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
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
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