Moving can be a lot. The physical act of relocating from one place to another ranks among the top ten most stressful moments a person can experience in life. And it’s understandable.
The boxes, the cleaning, the sorting. The logistics of it all takes time, effort, lots of energy and organization, and possibly a moving crew (depending on the size and distance of the move). And the likelihood of getting to your destination without breaking heirlooms that have been passed down from one generation to the next and with all your belongings accounted for and intact can make a strong case for avoiding a move altogether.
Sometimes life necessitates change. A new job, a dream home, a call toward divine destiny—there are actually opportunities that ultimately make the stress of moving worthwhile, or at least tolerable.
But sometimes the move has nothing to do with desire but is instead forced upon a person or a people—it’s less of a desire and more of a mandate. Natural disasters, house fires, even the inability to pay the mortgage can all result in undesired but necessary moves.
Then there are times when a mandated move involves an entire people group. In scenarios like this, the stress of moving is understandably compounded in the midst of traumatizing experiences. The sudden loss of the familiar place, the attempted annihilation of identity, the questioning that can arise, the temptation to blame—it all creates a different type of opportunity, one that the enemy loves to exploit and manipulate toward bitterness and unforgiveness.
Unfortunately, history has shown that these occurrences aren’t as uncommon as we’d like to believe. Truly there is nothing new under the sun. Oppression of people groups is almost as old as civilization itself.
The Lord, the one who knows all and sees all, is well acquainted with the horrific details of oppression, but He is also well versed in leading throughout them.
Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that’s been popularized on ceramic surfaces, apparel, and the occasional notebook or two: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
We like the positive message and we appreciate the encouragement, but we often miss the context of when this verse was spoken by God through His servant Jeremiah. This verse wasn’t given on a random day when God was feeling overly emotional and wanting to soothe doubting hearts. Instead, it was a reminder given before the seeds of sin would produce a harvest. Long ago God had warned His people to remain faithful, detailing what that faithfulness would look like in covenant with the holy, uncreated God.
But the Israelites strayed from their covenant with God, desiring the idols touted by their neighboring communities, despite their perverse and profane practices. The Israelites’ unfaithfulness did not go unnoticed by God. Warnings came and were subsequently ignored. Sin was justified and coddled, left to grow despite their God-ordained destiny and calling.
And this led to bondage. The inward condition of their souls became reality before their eyes as everything they knew was taken away. One minute it was an ordinary day. The next moment the Israelites were faced with two very clear options—death or moving. And not just any move, but a trek on foot to a kingdom led by a man who had killed their people, destroyed their city, and now intended to lower their identity from being God’s chosen people to being servants of an idolatrous and ungodly empire.
Despite their new environment and the hatred displayed toward them, God’s word to them remained, and as always, would not return to Him void. He spoke over them the truth of the pain they would go through and the confidence they would have that the oppression they would experience would not last forever.
For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive. (Jeremiah 29:10–14)
Not only would God rescue and release them to return to the land He had chosen for them but they would also come through this traumatizing event no longer given to worshiping false idols.
In the midst of their captivity, before their release, we see Daniel praying earnestly for the Lord to follow through on His word. Daniel had read the promise and believed His God. Yes, the Israelites had sinned and ended up in bondage, but Daniel knew God’s character would result in Him keeping His promises and rescuing His people. But instead of just waiting for the expiration date to roll around and for God’s promise to simply happen, Daniel engaged with God, praying to Him and seeking His rescue for God’s people.
In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans—in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession. (Daniel 9:1–4)
Daniel positioned himself before the God of all gods and sought His face. And an answer came.
Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God,yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.” (Daniel 9:20–22)
The Lord’s rescue from the hands of the Israelites’ captors demonstrates His forethought and commitment to His covenant and His people.
Now, God will always keep His word. The one thing the God of the impossible can not do is lie. When Daniel joined in on God’s plan for rescuing His people he had a great vantage point for witnessing the manifestation of God’s goodness toward the Israelites.
