When Jeremiah, who was still living in Judah, wrote a letter to the exiles of Israel, he offered counsel as to how to survive the captivity of Babylon.
If you don’t know your Bible history well, listen up. What happened toward the end of the life and ministry of Jeremiah has a direct impact on Canadians today.
The end of the seventh century and the beginning of the sixth century B.C. were days of turmoil. Seen from the outside without the benefit of faith, one would think that Judaism was coming to an end and would soon pass into history. Already, the 10 northern tribes had been defeated and transported from their homeland. In time, they would intermarry and nothing would be left of their legacy. The next stage was the defeat of the southern tribes of Judah, Benjamin and other small groups from the 10 tribes who had made their home in Judah. In time, the threat of Babylon and the total destruction of the faith of Abraham lay before the people of God.
The total defeat of Judah occurred in three stages. The first invasion happened in 607 B.C. During this time, Daniel and his friends, along with other Jewish nobility, were taken into exile. The second invasion occurred in 597 B.C., some 10 years later when Ezekiel the prophet was taken. The third and final invasion happened in 587 B.C. At that time, Jerusalem was conquered, the temple was burned to the ground and the majority of the Jewish population was transplanted from Judea into Babylon. All that was left in the land were the poorest of the poor, and they, after a series of disasters, would flee to Egypt. The Promised Land had been emptied out of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jeremiah 29 was probably written between 594-593 B.C. That would mean that the first two invasions had occurred, but the final destruction of Jerusalem still lay ahead. Daniel and Ezekiel were in captivity, but Jeremiah still remained in the Promised Land. A rumour had begun circulate that the years of exile would be short. Memories of deliverance from defeat began to circulate as messages of hope for the present day. False prophets, like the prophet Hananiah, had stated that God would break the yoke of the burden of Babylon, and quickly restore His people. Jeremiah told Hananiah that he had not heard from God, and that as a sign, Hananiah would die within a year. Soon after, Hananiah was dead.
And that brings us back to Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles in Babylon. “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters, take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7 ESV)
Jeremiah’s letter contains three important lessons for Canadian Christians. First, this is the land of our exile, not our home. Second, it is the Lord’s will that we should be in this land. And third, while in this land, we should seek the welfare of this land.
So much more to say. Stay tuned.