Today’s selected passage continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Jeremiah, and more specifically, is found in the twenty-ninth chapter. This particular chapter is largely and widely known for the contents that are found in the eleventh verse—“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” (Jeremiah 29:11). Those who consider the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah look no further than the eleventh verse, and in fact, there are many who quote this verse completely and entirely out of context. Such men and women seek to isolate this verse and present it—either unto themselves, or perhaps to others—as means of encouragement and hope. There are countless men and women who will use this verse to declare unto men and women that the Lord knows the thoughts He thinks toward them, and in particular, thoughts of peace, and not of evil. There are men and women who will use this verse to speak unto others and declare unto them that the Lord desires to give them a specific and expected end. Countless men and women read absolutely nothing else from this chapter, and leave the rest of this chapter untouched and not even considered in the slightest bit. I am convinced that any individual—any minister, any preacher, any evangelist, and the like—who seeks to isolate this verse alone without considering the context before and after it should not quote this verse to others. I realize and recognize that might sound and might seem harsh, but the truth of the matter is that when seeking to study and understand Scripture, context is everything. We run a great risk and are in great danger when we take a single verse from within a particular passage of Scripture and use that Scripture alone. In all reality, I do not believe this verse—this word which the Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah—was ever intended to be isolated and separated from the rest of the chapter. It is true the Lord does know the thoughts that He thinks toward us, and it is true that those thoughts are of peace and not of evil. It is true the Lord desires to give us an expected end, but that wasn’t the only thing the Lord declared in this passage of Scripture. The prophet Jeremiah didn’t merely proclaim this single set of words when proclaiming the word of the Lord, but proclaimed these words in direct connection and conjunction with so much more. I can’t help but wonder how often and how many times we miss the forest for that one single tree that seems to appeal to us. How much of the forest do we, and how much of the forest have we missed simply because have allowed ourselves to get caught up in a single tree that catches our attention.
Adam and Eve were placed in a vast garden that had been planted by the Lord, and had unlimited access to each and every tree that was found therein. Every tree along with its fruit was made available unto them except one—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eventually the day came when they lost sight of the vast garden because they had been enamored by that one single tree that was there in the center of the garden. It was that one tree—that tree which was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—which the serpent used to beguile and tempt Eve. It was that one single tree which the serpent sought to bring Eve to the place where she felt the Lord was somehow withholding something from her. In all reality, I am convinced that the serpent still operates the same way in this generation, and in all reality—he operates the same way with the Scripture. We dare not, we cannot, we must not think that the serpent does not know Scripture, for when the devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he actually quoted Scripture in an attempt to bring Jesus to the place of disobedience and rebellion before the Lord. I believe the serpent can and will make every attempt to beguile and deceive us—even using Scripture itself—for the devil will isolate a single verse and present it unto us as something that is necessary and vital for us. Please don’t misunderstand me regarding this fact, for I firmly believe that all Scripture is inspired by God, and that it is profitable for doctrine, for correction, for teaching and for reproof. What I am merely trying to suggest is that the Scripture knows Scripture as well, and he will make an attempt to use Scripture to beguile and tempt us. When the serpent sought to beguile Eve, he was so subtitle, for he even used part of what God had said, while at the same point calling into question that which the Lord said. The serpent not only isolated that one single tree in the garden from all the others that were present around them, but he also manipulated the word of God within the heart and mind of Eve. It was this combination—the combination of isolating that one single tree, and of calling into question that which the Lord had spoken—that ultimately caused Eve to be deceived, and to give in to the temptation. When the devil was tempting Jesus, he attempted to use Scripture, yet even when he used Scripture, he only used a portion of it. The devil didn’t use all of what was contained in the ninety-first Psalm, but he did lock on to and isolate one single portion, and it was that portion which he used in an attempt to tempt Jesus.
