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Captivity and Freedom
Jeremiah is filled with the story of Israel's sin and God's punishment, including the nation's exile to Babylon. God is faithful even in this, as we see in His instruction for their period of captivity and provision for their restoration. The story presents a different lens for us to view our own lives and experiences through, helping us see God's providence at work, even in the toughest of times.
Serve the king of Babylonia and live
Because of Israel's great sin, God established Nebuchadnezzar, the evil king of Babylonia, as His instrument of discipline upon Israel and its surrounding nations also caught up in depravity. They were in captivity to a foreign king. It wasn't easy. Yet God's instruction to them was, "Serve the king of Babylonia and live." (Jer 27:17) In this, God called them to persevere and endure through the hardship of the exile experience so they would realize what they lost and why. It is a form of discipline that every parent and child is familiar with.
Just how normal their lives were to be in Babylon is spelled out early in chapter twenty-nine.
Build houses and settle; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; take wives for your sons and give your daughters to men, and let them give birth to sons and daughters. Multiply there; do not let your numbers diminish. Seek the peace of the city to which I have exiled you and pray for it to HASHEM, for through its peace you will have peace. (Jer. 29:4-7)
God's intention for their lives in captivity was that they be normal, even though they were captives in a foreign land. They were to carry on with the patterns of life, to multiply, and to seek the peace of the place they were in. Returning to the parent/child analogy, God was telling them to take advantage of their discipline to reset their way of life and attitude toward Him. It is not just a time of captivity; it is also a time of preparation for their release and return. He tells us the same today.
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God's provision for our future
Even in the midst of our sin, God considers us with peace and a future in Him and makes provision in advance for that time when we may turn back into His embrace. His consideration and care for us is carefully spelled out in this passage but is dependent upon our voluntary return to His heart. Listen to what He tells us about His attitude toward us:
I know the thoughts that I am thinking for you (Jer 29:11-14):
Thoughts of peace and not evil ... to give you a future and a hope
Call out to Me and follow Me ... I will listen to you
Seek Me ... I will make Myself available to you
Followed by His promises:
I will return your captivity
I will gather you in
I will return you to the place from which I exiled you
God's provision for our restoration
For behold, days are coming - the word of HASHEM - when I will return the captivity of My people Israel and Judah, said HASHEM, and I will return them to the land that I gave their forefathers, and they will possess it. (Jer 30:3)
When we surrender ourselves completely to Him, God welcomes us back, His provision already in place. There is nothing that can prevent or forestall this except our own stubbornness and rejection of His mercy. When we surrender, however, His mercy is certain. This does not mean there will be no consequences to our sinful past, but His mercy and grace will provide all we need to persevere through those as well. Just as the Israelites had to re-possess the land of their forefathers and rebuild the Temple, we will also have work to do. Our work may mean repairing broken relationships or re-establishing normality in our lives in other ways.
God's provision for our freedom
Nevertheless, all who devoured you shall themselves be devoured; all who oppressed you will all go into captivity; who trampled you will be trampled; and all who despoiled you, I shall deliver to become spoils. (Jer 30:16)
The demons, powers, and principalities that we allow to rule our lives, be they addictions, attitudes, behaviors, or any other number of ills, must be dealt with. Scripture tells us that if they are not, they will return in even greater strength (Matt 12:43-45). But it's not our job. The mistake many of us make is trying to resist them in our own power. God is our warrior (Isa 42:13), however, and the battle is His if we will let Him have it. Listen to Him, follow Him, and keep your house clean.
When we allow Him to do as He desires in our lives, when we follow Him with true hearts and let ourselves be covered by His mercy, grace, and provision, we see the overwhelming power of His love expressed in ways we would not have imagined.
And I have loved you with an eternal love, therefor I have extended kindness to you. I shall yet rebuild you and you shall be rebuilt. (Jer 31:2-3)
That is how much He loves you, no matter what you have done or suffered. His love is never ending, pure, and true. Step into it.