by Wayne Brewer
The people of God were very surprised when Jerusalem was captured, and thousands of
families were taken captive and transported to Babylon. The Lord had allowed this to happen because of the arrogant disobedience of the children of Israel. The people had begun to listen to the nations around them and to their own false teachers, and the result was that the nation and society had degraded into idolatry and immorality. They had in effect rejected the Lord their God. In order to wake the people up and help them come to their spiritual senses God allowed the nation to be taken over and many carried away as slaves into Babylon. The leaders hoped that this would only last for a short period of time and that soon Jerusalem would have its independence and power again, but that was not to be the case. Jeremiah, the prophet of God, sent a letter “from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive, to the priests, the prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1). What was Jeremiah’s message to them?
First, the letter informed those that had been taken captive to “build houses and dwell in them, plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands…” (Jeremiah 29:5-6). Jeremiah was informing them that their captivity would not last for only a couple of years, but that they would be there for generations. In fact, they would be there for 70 years. Many who were taken captive would die there and others would be born and die in Babylon. Jeremiah was saying to them you have sinned by rejecting God and he is punishing you for an extended period of time, so settle in because this will be your life. Did their captivity mean that they would no longer be able to serve God? They would not be able to return to Jerusalem and offer sacrifices and carry out the Law of Moses and they should have been doing anyway, but they could regain their faith and the faithful such as Daniel and others would still be able to pray and live for God daily. A lesson for Christians today is that there may be difficulties and problems that come to our lives because of our failure to have faith in God. That certainly does not mean that every problem is a result of that just as it was not for Daniel and the faithful that were carried away. Another lesson is that God takes care of things in his own time and while we would like to hurry things up, God has his own timetable.
Second, the letter informed those that had been taken captive to “seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried captive and pray to the Lord for it” (Jeremiah 29:7). Some of the captives might have sought to continually cause problems with their captors, but God said, “seek the peace”. They would need peace in their lives and the only way to have it was to seek it and strive for it. It is easy to find conflict and live in conflict, whether it be an individual, family, or a congregation of the Lord’s people, but the command is to seek peace. Paul wrote to the brethren in Rome, “If it is possible, as much as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). The Lord’s church in the first century was in a similar situation at times. Not that the Christians were captives, but that the Roman government often proved to not understand Christianity and tried to become an obstacle to it. Paul’s letter was similar to Jeremiah’s when essentially, they both by inspiration wrote “seek peace.”
Third, the letter informed those that had been taken captive “After seventy years in Babylon I will visit you and perform My good word toward you and cause you to return to this place (Jerusalem)” (Jeremiah 29:10). God could and would keep his promise and they needed to trust in God and the Word. As Christians we too must continue to have confidence and trust in God and the Word. Let us keep reading and studying the Word of God.