“This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 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 29:4-7.
There was a time when generations of the same family lived in the same general area. Not so much now. Today, people are less likely to put down roots, at least not immediately. Our culture is knee-deep in discontentment. We are constantly searching for the next relationship, adventure, assignment or job. We want to experience what other cities, even other countries have to offer. So we put off the decision on when and where to settle down. There is nothing wrong with wanting a nomadic lifestyle nor is there anything wrong with experiencing other cultures and environments. But just because we have not put down roots in one place yet, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t serve God where we are at the moment.
The Jeremiah passage talks about that very subject. The context is God’s people are in exile in Babylon, a place they hate. This is not where they wanted to put down roots. This is enemy territory, so they asked, “…how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?’ (Psalm 137:4). God’s answer in Jeremiah must have floored them. They were probably expecting an end-of-captivity date or at least some encouragement that this exile would soon be all over. Instead, God tells them to “…Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.” The Bible does not say this, but I have to wonder if people were asking if that message could be repeated for confirmation.
God calls His people to put down roots (including spiritual) wherever He’s placed us. If we only wait for the call to “go”, we may neglect what God has plans for us where we are, even if that is not where we plan to be long-term. Jeremiah 29 changes the way we relate to the place we live in. Jeremiah 4:7 takes it one step further: “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.” We are not to remove ourselves from the community in which we have been planted, but to seek its welfare. Ultimately, the welfare of the city is the advancement of the kingdom of God within the city. God has placed us in our specific community for His purposes, and we are to seek to live out those purposes each day. His return is certain, but for now, we are to live faithfully for Him and the benefit of those around us.
As we seek to make a difference in the place where God has planted us, we need a vision for what God can do when we get engaged and commit to serve the people we live among.
- Where have you sought to remove yourself from the community around you in a way that may be self-serving instead of God-honoring?
- How would our city look different if we were people who continually sought the welfare of the city for God’s glory?