God told Jeremiah that Israel would spend seventy years in captivity (25:11). That's a long time. Basically, if I "choose life" and exit the city (see previous post), allowing the Babylonians to take me into captivity, if I accept God's punishment for years and years of disobedience, that discipline will extend past my lifetime. I will die in Babylon. Not great news for me.
We like to think that those famous verses from Jeremiah 29:11 (I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you . . .) means that in a few days, a few months, maybe a few years--at least in our lifetime--things will work out great. Awesome.
But God has a really long view of life.
God's story began way before I was born, and it will continue after my death.
So, what are the people thinking as they begin to realize that the peace and prosperity God promised isn't really for them--it's for their grandchildren?
Here's what Jeremiah tells them--and I think the advice applies to us too when we are stuck in a not entirely desirable situation, whether it's part of God's discipline or not.
First, keep doing what you are doing. Build houses and settle down. Have children. Plant gardens. Serve God now. Make plans to serve him tomorrow. In everything you do.
Seek peace and prosperity for the people around you. The boss you don't love. Your neighbors. Your country.
Remember God's perspective. All of this is for God's story. He will turn this around, and there is a blessing. There is a "hope and a future," even it doesn't look like it. Even if you don't see it personally.
And then, my favorite promise of this passage: You will seek me and you will find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity.
When I seek God, he frees my heart; I may live in captivity, because of illness, because of circumstances I had nothing to do with, or because I am living the consequences of bad choices, but when God frees my heart, I am no longer a slave.
"If the Son has set you free, you are free indeed." (John 8:36)