As I sitting here right now, I am convinced that it is possible for the serpent and adversary to beguile and deceive us just as he did Eve in the garden. I am convinced that just as the serpent isolated a single portion from the ninety-first Psalm and used it an attempt to tempt Jesus, so also can and so also will the devil seek to isolate specific verses, and even specific passages from Scripture, and actually attempt to tempt and deceive us. We dare not allow ourselves to be misguided, or even deceived into thinking or believing that the devil doesn’t know Scripture, and that the devil cannot and will not use Scripture to deceive and tempt us. The serpent tried tempting Jesus using Scripture, yet it wasn’t simply his attempt to use Scripture, but his attempt to take Scripture out of its proper context, and to manipulate and twist it in his hands to bring us to the place of deception before the Lord. I am convinced that any time we lock on to a single verse and focus on that verse without and apart from context, we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be caught up in deception. Now, I fully understand that there are times when the Lord can and will direct us to a specific verse in the Scripture. I firmly believe there are times when the Lord will call our attention to a specific verse in the Scripture, yet there must be an incredible sense of discernment within our spirits to know, to understand and to recognize when that is taking place. What’s more, is that I am convinced that even if, and even when the Lord calls our attention to a specific verse, I do not believe for one minute that He wants us to focus on that verse in and of itself. I am completely and totally convinced that if and when the Lord draws our attention to a specific verse within Scripture, He is actually drawing our attention that which is before, and that which is after that specific verse. In fact, I would dare say that unless we are willing to read, examine and study what comes before and what comes after, we run the risk of missing out on that which the Lord desires to speak to us. If you remember the parable of the treasure that was found in the field, you will remember that it was after the man found the treasure that he buried it once more, went and sold all he had, and then bought that field. It was the treasure which was contained in the field that actually served as the initial ground for excitement, yet it wasn’t simply the treasure itself that caused the man to sell all he had, but it was the entire field itself that caused the man to sell all he had. I am completely and totally convinced that this directly applies to the Scripture, for there are times when the Spirit of the Lord will call and draw our attention to a specific treasure, yet the Spirit isn’t simply interested in the treasure within the field, but the entire field. If and when the Lord draws your attention to a specific verse in the Scripture, I do not believe that His goal and His aim is to isolate that particular verse, but to draw your attention to the entire field in which the treasure is contained. We dare not, we cannot, we must not miss the field for the treasure, for it’s not the treasure which demands that we sell everything we have, but the field which requires us to sell all we have. If the Spirit of the Lord draws our attention to a specific verse within Scripture, I am convinced that He is drawing our attention to all that is around that specific verse, for it’s only when we consider everything that that particular verse achieves its intended goal.
When you read the words found in the eleventh verse of the twenty-ninth chapter of the prophetic book of Jeremiah, you must look all the way back to the very first verse of this chapter. In fact, the eleventh verse is not even the starting point of this verse—despite how many men and women may seem to think and believe it is. How many times do we rush straight for eleven without recognizing and understanding that we must begin at one—and not just begin at one, but consider two through ten as well. Without verses one through ten there can be no eleventh verse, for it’s what is contained within these first ten verses that serves as the foundation and context for what we read in the eleventh verse. With that being said, consider how this particular chapter opens—“Now these are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon” (Jeremiah 29:1). Did you catch that? Please don’t miss the significance of what is recorded in this first verse, for to do would be to miss out on the importance of what is found within the eleventh verse. When reading and studying this passage of Scripture, the first thing we must recognize and understand is that what we read in the eleventh verse was actually written in a letter that was sent by the prophet Jeremiah from Jerusalem. It’s in this first verse that we discover that what is found in verses four through twenty-three were actually the composite of a letter which Jeremiah wrote and sent from the city of Jerusalem. What’s more, is that these words weren’t merely words that were written and contained within a letter, but these were words that were written for a specific audience. Consider how in the first we read these words “unto the residue of the elders which were carried away captives, and to the priests, and to the prophets, and to all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried away captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.” That which we read in the eleventh verse was written unto those which had been carried away captives from the city of Jerusalem, and carried away to Babylon. The words we read in this particular passage of Scripture weren’t addressed to those who were living and dwelling securely in the inheritance, but those who had been taken away, carried away and removed from their inheritance, and forced into a life of captivity. These words weren’t written to a free people within the inheritance, but a captive people living in a strange land.
