Everyone wants to minimize their problems as much as possible. No one wants to suffer one minute more than is absolutely necessary. It might encourage you to know that God also doesn’t delight in unnecessary suffering; nor does He forget us when we are in a time of despair. God has a perfect plan and timetable by which He rules over His creation.
The false prophets of Israel told the people that their problems would soon be over. “In less than two years the invasion will be over and everyone will be back home.” But their prophecies were not true. God had determined that seventy years of captivity were necessary for His people and therefore seventy years it would be.
Jeremiah 29:8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. 9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. 10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 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.
Why seventy years? We have already discussed this in another devotional, but as a way of review, let me remind us of God’s reasoning. Leviticus 25 teaches us that a part of God’s commandments to His people was for them to allow the land to rest for one year – every seven years. The sabbatical rest was not only for soil conservation, but also a demonstration of the people’s trust in God. Yet the rebellious children of Israel did not heed God’s commands, but instead continued to sow their crops and reap their harvests – year in and year out. The result was that the land missed 490 years of having a sabbatical rest; or in other words – 70 Sabbatical rests. (490 years divided by 7 years = 70 years) The people’s punishment would be that they would have to spend one year in captivity for every sabbatical year they had neglected.
Seventy years of chastening were decreed upon the people, but after the seventy years – a glorious promise. “…after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 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.” God was not trying to destroy His people, but rather purify them. Consider these words that come also from the book of Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 29:12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. 13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. 14 And I will be found of you, saith the LORD: and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the LORD; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
God knew that the seventy years were necessary in order to bring the people to the place where He could bless them. By the end of the seventy years, the people’s stubborn pride would be broken and they would be at the place where they would seek God with all their heart.
Though we do not always understand the reasoning behind our suffering, we can rest in the fact that God does. Jesus said: “…every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” (John 15:2) Sometimes pain is necessary in order to make us more productive.