Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles
Everything you know about life has been ripped apart. And what you call home doesn’t even get to be a memory anymore.
Your place of worship, it has been torn to the ground, torn apart brick by brick. Your family has been ripped apart. Mothers ripped from fathers. Brothers ripped from sisters. Friends ripped from friends.
And you’ve been taken captive and exiled to a foreign land. The people now closest to you are your enemies. You sit in despair, grief, and disbelief. You used to play your musical instrument gladly before the Lord. You used to sing joyfully to God in the temple.
But now you have no song in you. You don’t even have the strength to lift your vice in praise. You wonder where God is. You wonder why God has abandoned you.
The truth though, God hasn’t abandoned you. God is actively at work redeeming the situation that you found yourself in.
You want rescue, you want things to go back to how they’ve been, but who God has called you to be is bigger than the situation you find yourself in. God knows exactly where you are spiritually And mentally right now. He sends word through a prophet, Jeremiah.
Pray for peace in the city. Pray for the good welfare of the city. For when it thrives you thrive. Multiply yourselves there. Multiply life there.
God knows you are hurting. God knows you feel hopeless. God knows you feel displaced. That you have been exiled. He knows your enemies mock and taunt you.
When you love people, even your enemies, you are loving God and that’s what matters most. When you willingly choose to love those who would rather see you suffer than thrive, even when you feel displaced, even when you find yourself living in exile, you’re inviting the resurrection power of God into your life and the life of others. Love always wins.
This story about the Israelites being carried off into exile is the beginning of a resurrection story. Many years later God re-establishes his people but he doesn’t stop there.
Jesus would exile himself from heaven, coming to live with these people, praying they would find peace, that they would prosper, and living in such a way that even his enemies would find life in God.
A retelling based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14; John 14:27
Storyline Commentary on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14
Setting Jeremiah is writing a letter to the elders, priests, and prophets who’ve been exiled to Babylon and displaced from Jerusalem. The people have departed from worshipping Yahweh and begun worshipping Baal, and have gone even as far as sacrificing their children in fire as offerings to Baal.
- Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet” to the Southern Kingdom of Israel.
- Yahweh who the Israelites have broken covent with.
- The Babylonians who’ve destroyed the temple and carried the Israelites off.
- Baal who the Israelites turned to in worship instead of God.
Tension Israel’s sin has caused them to find themselves being carried off to captivity in Babylon. The people cannot find it in themselves to even lift up a song of praise in the wasteland they’ve been carried off to. To add insult injury, the Babylonian captors mock the Israelites encouraging them to sing to their God Yahweh.
Resolution Not escape. Jeremiah sends words that they are to embrace their exile. They’re going to be there for a while, 70 years in fact. They’re to live out what it means to be people of God in the wasteland. They’re to pray for peace in the city and that the city would prosper. The people would learn to turn back to God and find life in God, not in their situation.
Why did people find this important to write down? The exile was a time in Jewish history that people couldn’t even utter songs of praise to the Lord. History repeats itself when we don’t remember the past. This is a reminder that even in times of exile, even in times of displacement, not to forget God and what God has promised.
Why did this passage endure? It’s a resurrection story. It’s the beginning of a story about God breathing life back into the people. A story about God taking those displaced, taking those exiled, and bringing them back home again. God is good even when it seems he’s absent. Even in the wasteland God is at work preparing an immeasurably bright future.
What is it that is true for them that is true for us now? Exile and displacement still happen today on micro and macro scales. Exile exists in everything from the person lost in depression and feeling displaced in reality, feeling like there’s nothing to cling to, to those being wiped out systematically simply because of their faith in Jesus.
Even in displacement and exile, our role as people of God is to be light in the wastelands. That is resurrection power.