LETTERS TO A CAPTIVE PEOPLE LIVING IN A STRANGE LAND. When reading the words which Jeremiah wrote in this letter, we must recognize that these were words—not written to a people living and dwelling securely within their inheritance, but a people who had been removed and carried away from their inheritance. Those to whom Jeremiah was writing had been removed from the place of the throne, and from the place of the altar. Those whom Jeremiah was writing had been removed from the place where the authority, the government, the dominion of the Lord was manifested and represented in the throne of David, and from the place which represented the very glory and presence of the Lord of hosts. This people to whom Jeremiah had written had been removed from the place of sacrifice and offering before the Lord, for the altar of the Lord had not been brought with them into the land of the Chaldeans. If we are truly going to understand the significance in the words that are written and contained within the eleventh verse, we must understand that these words were written and proclaimed to a very specific people. These words were written to “the residue of the elders which were carried away captives”—a residue, which means a very specific portion of people. These words weren’t written to all those who were of the seed of Abraham, but to a very specific group of people that were of that seed. These words were written to priests, prophets, people and elders alike who had been removed from the land of promise, the land of blessing and the land of inheritance, and who had been taken captive into a strange and foreign land. We dare not, we cannot, we should not miss the significance of this fact, for this simple fact shines a tremendous deal of light on to what we read in the eleventh verse. Pause for a moment and consider those who are normally the target audience and recipients of the words which are recorded in the eleventh verse. Consider those for whom these words are typically and generally quoted to, and consider that reality in light of the original audience to whom Jeremiah was writing. Jeremiah was writing to prophets and priests which had been carried away captive into the land of Babylon—those who ministers around the altar, and perhaps even those who professed to speak on behalf of the Lord.
I have to admit that I absolutely love the fact that I absolutely love that this letter was written to prophets and priests which were carried away captives and brought into the land of the Chaldeans, for it represents the tremendous reality that there may very well be prophets and priests in this generation who have found themselves in a place of captivity. In fact, I am firmly convinced that there are prophets and priests in this generation who although they stand before the people of God and either minister around the altar, or even profess to proclaim the word of the Lord, have found themselves in a place of captivity. I would dare say that there are ministers and preachers and leaders alike who although they oversee various congregations and assemblies throughout the world, have themselves been carried away captive. I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there are ministers and leaders within the body of Christ right now who have been carried away captive, and who have found themselves living and dwelling in a strange and foreign land. We dare not be so naïve to think that there aren’t ministers and leaders in this generation that have not found themselves carried away captive and effectively removed from their inheritance. The fact that there were both prophets and priests that were addressed in this letter reveals the overwhelming reality that there are prophets and priests in this generation that are living in a place of captivity. There are prophets and priests among us in this generation who are no longer living in the place of promise, the place of blessing, the place of inheritance, but are living in a place of captivity. There are prophets and priests who are merely going through the motions—this even though they may stand before you week in and week out proclaiming and preaching from the Word of God. Can I be bold right now and declare that just because someone stands before you behind a pulpit with a microphone in their hand doesn’t mean that they aren’t living in a place of captivity. Just because there are men and women who are over ministries of all shapes and sizes doesn’t mean that those men and women aren’t living in a place of captivity—effectively being removed from the place of their inheritance. Just because men and women profess to proclaim the word of the Lord doesn’t mean that they themselves aren’t living in a place of captivity. What’s. more, is that not everyone’s captivity is the same. One person’s captivity and being removed from the place of inheritance might not be the same as another person’s captivity and being removed from the place of their inheritance. One person’s being removed from the place of promise isn’t necessarily the same story of another, for while there might be a number of men and women living in the place of captivity, each ones captivity may very well be different. If you have found yourself in captivity, your captivity might very well be completely different from the captivity I am facing.
