‘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.’ ~ Jeremiah 29:7
My favorite place I have lived is Roanoke, Virginia. I confess that I sometimes lament that I don’t live there now.
This passage comes from a letter written by Jeremiah, as directed by God, to the Israelites living in exile in Babylon. In the letter, God tells the exiles to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper,” (verse 7, NIV). Bloom where you’re planted, perhaps? These people are in exile; they don’t want to be in Babylon. They want to go home. False teachers are telling them it won’t be long before they return to their homeland, but that is not God’s plan. In verse 10 God says through Jeremiah, “…when 70 years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.”
Israel is exiled as punishment for disobeying God. But even through the course of punishment, God loves His people and promises to restore them when the time is right. Even through the course of punishment, God gives them the hope and reassurance that He has not abandoned them. I can’t help but think that God also wants the people of Babylon to see Him through the exiles. God’s Word is ultimately for the world, not just for Israel. Jesus came to save us all.
God’s letter to the exiles offers one of the most oft-quoted promises conveyed by God in the Old Testament:
‘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. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ (Jeremiah 29:11-14)
In reading Jeremiah’s letter to the Israeli exiles in Babylon, I am convicted. No, I haven’t been exiled to Dallas/Fort Worth, but God has me here for a reason. He wants me to fully embrace this community, to pray for it, and contribute to its well-being. As I consider this passage, I am reminded of the times I have lamented having left Roanoke. I am reminded of the groaning and complaining I’ve offered concerning our search for a church home, the traffic, the pollution, the crowds and I realize I have missed the point. God wants me to be a part of this community; that’s why I’m here.
What about you? Are you dissatisfied with your lot in life? Are you grumbling about your employer, your neighborhood, or your school? Does the grass look greener someplace else? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, I encourage you to read this passage and then go to God in prayer. Ask Him what He wants you to do to contribute to the well-being of the community to which He has led you; the place in which you find yourself right now. Then go out and serve the Lord where He has planted you.
My prayer for today: Dear Heavenly Father, as I look out my window I see my community differently after having read this passage. Thank You for Your Word, and thank You for calling me here. Show me, Lord, each and every day how I may serve You here. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.