If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time in America, you’ve probably heard someone quote Jeremiah 29:11. You may have even heard a sermon on it.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
-Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
What you may or may not have heard is the context of this promise. The LORD had finally brought judgment on the land of Judah for their rebellion against Him. But He sent, through Jeremiah, a comforting letter to the Jews who were exiles in the pagan land of Babylon. Here’s the verse which precedes the much-quoted one:
For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place.
-Jeremiah 29:10 (NKJV)
The promised blessings come after the captivity.
So that may not be earth-shattering to you. But a couple years ago, after I heard a sermon on this topic, I got to thinking.
What if the seventy years could symbolically refer to our lives on this earth?
Consider this from the Psalms:
The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
-Psalm 90:10 (NKJV)
Seventy years. That’s all we can really expect.
When Adam and Eve had to leave the Garden of Eden, they were bound in captivity to sin. They could no longer enjoy full communion with their Creator.
Now Christ can free us from the power and consequences of sin, but we still dwell in our physical bodies, unable to have full communion with our Creator.
We are captives. For seventy years. And at the end of that time…
I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
-Jeremiah 29:14 (NKJV emphasis added)
Death in these physical bodies will deliver us from our captivity. We will be “brought back” to the place of perfect fellowship with our Creator.
Meanwhile, how shall we conduct ourselves in the land of our captivity?
Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.
Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters–that you may be increased there, and not diminished.
And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.
-Jeremiah 29:5-7 (NKJV)
Build houses to dwell in (not to make a status statement).
Plant gardens so that you may eat of them (not grow rich by them).
Have children and encourage your children to have children (nothing wrong with increasing the population of Christians through raising godly offspring).
Pray for peace in the city where you are captive (for me that is Huntsville, and by extension, the whole state of Alabama and country of the United States).
And cling to the hope of your future.
Not some perfect life on this earth, but perfect restoration of your relationship with the LORD.
P.S. I believe that the Bible’s books of prophecy are very deep. Sometimes a given passage may have two, or even more, applications. Jeremiah 29 may very well refer to seasons of trial in our lives, as well as our lives as a whole, as well as the plain-and-simple promise to the captive Jews in literal Babylon all those centuries ago. My main point is that the captivity often comes before the good things. I hope you enjoyed exploring with me.