May 2023

'For surely I know the plans I have for you … to give you a future and a hope'

Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV) 

Times were tough. Thousands had been deported as forced labour; they were several hundred miles from home. In Jeremiah 29 we are reading Jeremiah’s encouraging letter to these exiles, to those who are displaced, those who are in an uncertain and complex world. Here we find a very hopeful message. The ultimate fall of Babylon is announced; something the exiles were most eager to hear. In Jeremiah 29:1-14 we have a tender message of encouragement and enlightenment for these Jewish people as they adjust to exile and to a foreign land. This is a God who has the future in His hands and His people in his hands. They are held tenderly and urged to look both upwards to God’s provision and forwards to the future he has planned, and to hold on to that hope. Perhaps we also may shelter in God’s palm knowing he has a long-term intention for each of us and that he offers hope in our situations?

We might though also dwell on the previous verses and the context of this promise in Jeremiah 29:11. We find that this is a realistic message. Some false prophets were proclaiming unrealistic visions of the future, offering a quick deliverance and a triumphant return home. False hope is not offered here. Rather, Jeremiah encourages these folk in exile to settle into their current surroundings. It will be seventy years before the Babylonian empire falls and the exile ends. In these circumstances, they are urged to make themselves at home and work for the country’s welfare. There is further work involved, as there may be for us when we apply our wills, as they are asked to pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, then things will go well for them. I wonder if there is a challenge here for us? Whatever our current circumstances may be, we might rest in God’s embrace and his plans for us, trusting him for our future and the gift of hope on our journey. However, it may not be a passive rest. Are we being reminded to be active in engaging in prayer for our neighbours, nation and world as we seek their good, wellbeing and God’s blessing?