“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; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear 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 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. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jeremiah 29:4-7,10-14
When the Israelites were taken to Babylon, under ruthless rule and away from their promised land, it would have been natural to lose all hope, to resent their captors and give up. But the Lord’s plans were for wholeness and not destruction, and He was using this time to prepare them for His promised future and a hope. They were to make the most of this time- to multiply, seek and work toward the welfare of the city where they were exiled, and pray for it.
When we find ourselves in an exile of sorts- a long loneliness or bereavement, a spiritually arid atmosphere at home, difficult but necessary relationships- the Lord is always always achieving a bigger purpose than what we can see or feel at the moment. He asks that we be ‘all there’ to bring fruitfulness in that very place, and blesses our investment for eternity. He will in His time bring relief, and also supplies and proves Himself sufficient presently in our most difficult place.
Where has God placed us in a certain captivity? One of loss and grief? Weakness and want? A barren relationship void of love? Dark thoughts and spiritual oppression? It is this very place we might feel an outcast from God and His goodness, yet He says, ‘Make the most of it. Devote yourself to making this a good place, a place of knowing the Lord and making Him known. Keep your eyes on the promise that I am with you and will one day deliver you fully, and let that promise fuel your motivation to build and grow.’ God is our present help and future hope. (Psalm 46:1; 71:20-21; Ephesians 6:12; 1 Peter 5:10)
How can we improve places for those who’ve been abandoned, displaced, or ostracized? What eternal hope are we contributing to the welfare of our communities?
Father, give me the will and strength to work for the good of my city and home, with an eye on Your sure and glorious promises.