Sixth grade Boy Scout Camp did not start out well for me. I had never been away from home for a week. Soon after arriving I found myself homesick, longing for my room, family, and all that was familiar. The thought of remaining at camp away from all that I cherished in life seemed like an eternity.
The Israelites were homesick as well. Their nation has been overthrown by the Babylonian empire. Many of the elite in their society have been shipped off to the capital city of Babylon to undergo a social reengineering process. These exiles find themselves in a very strange land. A different language, political structure, culture, and religion envelope them and make them long for home. In addition, they wonder, “has God abandoned us?” Or worse yet, “are the gods of the Babylonians simply more powerful than our God?”Jeremiah 29 is written to these exiles to provide them with hope, give them guidance, and answer these questions swirling around in their minds.
In verse 4 God takes credit for the exile. The Babylonian conquest of Judah was not an accident and it was not a sign that God’s power was limited or that He was defeated by superior deities. Just the opposite. God notes that He is the one who has led His beloved nation into this situation. He is completely sovereign and in control. Furthermore, despite their continued disobedience and rejection God still refers to Himself as their God. He has not disowned His covenant people.
God then tells the exiles to go ahead and put down roots. They are going to be in this land for a while. They need to buy homes with a 30-year mortgage, enroll their kids in school, and begin developing the land for harvest. This exile will not be a shortstop before returning home.
At times God may call us to an environment or circumstance that is unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Maybe we too feel like strangers in a foreign land. Maybe you are a 49ers fan living in Seattle, or you may feel like the only Christian at your workplace. Know that this does not mean God has abandoned you. He has a plan for you in this environment.
Good of the City
In verse 7 God tells the exiles to do the unthinkable. Not only are they to settle into this new land but they must do so with a good attitude. God does not want them to begrudge their time in Babylon. Instead, He calls them to seek the good of the very people who have brought them into exile. He commands them to pray for the Babylonians and to seek the overall prosperity of the nation. For as the nation prospers so will the Jewish exiles.
When a person accepts Christ as their Savior they become a part of God’s family and kingdom. Our allegiance shifts to God alone. Everything else becomes secondary. However, we are still in this world. Like the Jewish exiles, we too are called to seek the good of the communities, cities, and nations in which we reside.
This can take various forms. Often seeking the good of the city requires us to be involved in the life of the city. To work within and alongside community and government organizations to help improve the overall quality of life in a community. As Christians, we must not isolate ourselves from the culture but instead plug in and be a positive influence on the culture.
Jeremiah 29 tells us to seek the good of the city through prayer as well. We must continually be praying for the people in our circles of influence and praying for the leadership of our city, state, and the nation as a whole.
Furthermore, the ultimate manner in which we can seek the good of the city is to share the good news of the gospel with those around us. The gospel is the only hope we have to make an eternal impact in the life of a person. Legislation, educational opportunities, and community programs can only meet material needs but the gospel can change a person’s eternal destiny.
As you can imagine the Jewish exiles are possibly overwhelmed by their current situation. They are in a strange land and they have just been told they are going to be there a while and must seek the welfare of their enemies. It is at this point that God provides some incredibly comforting words for the wearied exiles. God reminds them that He knows what He is doing with all that is happening to His people. He is still in control and all of His plans are ultimately for their good! He desires to prosper His people and not harm them and to provide them with a future filled with hope.
For the Christian, these powerful words apply to us as well. When we experience times of hardship and difficulty we can know that God is still in control of everything that happens in our lives. All of His plans are not intended to harm us but are for our overall prosperity. He is working to give us a hopeful future as well.
It is important to note that prosperity in this passage is not a promise to fulfill the American dream in our lives. The material treasures this life offers are rubbish compared to the prosperity God has planned for us. He wants to increase, build up, strengthen, and mature our faith in Him. He wants to make us find our joy, satisfaction, and happiness completely in what will satisfy us the most, Himself.
Therefore, everything that happens in this life is ultimately part of God’s plan to prosper us and not to harm us. It is designed to draw us closer into a life fulfilling relationship with God. As Paul would write, God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).
God concludes this passage with a reminder of His desire to have fellowship with His people. He is a God that desires to be found. He is not playing spiritual hide a go seek with us. He is accessible and available to listen to us, guide us, protect us, and provide.
But we must seek Him, and we must do so with our whole heart. God is saying that like any relationship, you get out what you put in. When we seek after God half-heartedly we will have a shallow and unfulfilling relationship with Him. But, if we run to God with all that we have we will never be disappointed by Him. Therefore, let us seek after this all-satisfying God by diving into His Word, seeking Him in prayer, worshipping and serving alongside other Christians in order to grow in our relationship with Him.