70 years is how long God’s people would be in exile. That is a lifetime. Actually, in that day, this would probably be longer than the average life expectancy. Though God promises to punish Babylon and bring the Jewish people back to the land, this exile in Babylon is humiliating in every sense of the word. There is no king to reign on David’s throne, and even the throne will be desecrated and leveled.
Oddly enough from our perspective, God chooses to risk ridicule to the cherished name of the Lord due to Babylonian victory over Judah rather than endure ongoing ridicule because of the evil practices of the Jewish people. Certainly, God is in control of these circumstances, and so we must be careful about deriving too much application from these choices by God. However, let me say this: if God’s choice here is any indication, our King has a strong preference to give holiness to those called by the Lord’s name over strength and victory. In fact, often enough victory and strength, in their truest forms, come in the process of God’s work of making us holy. True victory is walking in faith with the God who defeats the grave and the strength that empowers people to love even in face of suffering.
In that day, God wills to bring the people back to the land. As we have seen in our sermon series in Nehemiah, God gives measures of strength and victory upon the return from exile. Still, what we see in Nehemiah isn’t a people characterized by great military might, but rather strong faith and joy in the Lord. May the priorities of God become our priorities today as we prefer holiness over temporary victories and illusory strength.