Summary: Jeremiah 29 begins with a letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent to the Hebrew people who had been carried away into exile by Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king.
What To Do When You Are In Exile, Part 2
by S. M. Henriques
Arthur went to church on Sunday morning. He heard the organist miss a note during the prelude, and he winced. He saw a teenager talking when everybody was supposed to be bowed in silent prayer. He felt like the usher was watching to see what he put in the offering plate and it made him boil. He caught the preacher making a slip of the tongue five times in the sermon by actual count. As he slipped out through the side door during the closing hymn, he muttered to himself, "Never again, what a bunch of clods and hypocrites!”
George went to that same church that same Sunday morning. He heard the organist play an arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress" and he thrilled at the majesty of it. He heard a young girl take a moment in the service to speak her simple moving message of the difference her faith makes in her life. He was glad to see that this church was sharing in a special offering for the hungry children of Nigeria. He especially appreciated the sermon that Sunday--it answered a question that had bothered him for a long time. He thought as he walked out the doors of the church, "How can a man come here and not feel the presence of God?"
Both men went to the same church, on the same Sunday morning. Each found what he was looking for. What do we look for on Sunday morning? [James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited(Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1988), p. 409. Names were changed to something OTHER than those in my church!]
You may have heard that little story before, but I tell it to you today to emphasize the point that this particular passage of Scripture has some wonderful truths in it. These are truths that we can see; we can pick them up, study them, take them into our hearts, be encouraged by them, and live by them. Or we can say to ourselves, “That preacher is still preaching from Jeremiah 29? Doesn’t he know that there are other books in the Bible?” It depends on what you are looking for, doesn’t it?
Last week, we looked at “What To Do When You Are In Exile.” Jeremiah 29 begins with a letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent to the Hebrew people who had been carried away into exile by Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king. Men who claimed to have insight into what God was doing were telling them not to worry—they wouldn’t be there very long. But through Jeremiah, God’s real message was “I never sent them. You’re actually going to be there a long time.” But to show them that He had not abandoned them, that He really did have a plan for them, God gave them some very practical instructions as to what they should be doing in the meantime.
We found in this passage some very practical instructions for ourselves, too. None of us have ever been in exile, of course, but we can identify with the feeling. Things have turned sour, and we are buried underneath a load of circumstances that we did not choose. We feel like prisoners of war. You know the feeling, whether it be a health crisis, a problem at home, job stress, or some other situation that just doesn’t seem to get any better and won’t go away. What can we do in the meantime?
Last week, we examined three things that we pick up fro m this passage. First, we should face reality, and don’t try to deceive ourselves into thinking things are different. Then, we should refuse to give up, and plan for the future. At the end of the message last week, we took these things on as “homework,” to work on these during the week. How did you do? Today, though, we turn to the rest of the “assignment.” There are other things we can do:
4. Make a positive contribution, v. 7
Now look at verse 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. God was saying to them that for as long as you are there, be sure to do your best to contribute something positive. Make your mark for good while you are there. Be the kind of influence those people need. Don’t just pass the time.
The idea here is that Jeremiah is encouraging the people to establish relationships with the people of Babylon. In fact, the phrase peace and prosperity includes a wide range of things, among them health, blessing, prosperity, basic needs, and satisfaction. This is the Hebrew word shalom, which most of us recognize as being the word for peace. The whole idea here is that this is to be a genuine attempt at friendship, even affection, for their captives. “You’re going to be there for awhile,” God seems to be saying, “so get about the business of loving your enemies.” That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? They were to stop thinking of themselves as prisoners of war.