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How do you respond to Jeremiah 29:10–11?

The Lord says to Israel, “Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place [Jerusalem]. For surely I know the plans I have for you, says he Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

The Lord brought Israel back, as he had intended from the start, once Babylon’s ordained seventy year reign over them was complete. This is the Lord’s doing and requires no appeal to exhaustive definite foreknowledge to explain.

As for God’s plans for Israel’s welfare, the fact that Israel continued to struggle and suffer even after this declaration was made shows that God’s plans can be thwarted: they are rarely unalterable decrees. In a creation filled with free creatures, God’s will is not the only variable that counts in deciding how things unfold, either on a national or on an individual level. The Bible is full of examples of God having plans which, to his great disappointment, do not come to pass, for they require the cooperation of free moral agents (e.g. Jer. 3:6–7, 19–20; 2 Pet. 3:9–10). This does not undermine God’s sovereignty in the least, however, for it was God’s own decision to graciously grant people the ability to choose for or against him.

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