Do your circumstances feel like you are living in exile? You work at a job that under-appreciates your work, and under-pays you for overworking you. You have been terminated from work and the pile of bills is now a mountain of bills. Your spouse has left you for more excitement that you were able to provide. You wish your spouse WOULD leave because all they do is belittle you and tell you all that you do wrong. You look in the mirror with great disgust at the person looking back at you because you hate what you see. The doctor prescribes a series of chemo and radiation treatments because of your cancer. The church you attend is embroiled in political and in-house bickering and fighting. Your parents lament on a daily basis on how you could have done better. The air conditioner, refrigerator, and hot water heater all died the same day. The Sheriff’s Department just posted an eviction notice on your door.
Now, add to all of that the cultural and political wars going on in the good old U.S. of A. The news channels blaring away at all the upheaval, and the violence that is happening every day, all day long. I don’t know about you, but there have been many moments where I felt like I was in exile.
Feelings of exile have a long history. In many cases, it was more than a feeling, it was a national reality. Jeremiah lived in such a time–a literal time of exile. And Jeremiah has something to tell them–something God wanted them to know.
4 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: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 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 29:2-7 (NLT)
They are living in a foreign land, under foreign rule, with foreign customs and a pagan culture. Pagan Culture–does that resonant with you? It resonates with me as a Kingdom Citizen. And I hear a lot of voices that seem to echo the same sentiments. Face it, as Followers of Jesus our culture neither likes nor embraces Kingdom Truth. This time has been appropriately called “The Post Christian Era”. Values of the Kingdom of God are considered outdated. And add to this, that many who professed to be Followers of Jesus looked nothing at all like Jesus. In fighting and self righteousness turned many away from becoming Followers of Jesus.
So, how do we live in a time and place that feels like exile? It seems to me, that the words of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies spoken to Jeremiah still apply today. Look carefully again at what God instructs those exiles to do:
Build homes, and plan to stay
Establish your allegiance and loyalty to Jesus and God’s Kingdom. Be that city on a hill, that candle on the candlestand.
Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce.
Be a producer of the positive wherever you are. Do not lower yourself to engage in the bitter fighting that is so entrenched in this culture. Bring good things into your part of this dysfunctional culture.
Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!
Reproduce Kingdom Values within your family, your circle of close friends, at work–wherever you happen to be. Be the example and encourage others to be that example. You reproduce those Kingdom Values as you teach others–and they see them verified in your daily life.
So far so good, right? Challenging, yes–but doable. But there’s more–and it’s going to be a lot more difficult.
And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile.
Did you just see that? Work for the peace and prosperity of those people who make us feel like we are in exile. It’s simple, really simple. If you are on the left–help and pray that the right would be at peace and experience prosperity. For you on the right–help and pray that the left would be at peace and experience peace. If you are a centrist, then do the same for both the left and the right.
It doesn’t seem fair or just that God would tell us to do that. But…don’t miss that next line from the passage: “the city where I sent you into exile.” God sent Judah into exile because of their disobedience. And for us today? God sends us into the places of exile because they need to be reclaimed and restored to the Kingdom of God. Their reason for exile was disobedience–and our reason is Obedience–obedience to God’s call to wage spiritual warfare against Satan.
Oh, and that last line: “Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.” OK, do you want to see our culture transformed? The pray for their Shalom. That is the Hebrew word used. It means, among many things, peace. Pray for the opposite side from you to do well, be strong and have inner peace. If you don’t, well, God said what the outcome will be: You will NOT be strong or be well or have peace.
Your welfare rests upon what you want for others, even those on the opposite side. Followers of Jesus, we are in exile–but we are in exile for a purpose and a reason–to bring The Kingdom Of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” If you want some practical advice on how to accomplish this, well…listen to Paul in Romans 12:21
As long as you are agitated and mad at your culture, nothing will change and you will be miserable. It’s not easy to do–it’s not meant to be easy. It’s meant to cause you to turn to God, seek His Holy Spirit and rely on The Spirit. It doesn’t make sense to do it this way. But…it does work!
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him…and it does when you pray for the peace of your enemies.