I like to listen to the Word. I know I’m young to say that my eyes are so bad and blah, blah, blah, but it’s true. During the past few months, as I’ve rebuilt the vitamin A in my system, I’ve not been able to wear my contacts. My eyes have been too dry. As a result, the amount of reading I’ve done has spiraled to an all-time low. As a result, I’ve found myself listening to the Bible online. BibleGateway has an awesome, free online audio option. Check it out!
Adam and I and some of the kids in our youth group have been reading through the Word of Life QuietTime Bible reading program. It’s a great way for all of us to be on the same page, and it acts as an outline for Adam’s Sunday School lessons each week, because they correlate with the passages of Scripture we’ve been in all week.
Yesterday’s passage was Jeremiah 29:1-14. If I were to mention this passage to any of you, I’m sure you would pick out one of the most frequently quoted verses, Jeremiah 29:11. However, as I listened to this passage, verse 7 stuck out to me most:
“But 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 find your welfare.”
How interesting! Here, God is speaking through Jeremiah, warning against false prophets, directing those who are in exile to live and prosper in the land where they have been exiled, promising to rescue them from the land of exile in 70 years, and foreshadowing what life will be like when His people have been returned to their own land.
It is in that passage that God calls His people to do something that I think would be hard for anyone to do in that same situation. Exiled (often because they were taken captive) into another land by a foreign people, the Israelites have been called to not just survive that treacherous time but also to prosper, to build up their numbers, and to “seek the welfare of the city where [He had] sent [them]”. What a call!
Think about it! Here I am living in my comfortable life, but suddenly, I’m taken captive to another land. I’m homesick and unhappy, stuck serving another nation in a land in which I am a stranger–a minority. I understand the whole prosper and build a family part. After all, if I don’t, then who will follow after me after these 70 years of exile? Who will be the generation He takes back to my home country if I am gone? Who will be the next leaders in my nation? … But really?? I have to seek to prosper this controlling nation I’m in? As I sit here waiting for these 70 years to be over, I have to spend my time seeking the good of this city?
If I think about that passage in light of that command, I find myself amazed at the mind and heart of the Lord and curious as to the responses of the hearts of the Israelite people. Sure, I know that God has a plan for good and not for evil for me, but if I’m taken captive by this foreign people, why would I seek the same for them?
I think we could all say that at one point or another–or perhaps currently– we are faced with situations where we feel we have been exiled. We have been found captive to a situation, a relationship, a pain, a thorn in the flesh that God allows in our lives for growth, discipline, and ultimately, His glory. Perhaps we were found without escape in a location, surrounded by an unfriendly group of people, or merely not in the place (church, city, company, career, team) that meets our expectations. At that point, stuck in that sovereignly designed situation, can I honestly say I had the heart to seek the good of that city I was in?
As we look at the full counsel of Scripture, we can see that God challenges us modern believers to that same call. He calls spouses of unsaved men and women to seek the good of their unsaved spouses (1 Peter 3:1-7). He calls those facing persecution to love their persecutors (Matthew 5:44) He calls those being hurt to do good to those hurting them (Luke 6:27) and to “heap burning coals” on the heads of those bearing hatred towards them (Romans 12:20).
Is that not the same thing as seeking the good of the city in which we find ourselves in times of trial and exile and hardship?
Where have you found yourself today, that you are merely surviving? Where are you stuck until God decides to remove you from that location? What situation bogs you down and keeps you from being prosperous in the Promised Land? How often do you find yourself only including this situation in prayer while asking for God’s deliverance?
How are you seeking the welfare of that city, and how often are you praying to the Lord on its behalf?