so Jeremiah was to tell the people not to listen to those prophets, for they were not of God. God did not send them. And he was to remind the people that God would do as he said, and that they would be under judgment for 70 years.
But this message was not without hope. A time limit was set on the judgment with the promise that when that time ended that God would remove the judgment and that he would restore them. He would remove them from their captivity and he would bring them back to him, and to Jerusalem (the Holy City). For the plans he had for them were for their welfare (their good), and not for evil, and to give them a future and hope.
Application to Our Lives
Now, the Bible does teach that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17 ESV).
So, what this means is that, even if something was meant for specific people at a particular time in history, there can be a general spiritual principle that we can get from it which can be applied to our lives, especially if that same principle is repeated for us in other places in the Scriptures.
We learn in many New Testament passages of Scripture that God does discipline those he loves. He chastises and reproves. He prunes. He allows us to go through trials and tribulations. And he uses these in our lives for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. Suffering is to be considered a normal part of the Christian life.
[Rom 5:3-5; Phil 3:7-11; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 1 Pet 4:12-17; 1 Thess 3:1-5; Jas 1:2-4; Matt 5:10-12; Lu 21:12-19; Jn 15:2; 2 Co 1:3-11; Heb 12:3-12]
If we are being disciplined of God due to rebellion, his goal is to bring us back to him, to restore us, to bring us to repentance and to renewed faith in him so that we now walk with him in obedience to his commands. For, his plans for us are for what will benefit us spiritually, for our spiritual growth and maturity, and for our obedient walks of faith (Rev 2-3).
His goal in disciplining us is not to get even with us, and it is not to cut us off from him, though if we continue in that rebellion, and if we don’t repent, and if we persist in living in sin while ignoring our Lord’s commands, it will not go well for us in the end. For, if we walk according to the flesh, in sin, we will not inherit eternal life with God, but we will die in our sins.
Our Lord’s goal in disciplining us is for our ultimate good, but not for our sinful and selfish pleasure, and not so we can get caught up in the pleasures of this sinful world and then forget about God. What is for our good is that we humble ourselves before God, that we repent, and that we now follow our Lord in obedience to his ways, because we love him.
And the future and the hope he has planned for us is not just a free ride into heaven when we die. It is that we die daily with him to sin and to self and that we walk in obedience to his commands. It is that we worship him as our only Lord and that we seek to do what pleases him, and that we desire to do his will. For this is why he died, that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness.
Jeremiah 29:12-13 ESV
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
When the Lord Jesus revives our hearts, and he turns our hearts back to him, or to him for the first time, then we will call upon him, and we will come and pray to him, and we will seek him and find him when we seek him with all our heart. And with all our heart means with the very core of who we are, with our whole being, our whole passion, and our whole desire.
Nothing held back. No part-time servants of the Lord. Fully surrendered to Jesus Christ to follow him wherever he leads us and to obey him in doing whatever he commands, are his desires for our lives. This is his plan for our lives that we be sold out to him, our all on the altar laid, denying self, dying daily to sin, doing what he has called us to do as his followers.
So, please take this to heart. We are not here on this earth for our own pleasure, but we are here to do the will of God, and to please him.
[Lu 9:23-26; Jn 6:35-58; Jn 15:1-11; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Tit 2:11-14; Jas 1:22-25; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; Matt 7:21-23; Heb 10:26-27; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Rom 12:1-2]
A love song to our Lord Jesus
You’re still the one I run to
The one that I belong to
You’re still the one I want for life
You’re still the one that I love
The only one I dream of…
Ain’t nothin’ better
[Lyrics taken from a secular song called “You’re Still the One” by Robert John Lange and Shania Twain]