Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. — Jeremiah 29:12-13
Through Charlotte Atseff’s teenage years, she was very rebellious, and after her marriage she continued on in her own way, resisting the truth she had been taught as a child. Her mother had prayed for Charlotte since the day her daughter was born, but one day that godly mother became seriously ill. As Charlotte sat by her mother’s bedside, the thought came to her mind, Who will pray for me now? What will I ever do without mother’s prayers? The Lord answered her questions by speaking to her heart: “You will pray for yourself!”
After her mother’s death, Charlotte began to reach out to the Lord and started attending a neighborhood church. One morning, alone in her house, she truly sought God with all of her heart. She confessed her sins, naming them one after another. In later years, she testified, “All of a sudden, it seemed I was the worst sinner in the world. My soul was as dark as midnight. The devil shouted at me, ‘You have gone too far,’ but at that moment the Lord showed me His Cross. I saw all my sins there on the Cross. I did not try to bargain with God — I just pled for mercy. Jesus came into my heart and forgave me. He turned me right about face. I knew the moment I was redeemed: I was a new person. All the bitterness and hatred were gone. He melted my heart like the ice is melted in the summer sun.”
In our text today, the Lord was speaking through the Prophet Jeremiah to the people of Judah who were captives in Babylon, urging them to come back to Him. Sadly, they were hardened by sin and rebellion, and unlike Charlotte, they were not willing to turn to God in their time of trouble. Despite their resistance, God was still calling after them in mercy. He was waiting for them to turn to Him, and promised that if they would just pray, He would hearken. If they would seek Him with all their hearts, He would be found of them.
What a comforting thought! No matter what spiritual condition we are in, God still invites us to pray and call upon Him. He wants us to seek Him with all our hearts, to yield our lives completely to Him, and to search diligently for His will for our lives. He says if we do this, He will be there to hear and answer our prayers.
Charlotte proved that God is just one heartfelt and sincere prayer away, and she never regretted it. We can prove that same truth in our lives!
Chapter 29 includes two letters that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish people who were exiled in Babylon. There is also a reference to a letter written by the false prophet Shemaiah to the Temple priests.
Correspondence was not difficult at this time, as diplomatic missions were carried on between Jerusalem and Babylon. Jeremiah also had friends in high places of Judah’s government, which enabled him to keep in contact with the exiles. The first letter in this chapter was sent with Elasah the son of Shaphan, a brother to Ahikam (mentioned in chapter 26) and Gemariah, son of Hilkiah (perhaps the high priest in the time of Josiah).
The people who had been relocated to Babylon were restless and wishing to return to Judah. They were influenced by false prophets among them who were saying the captivity would be short. Jeremiah told them the captivity would be for seventy years. He encouraged them to be law-abiding, humble people, and to build homes and plant gardens. The exiles were not treated as slaves in Babylon. They could buy property, have families, and reside in their own communities. In fact, some of the Jewish people became so wealthy during this time that they decided not to return to Jerusalem when the exiles were finally released.
Verses 10-14 contain a message of hope from the Lord for the exiles. He promised that if they would seek Him again with all their hearts, He would be found of them; He would hear and answer their prayers. Beginning with verse 16, the exiles were told that they were better off than the people who had remained in Judah.
Again, perhaps in a second letter, Jeremiah warned of false prophets, naming two: Ahab and Zedekiah. Jeremiah prophesied that these two men would be burned to death (which was not an unusual form of capital punishment in Babylon) and their names would be used as an example of a curse.
Shemaiah, another false prophet in Babylon, had apparently written a letter accusing Jeremiah of being a madman and urging the authorities to imprison him (verses 24-28). In his response, Jeremiah warned the people not to believe Shemaiah, and that he and his relatives would die in exile and never see the city of Jerusalem again.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The pronouncement of judgment against Judah
B. The conflicts of the prophet
4. The conflict with Shemaiah (29:1-32)
a. The letter to the exiles (29:1-23)
(1) The circumstances of the letter (29:1-3)
(2) The content of the letter (29:4-23)
(a) A call to submit (29:4-7)
(b) A warning about false prophets (29:8-9)
(c) A promise of restoration (29:10-14)
(d) A declaration of judgment on the false prophets (29:15-23)
b. The letter from Shemaiah (29:24-28)
c. The letter concerning Shemaiah (29:29-32)
God’s promise to be found of those who seek Him wholeheartedly extends down through the ages from the time of Jeremiah to our day. He is still faithful to respond to those who approach Him with an honest heart.