10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
(Jeremiah 29:10-14 NIV)
In Chapter 29, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah regarding the captives in Babylon. Jeremiah wrote them a letter and sent it with two of the trusted men who were on their way to Babylon.
Starting in verse 4, we see the Lord telling the exiles from Jerusalem to quit living as if they were going back home anytime soon. They were to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, let their kids get married and have children of their own. They were also to disregard the prophets who were telling them that freedom was just around the corner.
In today’s passage (which is still part of the letter to the exiles), the Lord resets their expectations for freedom. They would be in Babylon for seventy years. Yes, that was a long time, but not forever.
The good news was that the Lord promised to restore them – in right relationship with Him, to their homeland, in their families, in their hopes, in their possessions – in short, for the future they had hoped.
The NIV translation of verse 12 starts with the word “Then”. Other translations more clearly begin verse 12 with “And when”. The Lord was telling the exiles that their worship of Him was not confined to Jerusalem, or the Temple, or any other geographic location. The Lord was not saying that their worship of Him was at the end of the seventy years, or sometime in the distant future. The Lord was telling the exiles that they could worship Him even in Babylon, right there and right then.
So what was the key to this restoration? Nothing less than seeking God with all their hearts. Remember, the “heart” in Old Testament understanding was not the emotion, but rather the will and mind, along with every ounce of physical energy each person possessed. No halfhearted commitment would work – the person had to be “all in”.
The Lord then reiterates His promise to restore His people from all the places the Lord had scattered them. In fact, if you’ll remember, the Lord promised that His restoration of the exiles to Judah would be even more historically significant than His leading the Jews out of Egypt (see 16:15).
Wherever we are in our walk with Christ, may we be “all in”, seeking Him with every fiber of our being (v. 13).
May Paul’s words to the Ephesians be our promise, our prayer, our praise, the fulfillment of verses 12 – 14 in our day:
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
(Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)