When I consider the fact that Jeremiah wrote these words in a letter which he sent from Jerusalem, I can’t help but think of the state of mind such individuals found themselves in. To illustrate this point even further, it is necessary to journey to the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms. It is in this chapter where we find a description of those who found themselves living in a place of captivity—those who had been removed from the place of their inheritance, and caused to live in a strange and foreign land. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sin us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? “ (Psalm 137:1-4). As I consider those to whom Jeremiah wrote this letter to, I can’t help but think that those he wrote this letter to were those who sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept. I can’t help but think that those to whom Jeremiah wrote this letter to were those who had not only been carried away and carried captive into a strange and foreign land, but those who sat down by rivers and wept—and not only those who sat down and wept, but those who remembered. What was it they remembered? The psalmist makes it very clear that they remembered Zion, and it was their remembrance of Zion that caused them to weep. There by the rivers of Babylon they wept because they thought about Zion—perhaps thinking about and remembering the Temple of the Lord. There by the rivers of Babylon they wept as they remembered Zion—perhaps thinking about the courts of the Lord where they could come and go as they freely worshipped the Lord of hosts. They sat down by the rivers and wept because they remembered the place where they used to be, and considered that what was before them now was a place they were never created, nor intended to be. There by the rivers of Babylon the residue of Jerusalem which had been carried away captive sat down and wept as they remembered Zion—as they remembered the place of sacrifice, the place of offering, the place of worship, the place of the throne and the altar. Oh, how many men and women right now are in this very place—the place where they are living in a strange and foreign land, and who are weeping as they remember the place of the throne and the altar? How many men and women have found themselves sitting down by the rivers of Babylon in their own life, as they remember that place where they used to be, as compared to the place where they presently are? Oh, we must get this within the depths of our heart and spirit, for to miss this is to miss the incredible significance of what Jeremiah proclaimed in the twenty-ninth chapter.
As you continue reading the one-hundred and thirty-seventh chapter of the book of Psalms, you will read how the same people who sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept as they remembered Jerusalem, were also the same individuals who hanged their harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. Those who sat down by the rivers of Babylon had hung up and traded their instruments of praise for weeping, as they perhaps remembered playing those instruments before and unto the Lord in Zion. Perhaps they hung their harps because they could not and did not see any use for them. What use would the harps of Zion be in Babylon when and where the songs of Zion had little impact and effect? What an incredible place to be in—the place where the instruments you once used to play before the Lord have now been hung upon willows in a strange and foreign land. WHEN WHAT YOU ONCE USED TO PRAISE THE LORD HAS BEEN HUNG UPON THE WILLOWS! Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many men and women right now are in this very same position and place. There are men and women who have something in their possession which they once used to worship and praise the Lord, yet their present situation and their present circumstance has caused them to hang such instruments up. Oh, do these words describe you? If so, what have you hung up upon the willows in Babylon? What did you at one point use for service and ministry before the Lord, yet you have now hung upon the willows in Babylon? What instrument have you been given that you have hung upon the willows in Babylon because you feel you have no use for it? This causes me to consider all the vessels and instruments that were used in the house of the Lord which were carried off to Babylon—some of which would at one point be used by a rebellious and arrogant king during a banquet he held in the palace. Consider how many vessels were carried away into Babylon. Consider what is recorded in the final chapter of the second book of the Kings—“and the pillars of brass that were in the house of the Lord, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the Lord, did the Chaldees break in peaces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon. And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took them away. And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away. The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord; the brass of all the vessels was without weight” (2 Kings 25:13-16). Please pay careful attention to what is recorded here in the twenty-fifth chapter of the book of Second Kings, for a great portion of what was used in the house of the Lord to minister unto him was carried away into the land of the Chaldeans where it would remain for seventy years.
