10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
This month, students from all around the country will graduate high school. We celebrate these men and women who have persevered and finished this phase of their journey. As they head off to their next step, we offer advice, encouragement, and love. Often times, Jeremiah 29:11 will come up in letters or speeches to graduates. While this verse does provide encouragement based on a promise from God, it takes on a deeper meaning when we understand the context.
The Lord has promised to bring His people back from captivity. However, this will take 70 years. God will make good on His promises, but His people have responsibility as well. In Jeremiah 29:7, the Lord says, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” In the midst of the trial and difficulty, the people are called to seek the welfare of the city. As they contribute to the common good and as they seek God first and foremost, they will see the hand of God. promises, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13).
These promises hold true for us as well. We may not be in Babylonian captivity, but we all find ourselves in a specific community, neighborhood, and city. We only have to turn on the news for a few minutes to see some of the pain and hardship in our cities. As Christians, we are not called to escape, but rather to invest where we are. Don’t seek to be removed from the city, seek the renewal in the city. We have an opportunity to spread love to others, to offer support to those in need, to contribute to the flourishing of our world. One of our strongest witnesses is the life we live. So as we read Jeremiah 29:11, we may now think of it a little differently in context. God’s promises are certain and we also have responsibility in the way we live.
What part can you play today to make the world a little better? It could be a conversation, an act of kindness, picking up trash along the side of the road. How can you walk in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus in your neighborhood, workplace, school, and city today?
By Billy Berglund