This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 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.
Waiting is never easy, especially in today’s instant gratification society. We’re hungry so we go to the drive-through. We’re bored so we stream Netflix. We want (more) things so we order Amazon Prime day-of-shipping. There’s no end to our immediate satisfaction! But much to our frustration God is not this way. God declares in this chapter: I don’t do my work instantly and I don’t work for your pleasure or comfort! While we want God to act immediately, He takes seventy years to do what He wants.
There were many prophets in Jeremiah’s day that were prophesying that Israel should fight for a forceful, violent, and presumptuous return to the Promised Land against the Babylonians (Hananiah in verses 28:10-17 and Shemaiah in verses 29:24-28). But these prophets were prophesying their own agendas and dreams, at the encouragement of the people (29:8).
Those prophets could not live in the tension of an extended stay in exile. But that’s exactly why God takes His time: God invites His people to live in the tension. The tension is inconvenient precisely because it forces us to make a redundant decision to believe. “God, why am I waking up again with this crushing depression?” “God, I have cried out to you for years about my children – when will you show up in their lives?” “God, will you ever help me pay these bills?”
We languish in unideal circumstances on the daily. And in God’s sovereignty, He delights in our constant choice to believe. He desires the faith of His people and the tension of unideal circumstances is a necessary precondition for faith.
But he does not allow us to languish in the tension without anything to cling to. Rather he has equipped us with all of His promises, fulfilled in the resurrected life of Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Jeremiah and the faithful remnant of Israel heard rightly from the LORD. It would take a long time to see God’s promises delivered. But when seventy years passed, the people of Israel returned, and their temple was rebuilt! God does as God says! Even though they do not arrive based on our demands or expectations, God’s word never fails. He is never late. His promises arrive at their exact appointed time. (Habakkuk 2:3).