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A Future and A Hope

The Old Testament Prophets are part of our shared Hebraic Heritage.

In Jeremiah 29 we see a lovely promise which, in context, is made to Israel by means of a letter written to those Israelites who had been exiled to Babylon. It is a message from

God and we will consider verses 4-14.

This letter reads as follows -

"Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the

LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

This letter from the prophet Jeremiah was sent to encourage the exiles to make the most of their current situation but also to let them know that the difficulty they were going through was a temporary one. God had sent them into exile for a purpose and had not abandoned them but was teaching them something through this time namely that they needed to get back to trusting in Him. They were to seek the welfare of the city. The Hebrew literally is ‘seek the shalom, the peace of the city’. Shalom, however, means more than just peace, it means well-being, wholeness, completeness. The letter continues -

For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. 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.

God tells the exiles that He has not abandoned them but they are to be careful not to listen to the prophets which were among them as they were prophesying lies. They were probably saying that they should escape and go back to the land of Israel but this was not God’s will for them at that time. Seventy years were to pass by before they would be able to return to their land. God would visit them and fulfil His promise and He would bring them back. When God exiles the people of Israel only He can bring them back. This happened exactly as God had promised as we read in 2 Chronicles 36:20-23.

The letter continues -

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. 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. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile."

Often, when the prophets prophesied, there was a multiplicity in terms of fulfilment. We see here that Jeremiah, in his letter, encourages the exiles by giving them this message from God saying that his thoughts toward them were thoughts of shalom (often translated here as plans) and not of evil.

These were to give the exiles a future (Hebrew ‘acharit’ meaning end or latter part, days) and a hope (Hebrew ‘tikvah’ which is the title of the Israeli National Anthem ‘HaTikvah’, ‘The Hope’). At that time the exiles will call upon the LORD, drawing near to Him in prayer with a promise that He would hear them. He also says that they will seek Him and find Him when they put their whole heart into that seeking. God then says that He will restore their fortunes and bring them back into the land. Now here we have something that God says here which does not seem to relate to the exiles in Babylon. The exiles had been taken to one nation and one place, Babylon. There was of course an exile still to come in the distant future, after this time, which began in C.E./A.D.70 and the years that followed when Jewish people were exiled from the land and scattered to all the nations where many descendants still are to this day. Many though have already returned to the land and Israel became a nation in 1948. It is worth emphasising the fact that only God could bring them back to a land from which He had exiled them and this is what we see happening still today.

There are principles here, which apply to anyone today, such as seeking God with all one’s heart and finding Him, praying to Him and knowing He hears. We can have a future and a hope. The context of this passage however is particularly true for Jewish people either in Israel or in the nations. From a Christian perspective this passage also looks forward to that blessed hope of Titus 2:11-14

'For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 

training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (Yeshua HaMashiach), 

Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.' 

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