“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.”
I grew up playing games in my family. Nine kids plus Dad meant that we could play some pretty legit games of wiffle ball, football, sardines, “I’m thinking of a person” (basically “20 questions”), and “pull daddy off the couch.” Pull daddy off the couch was a game played on Sunday afternoons when Dad wanted to nap and we didn’t; it would start casually and evolve to mass chaos before he eventually gave up.
My favorite game was always hide and seek. Necessity forced us to have a fairly-large house with many rooms, closets, hallways, and an attic. We’d scatter through the house, contorting ourselves into circus-like shapes and positions to fit under beds, in cabinets, and behind sofas. This was a serious game and we were professionals.
There would always be one of us who managed to hide really well. They regulated their breathing to keep the pile of laundry encompassing them still. They somehow fit underneath the sofa cushions in a way that kept the sofa from looking like a snake digesting an egg. One time my brother, Jack hid underneath some blankets in the chest where we kept them. In these scenarios, the other kids would lose heart, and eventually quit looking.
This pretty well sums up many Christians’ walk with God. We’re told that he’s out there, that he can be known and spoken to as the Lord who welcomes us into his throneroom as friends. But many of us have grown weary. We’ve lost heart. We’ve quit looking for him, some of us have quit looking altogether.
When God sent the Israelites into exile in Babylon, many of them had lost hope. Surely they wondered if he had changed his mind in his promises to Abraham, or if they were fools to have believed the promises to begin with. It’s in that context that Jeremiah’s letter to the Babylonian exiles strikes so deeply. He tells them that they’ll be in exile for 70 years, but that God has great plans for his people, that they’ll return to their land again, that they’ll have a hope for a future. He mentions fortunes restored, but there’s more there that just that.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord…” (v.13-14a). He promises his people that they’ll find him when they seek him wholeheartedly, a beautiful promise. What’s so striking to me about this image of finding God is that God is no amateur hide and seek player. He knows all the good places, fits into all the tight squeezes, and can outrun anyone back to home base. In fact, “No one has ever seen God…” (John 1.18). How can he lose? How could anyone ever find him?
The answer is verse 14: “I will be found by you.” The answer is that the God who can’t be found let’s himself be found. The God who never loses hide and seek chooses to play, wearing a cowbell and dressed in neon yellow. He is the God who wants to be found by his people.
Well, good for exilic Israel, right? What good is that for Christians today? Christians today stand in a covenant with God, enacted on the cross of Jesus Christ. Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant in chapter 31, and Christ ties that covenant to his death in Luke 22.20. This means that the church age believers are recipients of the promises made to Israel because of the unity we have with God in Christ. “For all the promises of God find their yes in Him” (II Corinthians 1.20).
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you” (James 4.8). He is still the God who lets himself be found by his people. All Christians should make their priority to seek him with their whole heart. On the cross, Jesus willingly took for himself the worst hiding place of all time, and from his cross he beckons us, “Come to me, seek me with your whole heart. And I will be found by you.”