Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, "Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare." For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, "Do not let your prophets who are in your midst and your diviners deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams which they dream. For they prophesy falsely to you in My name; I have not sent them," declares the LORD. For thus says the LORD, "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 29:4-11, NASB)
If you were going to be relocated for a time because of work or some other circumstance, what would you plan on doing once you got to your destination? To make it a bit more difficult, what if you really didn't want to go where you were being sent? Would you still take the opportunity to make the move (knowing it could provide future advancement), or would you dig in your heels and make the changes necessary to stay right where you are? If you have ever faced this kind of dilemma, count yourself lucky that you actually had a choice in the matter. There were others, a long time ago, who made their move under less than optimal conditions.
While listening to the book of Jeremiah the other day, I was struck by the instructions the young prophet was tasked with taking to the people of the Southern Kingdom. He was being told to carry a fairly harsh message to his people, the message that the Babylonians were about to run them over, break down all they had worked for so many years to build up, and carry most of them off to a distant land. It is a difficult message for anyone to carry and Jeremiah was no exception.
But I noticed a distinct change in the tone of the prophecy when I got to the 29th chapter. Certainly God has in mind that His people should suffer some in their exile and learn the hard lessons of their neglect. In this passage, however, we read some very specific instructions for them to do "while they are away" in this foreign land. And it isn't all weeping, wailing, and repentance. God is instructing them to settle in (albeit temporarily) and get on with their lives. He even tells them to "seek the welfare of the city" where they will be exiled because their own welfare is to be bound to that of the city. We're not talking some misguided promises of prosperity here, either. God is telling them in very practical terms to "bloom where I plant you."
So then, how does this relate to me thousands of years later? I'm not in any danger of the Babylonians overrunning my neighborhood and forcing me to relocate to some place I've never seen. What does this tiny part of God's much bigger story have to say directly to us? I believe, it goes back to a recurring theme from the past couple weeks and, really, throughout all these entries. We are sojourners in a foreign land, but that doesn't mean we are just supposed to sit on the sidelines. We are former orphans, already adopted but still living in the orphanage. But that doesn't mean we sit in a corner and whimper about how hard it is to wait for our Father to come get us.
We are designed for life and for interaction with others. God has chosen to use us as His emissaries on this Earth and we have a job to do. Sure, we may be in our own season of waiting or we may be temporarily relocated to a place we wouldn't have chosen, but the charge to us remains the same … go and preach the Gospel of Life to everyone you see. We are never told to sit by idly and watch things unfold. Just like God's charge to the Israelites to build houses, get married, plant a garden, and get on with life, we are called to action. And we get the same promise God made as well. He told them He had not forgotten them and would be back to redeem them. His plans for their good (not their own plans, mind you) would come about and He would visit them even in that foreign land.
As I continue my journey on the Crooked Path, I do so with the confidence that God travels with me. He has even sent Jesus to walk the path before me so that He can go to the Father on my behalf. This is never a call to inactivity, even when I am walking through a season of waiting. God has a plan for me that will provide His prosperity in His way in His time. My job, as it always has been, is to be active and obedient to His calling. The Crooked Path ends in the arms of my Father … of that much, I am certain.
- What are you going to do the next time you are shipped off into exile? Are you going to mope about it, or trust God?
- Suppose you are called to be the prophet and carry the difficult message to others. Are you in the right frame of mind to exhort God's people to continue to live and grow even while they are away?
- Have you lulled yourself into a period of inactivity, thinking that somehow God has forgotten you? Can you see that He is still very present and that His promise to redeem you is true?
NASB - Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.