Long term planning
In October of 2006, the last Rabbi left Iraq. It was a sad day. There had been a Jewish population in that part of the world since at least 605 B.C., (or B.C.E. if you prefer!), when Nebuchadnezzer first invaded Judah, and took captives back to Babylon. That is a span of more than 2,500 years!
In today’s lesson, Jeremiah writes a letter. The Kingdom of Judah has been taken over by the Babylonians. Huge numbers of citizens have been sent as slaves or indentured servants. And apparently some were predicting that this migration would be a short-term event.
But Jeremiah writes on behalf of God and says, “don’t believe these people who says this will be a short term event. Build houses, plant gardens, marry, have children, and plan for the long haul. Be good citizens of the city where I have sent you.”
Obviously Jeremiah’s interpretation of what God was saying was right. It was a long haul. We know from the book of Daniel, that 70 years passed before the Jews living in that part of the world were given freedom to travel and some returned to Judah.
Amazingly, God seemed to say that good would come of this tragic and painful exile. Jeremiah continues speaking for God and in these verses which are a favorite of many, including me he writes: “11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,”
Yet it was the Babylonian captivity where the seeds of scholarship developed, where the what became synagogue worship was instituted, and where the seeds of belief in the resurrection began to take root.
The world that shaped Jesus and his disciples, the synagogue, the reading, studying, and interpreting of the scriptures began in Babylon. God knew that this would all precede Jesus coming, and was essential to the spread of the Gospel.
God knew that the Jewish presence in that part of the world would last far beyond what the Jews of Jeremiah’s day could imagine. And because they obeyed, they remained a vital part of that part of the world through many changes and upheavals.
That longevity gives me great confidence in the end of today’s passage from Jeremiah. God’s words about his people proved to be true. How much more must his words about his own character be trustworthy?
12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,”
The God who told Jeremiah the truth about the captivity speaks truth about his desire to be found by, and known by us. “Call on me, pray to me. I will hear you. Search for me, you will find me if you put your whole heart into it.”
If that sounds familiar it may be because Jesus says this: Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8* For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”
The God who loves his creatures, longs to be prayed to, to be sought, and to be found. Amen.
P.S. – And though it is terribly sad that the Jewish people are almost all gone from Iraq, due to persecution, I am confident that in God’s everlasting plans and economy some great good will someday come of this sad tragedy.