There are certain times in life where God passes down “hard words.” These are not necessarily words that are difficult to understand, but are words that people do not want to hear.
For example, we love to hear that God is love (1 John 4:8), and it makes us giddy to hear that He has “loved us with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3). However, we do not like to be reminded of the fact that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
We don’t appreciate being reminded of God being the Righteous Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25) or of Him being a jealous God (Deuteronomy 6:15).
Elijah was less than impressed when the brook Cherith dried up in 1 Kings 17. After all, he had been taken care of at Cherith, had been provided for, and had been hidden from his enemies. When the brook dried up though, he seemed to have become vulnerable again. He had to step out in faith when life again became difficult.
Hard words and hard times are inevitable in life; regardless of how we feel about them. What I want to draw your attention to today is a particularly hard word that was passed down to God’s people in captivity.
Jeremiah 29:4-10 - 4 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: 5 Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.
6 Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. 7 And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.
8 For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are in your midst deceive you, nor listen to your dreams which you cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them, says the Lord.
10 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.
Oh, we love to hear verses 11-14 of Jeremiah 29. We love to hear of the plan and the purpose God has for us! Why wouldn’t we? Despite it being a promise to that particular people in that specific time, such a promise shows God’s heart and we are able to know that He wants the best for us! We know and proclaim that He has good plans for us and those plans will prosper us! Right?
I feel for poor Jeremiah. As a young man, he is called by God to spend his life declaring doom and gloom on God’s wayward children. He had the unpopular message of the day! When all the false prophets were proclaiming peace and victory, Jeremiah had to stand against them and speak what God had told him; he had to preach hard words. Words of God like:
And you, even yourself, Shall let go of your heritage which I gave you; And I will cause you to serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; For you have kindled a fire in My anger which shall burn forever. (Jeremiah 17:4)
12 I also spoke to Zedekiah king of Judah according to all these words, saying, “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people, and live! 13 Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, as the Lord has spoken against the nation that will not serve the king of Babylon?
14 Therefore do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for they prophesy a lie to you; 15 for I have not sent them,” says the Lord, “yet they prophesy a lie in My name, that I may drive you out, and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you.” (Jeremiah 27:12-15)
Judah would be enslaved for seventy years, and there was nothing to be done about it. They wouldn’t be able to convince God to go back on what He had declared. There was no hope of victory over Babylon. Exile was a foregone conclusion and it was time to stop listening to false prophets and stop being deluded.
Maybe you are wondering what my point is. After all, my posts are generally uplifting or hopeful. Why am I so bent on depressing you by writing of Jeremiah, the Wailing Prophet, probably the man with the most depressing message to enter the pages of Scripture?
The answer is no great theological statement. This will not be some great paradigm changing post, and maybe it will be seen as anticlimactic. Still, this is why I am writing about Jeremiah:
There are hard words and hard times we face. Instead of looking solely to the future, instead of lamenting our current lot in life, there are times when we need to learn to be satisfied with where we are.
There are times when we need to trust the Lord and be content with the hardship we are facing. That’s not a popular idea in our culture that is obsessed with peace and prosperity in all areas of life, but it is still true.
Judah was told to build homes, plant gardens, have children, give their children in marriage, and seek the peace of the city. They were to settle in and make a life in Babylon.
We have such trouble reconciling that to our picture of God! We have trouble understanding (or don’t WANT to understand) that Judah was told to make a life where they were because their circumstances weren’t going to change any time soon.
We can’t imagine being “stuck” in our troubles. We get the idea that God is going to snap His fingers and miraculously remove us from every issue, and make everything sunshine and roses.
It is almost as if we forget that sometimes we must go through “the valley of the shadow of death” and have a table set “in the presence of our enemies” (Psalm 23).
That is not to say that we will always have trouble, but we are fools if we think that everything is going to be easy! We are absolutely blind if we think that God will instantly remove us from trouble. He CAN, but that doesn’t mean that He always will.
Jesus even said in John 16:33 - These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
We can have peace and joy in God regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, but we will still have trouble in this world! Paul perfectly speaks to my intention in writing this blog post when he speaks of contentment.
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)
Don’t turn a deaf ear to what God says just because it makes you uncomfortable or you don’t want to hear what He says. Don’t ignore God if He tells you to make a home where you are. As the old saying goes, “Bloom where you’re planted”.
Yes, God promises: 11 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. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 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 29:11-14)
God will not forget His people, He will never leave nor forsake them, and He does care and love them. Still, we need to learn to be content with wherever He has placed us, obey Him regardless of whether or not we feel like it, and be His people.
Don’t serve God or love Him conditionally; don’t simply follow the Lord when things are good. Love and trust Him even when told to settle in Babylon. And know that He always has the best in mind for those who follow Him; even if you can’t see it right now.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)
May the Lord bless you wherever you find yourself,