One way we might sum up the Bible’s story is this: finding what is lost. Lost paradise, lost coin, lost sheep, lost rest, lost joy, lost hope.
Having left God’s first garden, enslaved to sin and death, God’s people were scattered among the nations, from one end of the earth to the other. In exile, separated from God’s holy presence, we find no repose, no resting place for the sole of our foot, only an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing and a despairing heart (Deut. 28:64-65). On our bed night after night, we dissolve our couch with tears (Ps. 6:6). We seek him whom our soul loves. We seek him but do not find him. We call for him but he does not answer (SoS 3:1, 5:6).
The Israelites said to Moses, “We will die! We are lost, we are all lost!Numbers 17: 11-13
Yet for the Divine Author who works outside of space and time, this is no purely linear plot. Rather, God tells and retells his story of lost and found in its entirety throughout the Bible, communicating the same hope to every generation, a people found and bound together by one perfect set of promises.
Jeremiah 29 is one place where God communicates this clearly. Here we read one of the prophet’s letters, written from Jerusalem, City of God, portrait of the heavenly realm, addressed to God’s people in exile, the elders and priests, the prophets and all others who still survive.
This is God’s letter to us.
Through Jeremiah, God instructs his people what to do while they are lost, enduring judgement for our unfaithfulness to the Lord, begun in the garden, repeated many times over.
Build houses and settle down, says the Lord. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and multiply. And seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which God has carried us into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, we too will prosper. And finally, a warning. Watch out for those who tell lies in God’s name. “I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
Even in this time of waiting, of searching, then, God allows us in our flesh to catch sight of his new creation, though through a glass darkly.
And through Jeremiah, God next records his rescue, words constituting and enacting his promise of finding we who are lost. After this period of waiting, given a symbolic time limit of 70 years (7: representing perfection; and 10: representing completeness and God’s law), God will come again to his people and fulfill his oath to bring them back to the promised land.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.v. 11-13
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
After swearing these oaths to us, God offers this gem of a verse.
I will be found by you and will bring you back from captivity.Jeremiah 29:14
I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.
It is God who saves, but look how he communicates our involvement in his story of finding. We will find refuge (Ps. 91:4). We will find our joy in the Lord (Isa. 58:14). Seek and we will find (Matt. 7:7). This is what the Lord says. Stand at the crossroads and look. Ask for the ancient paths. Ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls (Jer. 6:16). Yes, we will find rest (Isa. 58:14).
And what is this good way? How will God be found by us?
The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).John 1:41-42
And he brought him to Jesus.
Layer upon layer, story upon story, this is God’s masterpiece of lost and found. Having found our Saviour, we have become in his eyes as one who finds peace (SoS 8:10).