It is easy to believe that God has left His chosen people in a study of Jeremiah. But that belief would be wrong. God is constantly calling for His people to return to Him and leave the sinful lifestyles of idolatry, selfishness and pride. Repeatedly, God warns them of the imminent danger of failing to repent. When His people fail to repent, the destruction of Judah is so complete that it is hard for humans to imagine that God still loves His people and is watching over them.
But God wanted His people (now in exile far from their homes) to know that He was still their God and was caring for them. God told Jeremiah to write a letter to those in exile to strengthen them and prepare them for 70 years of exile.
God tells the exiles that He didn’t abandon them, but that God Himself carried them into exile (4, 7). He was with them during their darkest hour. They may not have felt His presence. They may have felt alone or abandoned. But they were never alone, never abandoned.
Furthermore, God did not haphazardly take His people into exile. It was not an accident. He carried them there. God had a purpose for their captivity. Their captivity was not only due to their sinfulness and idolatry, but it was for their prosperity (10-11).
God told the exiles to work (build, plant, etc) while in captivity (4-7). God wanted them to know that they would be there for a while (so settle in) and not to sit around and feel sorry for their predicament.
God also placed the exiles where they could be prosperous (7) and many of the exiles became prosperous during the captivity.
But God warned the exiles to steer clear of the false religions and idols of Babylon (8-9). God didn’t want His people to fall into the same kind of sinful idolatry that sent them into captivity in the first place. God knew that it would be easy for the exiles to just try to “fit in” during their captivity. It would be much harder for them to be bold for God (as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego displayed in the Book of Daniel).
God reminds the exiles that He always keeps his promises (10) – in this case, the exile will last only 70 years. He tells them that he has their prosperity in His mind (11). They may not have understood how the captivity was for their benefit, but it was.
God promises to listen to their prayers (12), but he doesn’t promise to answer their prayers. He promises to show Himself to those who truly seek Him (13-14).
The exiles were probably very discouraged. They may have felt abandoned and alone. God reassured them they He was still with them.
We may walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in our lives. But we should have no fear because God is with us too (Psalm 23:4). He will never abandon us. He will never be alone. We may not understand the purpose for our situation, but we can be assured that it is no accident. We are placed situations to work, not to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. God’s desire is for us to prosperous (prosperous as defined by God’s standards, not ours).
Like the exiles in Babylon, we should not look like the unbelievers around us. We should look different, and people should know we are different. Often times, Christians are intimidated by those around them. In order to avoid ostracism or ridicule, we hide our beliefs and refuse to share our faith with the lost around us.
God always keeps his promises. His desire is for our benefit (we need to remember what is really for our benefit and what are things that we just really want). He will listen to our prayers, answering them according to His purpose (His purpose is, after all, for our benefit). We will find God if we truly seek Him.
We are never alone. God is there, listening to our prayers. He is seeking our prosperity. He has purposely placed us where we are (in the valley of the shadow of death, on a mountain top or somewhere in between) to work and not to hide, ashamed of who we are and what we believe. We may not understand God’s plan. But we can trust Him.
(4-7) Find the joy in whatever place God has placed you. You’re not there by accident. Work to store up treasures in heaven so you can be prosperous.
(8-9) Think of areas in your life where you are not following God’s direction but doing what is easier for you. What can you do to change that?
(10-14) Seek to know God more through a closer relationship with Him through prayer, studying the Bible and placing the desire to know Christ first in our hearts.