And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” Jeremiah 29:7 NLT
Have you ever been some place where you did not want to be, but felt that you did not have a choice in the matter? Here in Jamaica, we often say “you always have a choice”. The people of Judah, however, were all out of choices.
For nearly 40 years Jeremiah had warned them of God’s displeasure with their lives of sin, but they did not listen, now, here they were, exiled in Babylon.
The false prophets told them to “relax”. They simply had to ride it out for two years, after that, they would return to Jerusalem. As a result some may have been treating their exile like a badly planned vacation, as they looked forward to the time when they would return home to Jerusalem, and to their lives.
Then came Jeremiah’s shocking letter. God did not send these prophets. They were not telling the truth. God had other plans. God’s plans are outlined in Jeremiah chapter 29.
God had arranged the exile of these people to Babylon because of the sins of the nation. Jeremiah 29:4 KJV
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Jeremiah 25:8-9 shows us that King Nebuchanezzar may have carried them away, but he was merely God’s servant, executing the plan of God.
Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts; Because ye have not heard my words,
Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
Yet, although He orchestrated their exile, God had not forgotten His people. He would eventually bring them home, but only after 70 years!
Seventy years was very different from two years. Jeremiah therefore told them to get on with their lives. This was going to be their new norm. He told them to plant gardens, and enjoy the produce of their gardens. They should get married and allow their sons and daughter to marry, have babies, and increase in numbers. They should not decrease in numbers, so that when the time of God’s promise was fulfilled and they could return home, they would not be few in numbers.
Additionally, to secure their own wellbeing, God instructed them through Jeremiah, to seek the good of the city of their captivity and pray to the Lord for its peace. I believe that by maintaining their prayer life, the exiles would maintain their relationship with their God, and hopefully not turn to the gods of Babylon. More importantly, this was also a sign that God was with them, even in the land of their exile.
They were to be a blessing in the city of their captivity. They were to work to make the city prosperous and they were to bless and curse not.
I am reminded of Paul’s letter to the believers in Rome, Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.– Romans 12:14.
We too are called to be a blessing wherever we find ourselves, what ever the situation.
If we focus only on our individual needs, we may miss the opportunity to bless someone and bring glory to God. Our lives should reflect the heart of God for the people. If we begin to pray for the place where God has planted us, and for those He has placed over us as our authority figures (1Timothy 2:1) we may find that it is possible to find peace and joy even in that place.
By watching out for the wellbeing of our communities, and interceding for our neighbors, we are securing our own peace- i.e. welfare, health and prosperity.
Lord, wherever we are, whatever the situation, may we always seek the peace and wellbeing of those around us, as we continue to pray for our nations and our various organizations.