July 10, 2021
"Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the remainder of the elders who were carried away captive..."
“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent 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. (This happened after Jeconiah the king, the queen mother, the eunuchs, the princes of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.) The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan, and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon…’” Jeremiah 29:1-4
It was a tense moment in the courtroom as the judge pounded his gavel, “GUILTY!” and pronounced a 70-year sentence to the defendant, a felon whose case had such overwhelming evidence against him that a grade school child could have levied the proper judgment. But as the guards led the convict to the prison transport, a courtroom intern came running with a letter of encouragement. A pardon, perhaps? No. It was a statement that the judge’s sentence would never be repealed, not even by a single day. So, where was the encouragement? The judge’s note continued to state that the judge would personally ensure the convict’s safety while he was in prison and that at the end of his 70-year sentence, the prisoner would have paid his full debt to society. Then (and only then), the convict could return home and prosper without any fear of further judicial recourse. The judge promised not to hold a grudge once the terms of the sentence had been satisfied. Furthermore, the judge would be willing to assist the convict in his restoration to society and already had a plan to financially support the (ex)convict upon release. Oh, yes, and the ex-con will be eternally thankful to the judge for having judged righteously.
If you can understand that story, you understand the essence of Jeremiah 29:11, the often prayed, yet seldom understood verse of encouragement.
“For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.” Jeremiah 29:10-14
You see, Jeremiah 29:11 is not a promise of a pardon from a push-over god. It is a promise of justice, but from the righteous, yet merciful Judge. He is the One who would die for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:7-9), yet He chastens us so we would learn to sin no more! (Hebrews 12:6-11)