As far as stellar examples of the faith go, Daniel is a front runner for “Best in Class.” We can read through the book of Daniel and see how his stalwart example of faith in God landed him a reference in Hebrews “Hall of Faith.” Yet the stance he took to pray and intercede wasn’t something special the Lord gave only to a chosen man in a generation. Instead, the invitation to intercession and agreement is one God gives to all of His people.
Daniel knew the purpose of God’s people was not to be servants of an ungodly or even earthly kingdom. He didn’t view their situation simply as an outcome of their own bad choices. Daniel saw their situation from God’s perspective and approached it from a heavenly viewpoint.
Even in his governmental position that may have appeared to have a lot of perks and a certain level of protection to it, Daniel saw the incongruence between the Israelites’ current reality—oppression—and their divine calling—representation. And Daniel attached his confidence in God’s goodness and nature to bring about His divine plans and purposes. Daniel knew those promises God made to Abraham so long ago were not forgotten and had not been abandoned.
Yes, the Israelites were in bondage. But even bondage could not thwart the plans of God for His people. Daniel was able to pray with confidence because of who God was as a judge—one who judges rightly without overlooking details and minimizing or even excusing sin.
And the God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is still one who desires to see His plans manifested in the earth. Those plans to prosper and not to harm, to give you a hope and a future, are still things He desires to do on a daily basis; and not just for individuals, but in families, cities, regions, nations, and entire people groups.
When we see situations that don’t align with the things God calls good and pleasing, we too have the opportunity to partner with Him in prayer and see that norm changed. We can hear about human trafficking and know that it doesn’t align with prospering. We may witness a fight between a husband and wife and know that it misses the mark of a hopeful situation. We can witness bitterness and unforgiveness in our loved ones—even in our own hearts—and know that they can’t lead toward a future that is God’s best for us.
And we can bring all these things to God in prayer. Not only will we get the front row seats to see Him move but we will also be positioned to learn His ways and know Him more intimately.
He is not just Judge, He is Healer. He is not just Healer, He is Redeemer. And He stands at the door and knocks, inviting every single soul to put every hurt, every hang-up, and every pain on the same shoulders that carry His people securely. He invites us to place all that we are on all that He is for our salvation and His glory.
And when we accept God into our lives to not just bring salvation but to have lordship over every facet of us, we are able to fully abide in Him—to sit and fellowship with Him; to be His friend. We can follow Him as He leads us beside still waters and restores our souls. We can follow Him as we are seated with Him in heavenly places, joining the Godhead in agreeing with the administration of justice throughout the earth.
This is what Daniel did, and it made a difference not just for him but also for us. Because of the book of Daniel, we can read in the Old Testament about God’s interaction with man and His response to humility, repentance of sin, and the pursuit of fulfilled promises. We can see God’s desire and actions for restoration.
After Daniel’s prayer we see the dramatic shift the Lord brings about, seemingly overnight. Somehow the most powerful kingdom in the entire world is overthrown, brought down to nothing. And somehow the kingdom changes hands enough times so that the reigning king just happens to want the Hebrew people to return to their land. And this king is willing to give them money to rebuild a temple to a God he doesn’t know or serve.
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:
All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!” (2 Chronicles 36:22–23)
Now, we can overlook the clues and chalk it all up to coincidence or a random occurrence of life, or we can see the invisible hand of God subtly moving to position His people as He keeps His promises to them.
God chose the Israelites to be His people, but He actually has plans for everyone and every people group. His heart of healing and redemption isn’t just for a few. He is Healer. He is Restorer. For all who come to Him.
Those things that others brush under the rug, those sins that have been overlooked, have always been in the gaze of Almighty God. He has a plan to right every wrong. And His desire is to bring about His plan for justice together with His family.
The invitation has been extended. And the response to see God’s desire come to pass is one that can only be given in relationship, in the partnership of a willing heart.
What promise is God inviting you to partner with Him on to see manifest?
For more on the Lord’s faithfulness, we recommend the Malachi Project—a project that is preserving the stories of faithful African American believers throughout the last three centuries and inspiring a generation of young adults in the African American community to live lives of wholehearted abandonment to Jesus Christ. Read about men and women in black history who fasted and prayed, shaping the history of their generations by the power and love of God.