Pastor Dennis Smith
God’s people, the people of Judah, were suffering. The Lord himself had uprooted them from their homes and homeland because of their unfaithfulness and idolatry, and they found themselves exiles in the faraway land of Babylon. Their lives had been turned upside down. Nothing was as it used to be. Even the beloved city, Jerusalem, with its temple had been utterly destroyed by the Chaldeans. God had not acted capriciously or rashly in visiting such disaster on them; he had used the prophets going all the way back to Moses to caution them, and finally used the prophet Jeremiah to declare to his people that judgment was at hand. (This all transpired about six hundred years before Christ.)
And yet even in the midst of such turmoil, the Lord their God sought to reassure his wayward people that they had not been abandoned, even though it might have seemed such in exile. In spite of their failures, they were still his people because he had chosen them and had made promises to their forefathers which he was bound by his own character to keep. Yes, he was and is a holy God, sovereign and just, but he is also the God of all mercy, grace, and hope. Because of who and what he is, the Lord did not leave his people hopeless. He continued to speak to them in Babylon through prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
At one point during this time of exile, God sent his people a message of hope through Jeremiah. In Jeremiah 29:10 the Lord told them that he would visit them and cause them to return home after a seventy-year banishment in Babylon. Their chastening would have a limit; he had not really abandoned them. Then in v. 11 God explained his heart in the matter. He said, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
In spite of circumstances — in spite of how bleak and uncertain their future looked — God assured his people of his ultimate good intentions toward them. So what was the Lord saying to his people when he said that he would give them “an expected end”? The language is a little difficult here, but I think the basic idea is that God’s plan for his chosen ones was to give them the best future they could imagine in spite of their present circumstances.
And I think that we, as the church, can today seize on that same assurance that God had given his chosen people long ago in their time of uncertainty. His thoughts toward us, in Christ, are thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give us a future that we can look forward to. And as I think of that, I am reminded of what Paul said in Ephesians 3:20 — “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think … unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages … Amen.”