In Jeremiah we witness God’s judgement upon His people. Sounds like a tragedy, a story with a sad ending. It is a sad story. Israel had turned away from the life of God’s way. Jeremiah 6:16: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” Israel is conquered by Babylon, and many are taken away from their homes. A tragedy, right? Well, not entirely.
Throughout Jeremiah, God repeatedly tells His people that He will punish them, BUT every time He does God also promises restoration. His faithfulness to His people is not temporary; it is everlasting. In the midst of promising restoration God speaks to the prophet and tells him to pass this message on to His people in exile, Jeremiah 29:7-9: “4 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, 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.” In the midst of exile, and in the midst of a promise of restoration, God tells His people to enjoy life. He does not tell them to check out, or give up. Rather, He tells them to seek the grace of His life while in exile. The promises of restoring them to their home land are still in play, but in the meantime God tells His people to thrive, not just survive. Amazing.
This is a good word for us today. In many ways as believers in the hope of Jesus, we are exiles in a culture of different values. The culture around us values security in wealth, in self, and in materials. Our culture pays lip service to generosity, selflessness, and simplicity, but only as leftovers to selfish gain. Where is the hope of Jesus found in this paradigm? As Christians, we are exiled in this culture, and are faced with a choice. Will we engage this culture and speak the life of Jesus into it, or will we separate and segregate ourselves from it? This passage from Jeremiah 29, calls us to engage, to invest, to thrive, while not letting go of the promises of God for restoration. As we seek and focus on the grace of God’s life, while at the same time engaging with out culture, we remain faithful to what God calls us to (worship, integrity, His mission) and become a blessing to the culture around us, giving a faithful witness of Jesus to our neighbors.
So, what will you choose? Separation or engagement?