The Big Story of the Bible, Part 9 - Chapter 8: Restoration
October 27, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The Old Testament closes on a high note, with some disappointment mingled in. In Chapter 7 of the Big Story of the Bible, we learned about the exile. The covenant people of God were removed from their land because of their unfaithfulness. Even in that punishment, we hear of the hope of restoration. The return from exile and the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem are but a foreshadow of the true, deeper restoration God desires for his people. Hence the note of disappointment at the end of the Old Testament: the people of God were still waiting for the Promised One to come.
We read the story of Israel’s restoration to their land in Ezra and Nehemiah. Israel’s restoration is a picture of and reminder that God is faithful to his promise to bless his people. During this time, we hear the promises of God being reaffirmed to give hope to the people. In Ezra we read of the first exiles returning to the land during the reign of Cyrus of the Persian Empire. They immediately seek to rebuild the temple.
In Nehemiah we read of more Israelites returning to Jerusalem under Nehemiah’s leadership some 70 years after the first exiles returned in Ezra. Nehemiah led the efforts to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem in order to provide basic protection for the city. The Israelites faced significant opposition to their rebuilding process of Jerusalem, but God was faithful to seeing them through to the end.
Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most loved and memorized Bible verses. It speaks of God’s plans for the restoration of Israel, but looks beyond the restoration we read in Ezra and Nehemiah. Looking more closely at this verse and its context will help us understand how the restoration applies to us.
Read Jeremiah 29:10-14.
10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
We learn in verse 10 that this promise is looking beyond the 70-year exile in Babylon. We also learn that the promise is:
- Rooted in God’s Covenant: in verse 10 we read that God will “fulfill to you my promise.” God’s promise goes all of the way back to Abraham in Genesis 12 (I will bless you so that you will be a blessing) and to Genesis 3 (the Promised Seed of the woman).
- Christocentric: “I know the plans that I have for you” (vs. 11). God’s plan all along has been building up to Christ. Jesus is the center point of our hope looking ahead into the future. “Plans for welfare” (vs. 11). The Hebrew word for welfare is shalom. There is rich meaning behind this word throughout the Bible. Ultimately it points to the final restoration in the new heavens and new earth that we enjoy through Christ.
- Community Focused: Every “you” in this passage is 2nd person plural. We often read this passage in a very individualistic way (it is the American way!), but God is focusing on the community of faith, his people. His promise is for the community, and their future and hope is for the community. This is not to say that God does not care for the individual, but the focus of God’s promises and blessings is on the community of faith. Your individual faith connects you to the community where God’s blessings abound. Thus you cut yourself off from God’s blessings when you remove yourself from the community (meaning: stay connected to the church, the community of faith).
- Building Faithfulness: Verse 13: “You will seek me and find me. When you seek me with all your heart.” In the new covenant, God promises to give a new heart to his people, to write his law on their hearts, and to send his Spirit to help. After the Israelites were so unfaithful, God promises in the new covenant to provide for his people’s faithfulness.
Like a stone skipping across the top of water, the promise of restoration in Jeremiah 29 touches on the work of Ezra and Nehemiah and continues towards the final fulfillment in Christ. Restoration is our story. We begin to experience restoration now in Christ; and we will enjoy it fully in the new heavens and new earth.