Day 19

The Seventy-Year Exile

from the Lent 2020: His Love Endures reading plan

Jeremiah 25:1-38, 2 Kings 17:13-14, 1 Peter 4:17-19

BY Guest Writer

For twenty-three years, Jeremiah pleaded for his people to pay attention. I wonder if he felt helpless as he watched his neighbors in Judah build their Asherah poles and bow to the stars and Baal. Perhaps he felt a knot in his stomach whenever he saw the shimmering idols, or laid awake at night weeping for the children sacrificed to bloodthirsty false gods (Jeremiah 7:31; 2 Kings 17:7–17).

It’s the same helplessness we feel when a loved one makes one destructive choice after another, or when we see the church we love caught up in shame and scandal. An all too human helplessness, knowing that no matter how much we plead, cry, warn, or rage, we can’t force anyone to change.

Now take that feeling, that longing, and set it next to the deep well of sorrow and anger in Jeremiah’s words. See it as only a pale reflection of the depths of God’s broken heart. This hard passage forces us to wrestle with questions of suffering and judgment and anger. God is tired of watching this chosen nation waste their inheritance and love on empty idols. Instead of following the humble way—seeing their land as a gift and honoring the Giver with their lives—they start to imitate their powerful neighbors. With a king and some land and a little bit of power, they seem to forget their utter dependence on the Creator, and when prophets come along to warn them of danger, they shrug it off and keep living comfortably. Jeremiah laments, “You have not obeyed or even paid attention. He announced, ‘Turn, each of you, from your evil way of life and from your evil deeds. Live in the land the LORD gave to you and your ancestors long ago and forever’” (Jeremiah 25:4–5). In the end, they brought disaster on themselves (v.7).

What do we do with the tension between this explosive message and God’s unrelenting mercy? Because for all these words about wrath and judgment, we know this broken path will someday lead to Jesus, God in vulnerable human form. We know further in the future, Jesus’s friend Peter will write once again about suffering, reminding a new generation that judgment and cleansing sometimes have to “begin with God’s household” (1 Peter 4:17). And we know that it is even so today, when secret sin is exposed, when leaders are brought low, when we find ourselves confronting the violent legacy of generations before us.

It’s sobering, but this suffering isn’t meant to bring shame. In this season of Lent, maybe it’s helpful to remember that repentance begins in the smallest of ways, perhaps with these two simple words: pay attention. Pay attention to your life, to the little choices. Do they nudge you toward life or death? Do they keep you humbly looking more like Jesus, or do they help you climb higher in the systems of the world? Repentance means, quite literally, turning around when you see yourself on the road to destruction. May we all join the weeping prophet in calling each other to a better way, and “entrust ourselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good” (1 Peter 4:19).

Jen Rose Yokel is a poet, writer, a spiritual director in training, and a contributing writer at The Rabbit Room. Originally from Central Florida, she now makes her home in Fall River, Massachusetts, with her husband Chris. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores and good coffee. You can find more of her writing at or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @jen_rose.

Post Comments (48)

48 thoughts on "The Seventy-Year Exile"

  1. Dorothy says:

    Jen Rose got my attention and made me really think with her last paragraph, especially when she said “pay attention.” Her questions that followed really made me think. I know that I need to pay closer attention to my life and my little choices and how they are nudging me. Sometimes my choices, I realized after reading this, have me heard the wrong direction either do to my actions or my words or my thoughts or any combination of them or all of them. Jen Rose made me realize I need to get back on a “God-Christ track” not personal or society track. SRT and Jen Rose thank you for getting me back on my “God-Christ track.”
    Father help me to know when I have strayed from your ways and gone to societal ways or my own ways. Help me stay on track with Your love and kindness and way of life. Bless all SRT sisters and all the SRT staff and writers. Amen.

  2. Amanda WightMack says:

    Loved this! ….23 years, Wow! I told my husband i can not imagine pleading for 23 years with a people? We don’t even want to plead with God for a request more than a couple of day-weeks; we are such a quick fix society. I love how God reaches down and gives a reality check to my soul!! Pay Attention is right:)

  3. Mari V says:

    Prayers are appreciated. I have court Monday, March 16.

    1. Ashley G. says:

      Praying for you Mari!

  4. Candida Armendariz says:

    I don’t know how it happens, but it always happens. A verse, a passage, is perfect for the situation I’m in right now. A lot of things in my life are changing due to covid 19. I was resistant to all these changes. My church is cancelled for the foreseeable future. Strangers won’t be able to hear the gospel. But God has a better plan. Perhaps all this quarantine will bring communities closer. I pray that I’m a good testimony during this time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember God has the last word.

  5. Mari V says:

    “Pay attention” caught “My attention”. I don’t want to be anywhere but following Jesus. I want to “pay attention” to my actions because eyes are watching. Jesus forgive me for the times I don’t set a good example and may I not be discouragement or cause anyone want to stumble.

  6. Jenna says:

    Sherry, I was struck by those words “pay attention” too. I heard a sermon recently on Lent. The pastor talked about how the Lenten season is meant to slow us down, to strip away the excess, and to remove the things we run to for comfort and escape. This season prepares our hearts to get quiet and to hear God. Praying that God would draw us back to him and speak to each us individually and as His body during this time.

  7. Lizz says:

    God, you take sin seriously. You call my heart to turn to you in every moment, you want me to depend on your steadfast love. When I suffer, please help me to keep my eyes on you. You are trustworthy and steadfast and just. It was your justice that said that sin needed to be paid for. It was your mercy that said that Jesus would be the one to pay for the sins of the world. That He would wash my heart clean and reach down to me and pull me up out if darkness and into Hus light. I trust you. I praise you and thank you, I rejoice in you. No matter what happens, you are worthy of my whole heart and my undivided obedience. You are so good, I love you!
    Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1

  8. Sherry says:

    “…maybe it’s helpful to remember that repentance begins in the smallest of ways, perhaps with these two simple words: pay attention. Pay attention to your life, to the little choices. Do they nudge you toward life or death? Do they keep you humbly looking more like Jesus, or do they help you climb higher in the systems of the world?“
    God spoke to me with these two simple words this morning “pay attention”. ❤️ Today God I’m paying attention….to the choices I make, to the words I speak, to you God. I’m paying attention to you.

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