I love Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). These words bring such hope to my heart.
Most recently I read them in the Chronological Study Bible which brought me a new perspective on the context of the passage.
The northern kingdom of Israel had long ago been carried off into exile. When Jeremiah penned these words, the southern kingdom of Judah was taking her turn at experiencing captivity. Nebuchadnezzar was carting them off to Babylon.
The prophet and a handful of low-born Judahites were allowed to remain in country so it was from Jerusalem that Jeremiah wrote the letter to the exiles found in Jeremiah 29:4-28.
In it, he encouraged the people to, “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens … Marry and have sons and daughters … Increase in number there; do not decrease … seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:5-7 NIV). All this, he writes, because they will have to wait seventy years for God’s salvation.
It’s never pleasant to discover we’re in for the long haul on a difficult situation. We love having God show up instantly in His miracle-working persona. More disconcerting to find He’s chosen the “we’re going to walk this loooong trail together” option. Really, I’m glad you’re with me, Lord, but, but, but…
So there we are, at the beginning of what may feel like a lifetime of exile from all that was familiar and comfortable. It’s like being stranded on a beach in Portugal where God promises to bring you back to New York harbor. It’s when you don’t see a boat that you realize: this is going to be a very long swim.
That’s essentially the situation God’s people found themselves in when Jeremiah wrote his letter. Their long ordeal was barely beginning, but that’s when God encouraged them through the prophet, “Don’t worry. I know it looks bad, but I will bring you home. I’ve got a plan and I’m working it. It’s a plan that will restore your peace and bring a future full of hope for you.”
Though we’d much rather He’d beam us across the ocean before us, He’s just as powerful and dependable as a swimming partner who won’t let us drown. In these hard places, we’re not just to survive, we’re to grow, increase and prosper while we’re waiting.
He promises to bring us home and He will do it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; Because it will surely come, It will not tarry (Habakkuk 2:3 NIV).