WHAT NEED HAVE WE FOR HARPS IN A STRANGE LAND? WHAT NEED HAVE WE FOR HARPS IN A FOREIGN LAND? Those of whom the psalmist wrote about in this particular psalm had decided to hang their harps upon the willows in the midst of Babylon, for they saw no use or value of those harps in the midst of that land. What’s more, is that it appears to me that their weeping by the rivers of Babylon had overshadowed and eclipsed their worship and praise of the Lord, for the instruments they once used to minister before and unto the Lord no longer had any use or value to them. Oh, I know there are men and women who right now are in this very place. I know there are men and women who have hung upon willows that which they once used to serve and minister unto the Lord in Zion. There are men and women who have hung upon the willows in their captivity that which they held in their hands in the inheritance. HANGING UPON THE WILLOWS IN YOUR CAPTIVITY WHAT YOU HELD IN YOUR HANDS IN THE INHERITANCE! What is it that you have hung up in your life at this present moment in time? You have found yourself living in a strange and foreign land, and as a result, you have hung up your instrument upon the willows in Babylon. What have you hung upon the willows of Babylon? What instrument was once in your hand, yet is now no longer in your hands, but hanging upon a willow? Have you hung your hope upon the willows of Babylon? Have you hung your joy upon the willows of Babylon? Have you hung your prayer life upon the willows of Babylon? Have you hung your worship upon the willows in Babylon? Have you hung upon the willows in Babylon your faith, your confidence and your trust? Have you hung upon the willows of Babylon your calling? It’s interesting to note that the fact that they hung their harps upon the willows of Babylon meant that they had taken their harps with them. Even though they entered into captivity, they did so carrying their harps with them. I believe there is a tremendous significance in this fact, for while there are many who have hung their harps upon the willows in Babylon, the very fact that they hung their harps upon those willows meant that they neither lost them, nor had to give them up. Notice that they “hung them up,” rather than “gave them up.” Oh, there is a vast difference between having to, and being forced to give up something. Those who sat by the rivers in Babylon hung their harps up, yet there is no indication that they were forced to give them up when leaving the inheritance. This is truly significant, for the fact that they merely hung their harps up rather than giving them up means that they could pick them up again.
PICKING UP WHAT YOU HUNG UP BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO GIVE IT UP! I believe with everything inside me that even though there might be something within your life which you have hung up, that doesn’t mean you can never pick it up again. I am convinced that just because you have found yourself hanging up something which you once used, doesn’t mean that you have had to give that thing up. I am convinced that even though you have hung your instrument up as you sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept, doesn’t mean you have given it up, and can and will never pick up. To help illustrate this point even more, it’s worth noting and pointing out that even the instruments of the house of the Lord which were carried away into Babylon would be brought back with those who returned to the land. There were perhaps a great number of them who thought that the instruments used in the ministry of the house of the Lord could or would never be used again, yet that simply was not the case or reality. When Ezra was permitted to return to the land, and when Nehemiah was permitted to return to the land, they were permitted to take and carry with them that which had been taken out of and from the house of the Lord. In fact, I would dare say that it was in the carrying away and removing of such instruments of the house of the Lord that they were actually preserved those seventy years so they could eventually be brought back into the land, and once more used for service of the Lord. While it is true that they might have hung their instruments upon the willows in Babylon, those instruments would once again be picked up, and would once more be played in the place of inheritance. The very fact they they were able to hang their harps up suggests that they were permitted to bring them with them and that they would be preserved and brought back into the land of Israel. There are many who right now feel as though they have hung up that particular instrument they once used to minister unto and minister before the Lord, yet the Lord has allowed them to carry and hold on to those instruments in order that both instrument and individual will be preserved in the land of captivity. It is true you might presently be in a place of captivity, and it is true that you might have hung up that instrument which you once used in service and ministry before the Lord, yet the Lord has promised to preserve both instrument and individual alike. What have you hung upon the willows in the land of your captivity?
I am convinced the Spirit of the Lord desires to reveal unto your heart and spirit that he allowed you to carry that instrument into your captivity in order that he might preserve it rather than letting it be destroyed. Pause and consider for a moment that the harps which were hung upon the willows in Babylon could have been destroyed rather than preserved. Consider for just a moment that the instruments which they hung up could have been burnt up by the adversary in the place of the inheritance, yet they weren’t The very fact that they were sitting by the rivers in Babylon meant that they—the individual—were still here. The very fact that their instruments were hanging upon the willows in Babylon—that which they used to minister unto the Lord—meant that they weren’t destroyed, cut down, burnt up, or consumed by the adversary. Oh, you might find yourself in captivity right now, yet you did not enter into captivity without your instrument. You did not enter into captivity without your gift. You did not enter into captivity without your calling. You did not enter into captivity without your ministry. The Lord has graciously promised to preserve both instrument and individual alike, and to bring both back to the place of inheritance, the place of promise, and the place of provision. If you actually take the time to study the captivity of the house of Judah, you will actually discover that captivity was actually a display of the divine mercy and grace of God, for it would be through captivity He would preserve a remnant and seed of His people in a foreign and strange land. Please catch this, for while it is true you might find yourself in captivity right now, and while you might very well be in a strange and foreign land, the Lord has promised to preserve you in that place. There are many who feel that because they are in captivity that they have come to the end of the road and that there is no longer any hope for them. There are those who have hung up their harps upon the willows of Babylon, and who feel like they can never and will never pick them up every again. The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord suggests and reveals otherwise, and is declaring unto men and women right now that their instruments have been preserved, and that their person has been preserved, and that the Lord has never separated the instrument from the individual. What’s more, is that captivity actually accomplished something else, for it completely and totally abolished the division that was present between the northern kingdom and southern kingdom. When the Lord brought the remnant of the seed of Abraham back into the land, He did not bring them back as the northern and southern kingdom, but as one people who would be gathered together in the land. Please get and understand this deep within your heart and spirit, for I am convinced this word is for men and women right now. I know for a fact that this word is specifically for me.
