Rebuke and Restoration: An Exploration of Jeremiah 29:11 and Its Varied (Mis?)Uses
by Scott Smith
After the Garden, the Flood, and the Tower, God made for himself a people that would bring forth the Messiah. As His chosen patriarchs, God made promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that hinted at what would come. In Jacob’s children, God’s promise began to be fulfilled and his offspring grew rapidly in number. While Jacob was still alive, his family was made slaves to the Egyptian pharaoh, and remained so for 400 years.
At the appointed time, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt to wander in the wilderness awaiting entry to the Promised Land. Once established in their own land, God set up a system of judges and later, kings to rule over them. The third king over the United Kingdom was Solomon, son of David. King Solomon built his kingdom on the backs of the northern tribes. As the opulence of his kingdom grew he also added countless wives. With the wives came their gods. With the gods came their temples. Due to this idolatry, God judged Solomon by declaring that his kingdom would not continue; there would be a schism.
After King Solomon died, the ten northern tribes had had enough. They refused to submit to the new king and revolted. So after roughly 500 years in the Promised Land, the people were divided into a Southern Kingdom called Judah and a Northern Kingdom called Israel. Two centuries later, Israel was conquered by the Assyrians and led into captivity. As far as we know, this was the end of Israel as a people group.
After the fall of Israel, Judah was concerned, and for good reason. The same could happen to them. They had barely survived against the Assyrian attack that took Israel. Still, the fate of Israel was not enough to keep Judah in God’s will.
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Enter the Weeping Prophet
A prophet named Jeremiah entered the picture. He hated his job. He prophesied against Judah and Jerusalem, warning them of their imminent end if they did not return to God and reject the foreign gods. First he warns the kings. When they will not listen, he goes to the Jewish places of worship to warn them, but they will not hear it either. Jeremiah tells them that Judah will be overrun, Jerusalem destroyed, and the people of Judah scattered. He repeatedly admonishes them that if they do not turn, their land will be laid to waste and they will be taken to Nebuchadnezzar for seventy years.
And then it happened. Just as Jeremiah had prophesied, Judah was taken by the Babylonians. From amidst the ruins he wrote a letter1 to be delivered to the Jews in exile. It was a message from God: “I have not abandoned you…
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