In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14)
Can you imagine your city being attacked? Being carted away with your family to a foreign nation as prisoners? That was just the start of the bad news for the Jews living in Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian army to lay siege of the city, carrying away many of its inhabitants and all of the Temple’s sacred objects before destroying the city walls and the Temple. The prophet Jeremiah had warned the people years before that this exile would last 70 years. And it did.
This is a story of a people whom God loved deeply. Every chance he got, the Lord reminded his people how much he loved them and how he wanted to care for them. He gave them commandments to keep them safe and to prosper them. He sent prophets to warn them of impending doom, but to no avail. 2 Chronicles 36:16-17 says, “But the people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the LORD's anger could no longer be restrained and there was no remedy. So the LORD brought the king of Babylon against them. The Babylonians killed Judah's young men, even chasing after them into the Temple. They had no pity on the people, killing both young and old, men and women, healthy and sick. God handed them all over to Nebuchadnezzar.”
In Babylon, these Jews sought to settle into some form of daily, normal life, but their lifestyle revolved around many things that were difficult to find in this foreign land. They had strict dietary rules which required their food to be handled in very particular ways. They had traditions around holy days, festivals and fasts all requiring special items. Where would they find all of these things in Babylon? But the biggest challenge to a Jew when he entered Babylon was – where was God? For the Jews, God lived in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies. But when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem, the Temple was destroyed. How would they ever connect with their God again? This had to be absolutely devastating for a people whose culture revolved around going to the Temple to fulfill their religious requirements. While the Bible says many of the people were in rebellion to God and his statutes, there is still something to be said for culture and routine. Whether you were a Jew who earnestly worshipped the Lord at the Temple or not, this was a huge blow to your world. This was traumatic.
God knew the impact this would have on his people, so he sent a message through his prophet Jeremiah, years before, saying, “The truth is that you will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and bring you home again to your own land” (v. 10-14).
God was telling a people who only knew how to find him in a Temple to seek him while in a foreign country. This was a big moment for the Israelites. They could choose to shun God because they couldn’t “find” him in the Temple, or they could grab hold of the words the Lord spoke to them through Jeremiah and look for God in earnest through prayer. If they held tight to the promise God was giving, they would certainly find him if they looked for him in earnest.
This is a big deal for us, too! As believers we may know certain aspects or characteristics of God. We may have preferred ways of connecting with him so we can apprehend these aspects or characteristics. Maybe it’s a particular worship song or a certain way of praying. We’ve created a “Temple” of sorts around our God and we visit him in this very controlled way from time to time to experience the God we know. But like the Israelites who were exiled to Babylon, God reminds us that we can seek him afresh consistently, with the possibility of learning something powerful about him each and every time. Let’s become people who, despite uncomfortable or even downright oppressive circumstances, purpose ourselves to seek God in earnest—to know him in new and profound ways. Let’s let God out of the Temple and into our hearts in a real and meaningful way today.
Take some time today to consider all the different names of God. For some examples to start you off, click here and here. Which names of God are familiar to you? Which are new to you? Which aspect(s) of God do you want to know better when it comes to your finances? If you have time, read the scripture relating to the name(s) you want to know more about.
Take about 15 minutes to discuss the following points with your spouse or a trusted friend:
- What name of God are you most seeking revelation about?
- How do you want to involve God in your finances going forward?
Spend a few minutes in prayer (ideally with your spouse or a trusted friend) and consider the following points:
- Thank God for any and all of the great things that have happened in your finances over the years;
- Thank God for who he is and ask him to reveal himself to you in a new and meaningful way;
- Invite God into your finances.