586 B. C. A nation was being led into exile and captivity. Only few were left. All that they had pinned their hopes on were now gone–their city, the well fortified city of Jerusalem; it was destroyed, and their temple, the magnificent temple of great splendour that Solomon built; it was burnt to the ground.
The last sight of the city in ruins faded away as they were led away in chains to the foreign land of Babylon.
While they were in Babylon their captors asked them to sing songs of joy, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” This jesting they found terribly painful. So by the rivers of Babylon they sat and wept when they remembered Zion, their beloved city. And they hung their harps on the poplars, unable to sing.
For the survivors in exile the pain was multiplied as they remembered the words of Prophet Jeremiah who had foretold that their captivity would last seventy years. Most of them would never see their homeland again. What hope had they?
Yet God spoke comforting words through the same prophet to the very same people. He told them not to lose hope but instead they were to told to plant gardens, build families and to increase in number in the land of captivity. They were told to pray for the city in which they found themselves captive, “because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”1
Times of captivity need not wrench away hope from us. When all that was built up is gone; still there remains faith that better times are promised. To make sure its arrival, work has to be done-work that might not be as spectacular as the building of a temple, but work that seems routine.
Such work done when every single hope you had seem dashed to the ground is testimony to the fact that Someone else is at work in your life. He is not limited by your captivity nor by your failures which caused it to happen. He, has a bigger picture in mind. He has a plan for you; a plan in which hope and your future are wedded together inseparably.
So lift up your heads even as you work while in your captivity. The day of hope is near!
By the Rivers of Babylon are the opening lines of Psalm 137 in the Bible.
1Jermiah 29:11 Bible
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