There is a verse in Jeremiah’s compelling letter to the Israelite exiles in Babylon that arrests me whenever I read it. God says to his people: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a).
Jeremiah, the prophet, wrote from the region of burned-out Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar’s troops had crushed the city to the ground and taken thousands of Israelites, young and old, into exile. Jeremiah had written these exiles a letter telling them how they were to accommodate themselves to their new situation: by building houses, planting gardens, raising families. In summary, they should fit in, but remain communally strong, until God restored the glory of Israel.
Nestled in the midst of the richness of this promise is the compelling condition quoted above — that the people would find him when they sought him with all their heart.
“Seek” is an action word. Seeking requires energy, focus, attention.
God expects us to seek him. Isaiah counsels: “Seek the Lord while he may be found” (Isaiah 55:6a). Regarding prayer, Jesus taught: “Seek” and you will find (Matthew 7:7a).
All these verses call for intensity, focus, desire. That is where Israel repeatedly failed. It was not only that they had not sought God’s favor in their worship. They had also gone after what God had forbidden — idolatry, immorality, greed-driven wealth. These things displaced the proper pursuit of God himself.
Only concentrated search for the favor of God could keep them from further wandering from the paths of righteousness.
We are helped in this, because the God we serve also seeks us.
In one of Jesus’ parables, he features God as a shepherd who leaves the flock to “seek” for one lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7). That is God’s mind toward the lost.