The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see the branch of an almond tree.” Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am [actively] watching over My word to fulfill it.” Jeremiah 1:11-12 AMP

I did some research about almond trees and found that they grow best in hot dry climates that do get cold in the winter, such as in the Middle East where Jeremiah was living when God gave him the vision mentioned above. Almond trees there are the first to flower in the still chill weather of spring and as such are a symbol of hope.

“For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 AMP

This scripture from Jeremiah is one of the most often-quoted verses in the Bible. I have seen it on pictures, banners, coffee mugs and t-shirts. It is also a message of hope. It is so encouraging that it is easy to pull it out of the context in which it was given. In the Bible it shows up as a promise for those who survive the exile to Babylon and has instructions and conditions for those who are able to return to Jerusalem.

For thus says the Lord,  “When seventy years [of exile] have been completed for Babylon, I will visit (inspect) you and keep My good promise to you, to bring you back to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10 AMP

“Then you will call on Me and you will come and pray to Me, and I will hear [your voice] and I will listen to you. Then [with a deep longing] you will seek Me and require Me [as a vital necessity] and [you will] find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” says the Lord, “and I will restore your fortunes and I will [free you and] gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,”’ says the Lord, “and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:12-14 AMP

“For if you thoroughly change your ways and your behavior, if you thoroughly and honestly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, if you do not oppress the transient and the foreigner, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood [by oppression and by unjust judicial murders] in Jerusalem, nor follow after other gods to your own ruin, then I will let you live in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers [to live in] forever and ever.” Jeremiah 7:5-7 AMP

I’ve come to love and admire Jeremiah as I dive deeply into his life, calling and writings. He listens to God and gives the messages he is told to give even when he knows they will be ignored. He grieves over what he knows will come if the nation and its leaders don’t pay attention and change. He declares that hope is what God promises if warnings are heeded and change occurs before disaster strikes. He is honest in prayer with God.

During this season of Lent, as we study the book of Jeremiah, take some time to imagine what his life was like and what you can learn from him in your relationship with God. I’ll be praying for us all.