When the prophet Jeremiah spoke of and declared that the Lord knows the thoughts that He has for us, thoughts not of evil, but for peace, and to bring us to an expected end, he spoke those words to those that sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept. Jeremiah wrote these words to those who hung their harps upon the willows in the midst of Babylon. He wrote these words to those which were carried away, and yet who were asked a song in a strange and foreign land. Jeremiah wrote those words to those who were wasted as those who wasted them required of them mirth. Jeremiah wrote these words to those who asked “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Jeremiah declared unto those to whom this letter was written that the Lord knew the thoughts that He had for them, thoughts of peace and not evil, yet we fail to recognize what the Lord spoke just before that. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the pace thereof shall ye have peace. 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. For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the Lord. 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” (Jeremiah 29:4-10). BUILD HOUSES AND DWELL IN THEM. PLANT GARDENS AND EAT THE FRUIT OF THEM! TAKE WIVES! BE FRUITFUL AND INCREASE! SEEK THE PEACE OF THE CITY WHERE YOU HAVE BEEN CAUSED TO BE CAPTIVE! PRAY UNTO THE LORD FOR THE PEACE OF THE CITY! Before Jeremiah every declared to this residue of people, he first declared unto them the timeframe of their captivity, which was seventy years. Before he declared unto them the thoughts which the Lord had toward them, he instructed them to increase rather than decrease and diminish. Before Jeremiah declared unto them the Lord’s desire to give them an expected end, he called them to build houses and to plant vineyards.
In other words, Jeremiah gave them instruction on how to be preserved in the place of their captivity, for the natural tendency would be to give up and to give in. Jeremiah strongly warned against this, for Jeremiah knew and understood that the Lord was going to preserve them in the midst of the land, and would preserve them to bring them back. PRESERVED TO BE BROUGHT BACK! It was true the Lord knew the thoughts that He thought toward them, and that those thoughts were thoughts of peace, and not of evil, but we dare not neglect the instruction simply because we want to focus on the promise. There are countless times when we are incredibly guilt of this—neglecting the instruction solely and simply because we have allowed ourselves to get so caught up on the promise. Those who read the words contained in the eleventh verse of this chapter rarely will acknowledge the instruction the Lord provided immediately beforehand, and even the fact that the Lord set an expiration date for their captivity. I have written about this reality before, but suffice it to say that the Lord has decreed an expiration date for your captivity. They may have hung up their harps upon the willows in Babylon, yet the Lord would go on to declare “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. 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” (Jeremiah 29:12-14). Please not that it is true the Lord knows the thoughts that He has toward us, and that those thoughts are for peace and not for evil, but while there is the call and instruction to increase within the land, there is also the call to call upon the Lord, to pray unto the Lord, and to seek Him there in that place. We dare not allow ourselves to get so caught up and consumed with the reality of verse eleven that we miss verses four through ten, and verses twelve through fourteen. The Lord has promised to both preserve and protect us in the place of our captivity, yet there in that place we must increase and not decrease, and we must call upon the Lord, pray unto Him, seek Him, and search for Him with all our heart. CAPTIVE BUT STILL PRAYING! CAPTIVE BUT STILL SEEKING! CAPTIVE BUT STILL SEARCHING! The Lord’s thoughts for peace and not for evil are directed to those who are captive, yet praying; those who are captive, yet seeking, those who captive, yet searching. Will you still choose to pray? Will you still choose to seek? Will you still choose to search?