“Thus says the Lord of hosts,.. to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters;.. multiply there, and do not decrease. 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. For thus says… the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to [their] dreams… For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:4-8,10-13
Israel was exiled to Babylon because of her rebellion and idolatry, but it was never God’s intent to abandon or ruin her there. As with all the fulfilling of His word, this time was for her ultimate good and for God to display His power through Israel’s eventual return. In the mean time, she was not to languish in lament, to bemoan the unfairness against her and give up all productivity and expectation among a people she despised. Her longing to return to Israel was to fuel her days with hope and fortitude, and she was to make the most of this season of exile to grow strong, learn of God, and bless the place where He had planted her, albeit temporary. She was to learn to discern and desire His truth from the error of dreams and wishful thinking. She was to seek Him with all her heart, and seek His welfare among her captors.
When we get stuck in our own determinations and devices, any turn of events that forces us into an unknown area, an unwanted situation, can freeze us in resentment or discomfort. In our unwillingness to accept a new hard place as God’s assignment, we can easily ignore His lessons, let our faith atrophy, and cease to bear fruit. But God calls us to higher and better. Keep on! Keep building, growing, be a blessing to your new city, your new circle of acquaintances. Pray for their good, sow seeds of truth, shine light, make a difference.
Is there loneliness due to a move, a sadness in a diagnosis mixed with fear for the future, a grievous exile in a relationship as sin’s consequence, an assignment that seems unjust or is just plain miserable? How will I plant, multiply, pray, and make an eternal difference where I am? Will I choose to complain at my circumstances, or to hope in and work toward God’s good plans?
Lord, may I sing Your song and build with joyful expectation in every new land You appoint, for the sake of Your kingdom and glory. (Psalm 137:1-6)