Written by Becky Perkins

“Don’t Hang Your Harp on the Willow Tree and Sit and Cry About It”


“When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’.” 

Jeremiah 29:10 and 11 (NISB)

When I was in my forties, I was at IUS working on my second degree. There were certain courses outside your field of study that were required for you to take to earn your degree. I took Economics as one of my requirements. I learned things in Economics that I wish I had learned in my early twenties. Things which were helpful to everyday living. I learned about making decisions on purchases in terms of needs and wants, learning how to figure the projected dates of pay-offs with interest on credit cards, and practical ways to invest. We were required to read the “Wall Street Journal” and watch the stock markets. I was always intrigued by what drove the stock market. 

Most of the time it is the confidence or the lack of confidence of consumer spending that drives the markets. If there is just a hope of something good happening in the world, the markets soar and increase, but if something happens that is not so good, the markets drop. Just this week, as I write this devotional, the news reported that ‘with the hope of a Covid-19 vaccine coming out that is 90% effective’ the markets increased.  What a great hope for our world. The pharmaceutical company with this vaccine has received the hopeful attention of millions of people.

Webster’s Dictionary records the definition of hope as trust, reliance; a desire accompanied by expectation of, or belief in fulfillment of someone or something. We are trusting and believing that there is a team of scientists and healthcare professionals working on a vaccine that will be brought to our world to help with this deadly virus that we have endured over the last 9 months. As a Christian, I have been praying for the team of scientists that will come up with the vaccine; therefore, I am actually trusting and believing God to bring this hope to our world. Hope is the driving force behind faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 

Without hope, we become depressed, live in fear, become lazy, give up doing our daily routines, and basically quit living the life that God has given us. When this happens to a person, or even more deadly, to a generation of people, we can stop sharing the love of God with those who are in desperate need of a savior. 

In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah is writing three or four letters to exiles in Babylon after their deportation in 597 BC, warning and encouraging them while living in Babylon.  In verses 1 – 14, Jeremiah is writing a letter of encouragement to the exiles to live a life that would please God while in captivity.  He is encouraging them to be good Jews even though they are separated from their temple in Jerusalem and away from their worship services together in the temple.  These exiles had lost everything, except their lives and a few possessions.  They had lost their freedom, lost their means of making a living, they were separated from their family and friends in Jerusalem, and some had lost their relatives and friends on the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon. No matter what the situation, it looked hopeless. Jeremiah reminded them that “it does no good to hang our harps on the willow trees and sit around and weep” (Psalms 137:1-4). Jeremiah encouraged the people to accept their situation courageously and put themselves into God’s hands by faith.  He reminded them that God does not make mistakes and He does keep his promises.   

In verse 6-9, Jeremiah is writing about a false prophet, Shemaiah. Shemaiah, had the people convinced that this time in Babylon would be only a couple years. People who believed this false prophet wanted to sit around and just wait it out until they could go back to Jerusalem. Jeremiah reminded the people that God said it would be 70 years in captivity. So again, Jeremiah encouraged the people to get busy, build their houses, plant their crops, learn how to live in a pagan society, keep earning a living in this foreign land, and above all, keep sharing about God and who He was with this pagan society. Jeremiah told them to remember that the hope of the future generation was in their hands. This small remnant of people would bring about the hope of a savior to a dying world. There is a gracious promise from God that He was bringing a deliverer and a hope for their future. These promises reach beyond these exiles in Babylon and include all of Israel for generations to come. Hope came many generations after these exiles as a baby born in a manger. The hope for all of the world, not only the Jew, but for everyone who believed (Romans 1:16) by faith in God’s one and only son, Jesus.   

As I have meditated over this study in Jeremiah, I realize that I am living in an unstable world, with a Pandemic, racial tensions, political unrest, and the list goes on and on. I sometimes feel like we are held captive by the events of the world, especially Covid-19. I keep hoping for this situation to be over. Then, I think how people in years past have lived through some very hard situations for more then a year or two, definitely more than 9 months. These people have shown great courage, faith and hope in these situations. People like Corrie Ten Boom, Anne Frank, our senior citizens who lived through the Great Depression, those who have served in WW I and WW II, and other wars, those who have suffered through injustices and heart ache, and those who have suffered losses during this Pandemic. Should I give up, hang my harp on the willow tree, and weep? God keeps telling me that He is walking through this time in life with me. He gives me a hope that I don’t understand or am able to see right now. I think I need to just put “my big girl pants on” and get busy doing the work of Jesus Christ in this unstable world, pray for Jesus to help me deny myself, focus on others, seek wisdom for every situation – whether it means wearing a mask and go to worship or God telling me I just need to stay home – and look for the hope in the world around me. It is out there if we look. Christmas is coming!  What a wonderful time to look around and see Jesus and know we have a future hope even beyond this world. I am so thankful to live on this side of the cross, knowing and seeing the death and resurrection of a Savior to this unstable world.

Friends, enjoy the Advent and Christmas season with the hope that this is not all there is – there is more to come. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”  Romans 15:13 (NIV)



The New Inductive Study Bible

The New International Bible

The Wiersbe Bible Commentary

Jeremiah, Daring to Hope in an Unstable World, Melissa Spoelstra