Far From Home
The seventy years of captivity

By Jon W. Quinn
 
 
The people of Judah had fallen from grace. They had rebelled against the principles upon which their nation had been founded and rejected any attempt by those sent to her to call her back. As promised, God withdrew His protection from her. He had warned that if His people became faithless that He would employ a pagan power to conquer them and lead them back into captivity. He had led them from Egyptian bondage 800 years before, and now, because of their infidelity, He would allow them to return to bondage; this time in Babylon.

They had refused to believe it could ever happen to them. They found their own false prophets to tell them that everything was fine. They ridiculed Jeremiah and others who warned of the devastation to come. They were arrogant. The Lord, through Jeremiah, put it this way; "Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north...and I will send Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon...against this land and against its inhabitants...and this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years." (Jeremiah 25:9-11).

The prophesied desolation began with the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon in 606 A.D. with the first deportation of the best of the land into slavery on foreign soil. Further deportations followed and finally Jerusalem was destroyed, just as the prophets had warned. It was seventy years in exile before the repentant people of God were permitted to go back home and begin to rebuild their wrecked cities. It would be Darius, king of the Persians, who allowed the rebuilding to begin in 536 B.C.

Fulfilled prophecy deepens our respect for our God's power and wisdom. After Jeremiah's prophecy began to be fulfilled by the first deportation into slavery, Jeremiah wrote a letter to those now serving in Babylon. These were sad people who had lost everything; their homes, freedom and in many cases were separated from their families. They were brought to live in a strange land with strange customs and language. Jeremiah's instructions to these exiles seem pertinent to God's people today as we are also exiles in a manner of speaking.

Godís Advice to the Exile

"Now these are the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to...all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon." (Jeremiah 29:1). The Christian today is also an exile. The New Testament tells us that men and women of faith have always looked at this world as only a temporary home. We are invited to approach life with the same attitude as Abraham who "died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.Ē (see Hebrews 11:13-16). Our stay here is short, relatively speaking. It makes little sense to completely focus on the things of this world when the time we spend here is so fleeting compared to the vastness of eternity (1 Peter 1:17; 2:11).

Accepting Life as it Comes
"Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens, and eat their produce...take wives and become fathers of sons and daughters...seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you unto exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf..." (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Life goes on. Jeremiah told the exiles of his day to live as normal lives as possible. He also told them to pray for the welfare of the city which had taken them captive, much in the same way as Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies as well as for our government. The New Testament tells us to let our lives be examples to others; "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." (1 Peter 2:12).

Patience is a Virtue

"For thus saith the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place." (Jeremiah 29:10). God had the timing all worked out. I am sure that seventy years seemed like a long time for the people, but seventy years is what had been decreed. There would be no short cuts. God knew how long and how much.

He also knows how long our exile here will last. The Son of God will one day appear in the clouds to take the exiles home (Acts 17:31). We are encouraged to be patient and wait for that day; to never give up because the day of our homecoming has already been decided.

Trust God in Everything
"For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me and I will listen to you...and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile." (JEREMIAH 29:11-14). Through all of life's hardships there is one absolutely secure place wherein we can place our hope and future. God assured the exiles of Jeremiah's day that He loved them. Even in their bleakest hour God was there and influencing events toward their proper conclusion. He is still there today. His plans for our future fill us with hope; "...and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls." (1 Peter 1:8,9).

Beware of False Hopes
"For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them..." (Jeremiah 29:8,9). It was something people really wanted to believe. The false prophets were telling them that they would be going home soon; it would not take seventy years. They were insisting that captivity would soon be over and there were probably many ears happy to hear the news. But it wasn't true!

Today we have the modern counterparts of these false prophets. False promises are made by both religious and secular leaders contrary to the word of God in the Scriptures. Do not allow yourself to trust in a lie. The truth of God is better than the lies of men. It is our hope and is found in Jesus!
 
 
 
From The Bradley Banner 4/24/2014
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway
 
 
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