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. Tynia Coleman says:

    Lord, help me to choose you daily.

  2. Allie says:

    I love the image of “turning around” for repentance. I can’t help but think about times when I’m navigating a new place or just not paying attention and make a wrong turn, realize it too late, and have to make a very obvious 180 in front of anyone who might be watching – a (possibly) public admission that I messed up, and that maybe I didn’t really know what I was doing walking that way in the first place. This essay was such a good one!

  3. K D says:

    May my hope rest in God alone during this time of uncertainty…and always.

  4. Parasa says:

    My top emotion at this moment is to depend on Lord God Almighty rather than depending on men.Thank you mu Lord for making me realize.

  5. Jennifer Anapol says:

    During this season of uncertainty with the Caronavirus, I can see that I have put my hope, faith and security in the wrong things. I have acted as if we are in control of things, when we aren’t. It’s crazy to see how a little virus can wreck such havoc on our lives. I took so many rings for granted in this life, full shelves at the grocery store and weekly church gatherings. All of those things are gifts from God, not just blessings that we have earned. I pray that I never take those things for granted again.

  6. Pam Williams says:

    Thank you for your words of encouragement concern ing my prodigal grandson. This study really shows God’s grief and mine for this wayward young man. Whatever it takes, humble him, Lord. And help me not to fear what that might be. His sisterwho was also adopted had so many problems too. I often gave up hope, but God…… She is newly married to a wonderful Christian young man… She is our
    miracle girl. I believe. Help my unbelief.

  7. Pam Williams says:

    I was curious about the time line of when Jeremiah was speaking these things. Much of this was during the reign of the best king Juda ever had , king Josiah. I wonder if he ever became hopeful when he saw what Josiah did to obey God. But it was too late. Only exile could teach them… Sort of like the prodigal son story. My prayer for my grandson Isaac Is that, as he has returned to his idol of drugs, his self imposed exile will bring him to his senses as it did the Prodigal son.

  8. Dorothy says:

    Laura, I know the road you are walking because I’ve walked. My father told me multiple times before he died sometimes we just have to let them go and walk that destrutive path and eventually they will come back. My sister is a great example, my parents brought us up going to church and believing in Christ but when my sister was in her late teens and early twenties she strayed and left that life. She started drinking and became an alcoholic. Now about 5 years ago she started back to church regularly with my father before he died. Now she and I go to church regularly. So just hang in there God will work with her.
    Dana you remain in my prayers. Sara Terry I’m with you praying about it. Praying for you Mari V.
    Candida Armendariz it’s what I call a “God thing” which is when God knows what will speak to you the best and some how put it in your path, with a song, a friend calling, SRT devotional or some other devotional. It’s so neat when it happens and it’s God’s way of getting His message across and “waking you up to it.”

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