Live like an exile: Bless the city.

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7But 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.
Jeremiah 29:7

The captives from Jerusalem abiding in Babylon might not be blamed for maintaining a self-protective edge. Why should they give themselves wholeheartedly to the success of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon? Surely they want to get back to Jerusalem as quick as possible. They are longing for home. Wouldn’t it be a kind of betrayal if they pursued good for all of Babylon’s residents?

God has a surprising word for these exiles: Seek the welfare of the city and pray for the city. If the city thrives then they will thrive. God does not want them to isolate themselves nor does He want them to engage only for self-preservation. Rather, God wants them to actively seek the peace, the shalom, the well-being of Babylon.

Like these exiles, the Church of Jesus lives with a promise of what is to come. If we seek the welfare of our city we must nurture a vision of peace and blessing shaped by the presence of Jesus Christ our King. We proclaim Gospel Truth revealing who God is and we radiate His glory through persistent intercession and generous godly labour.

Live like an exile: Live Engaged!

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4“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6Take 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.  Jeremiah 29:4-6

God addresses the Israelite captives in Babylon as people who are to live under Him and in His covenant no matter where they live. He has sent them. And now He commands them to engage in life there. Their temptation may have been to “keep their moving boxes” rather than unpack and settle down.

Build houses. Live in them.

Plant gardens. Eat the produce.

Take wives. Have a family.

Expand the family.

Multiply.

We are tempted to turn Christian discipleship into a perpetual retreat from life. Instead we are to engage in the activities of a good life as people under the graceful rule of Jesus the King. Our life together as the church includes engagement in the productive aspects of city and community life. Building, planting, forming relationships and creating family.

Are you living well?

Living well for a Christian is to somehow engage in the economy of Great Commission disciple-making. I really can’t read Jeremiah’s letter to exiles  through the lens of Jesus’ commands without taking hold of His call for the church to multiply disciples. Following a Mark 4 view of the Kingdom, we are to be a people who plant our lives in community, plant the Gospel in the lives of people, make disciples of those whom Jesus calls, and gather them into the church He is building. Exiles have longings. We are longing for Him to be fully revealed and in doing so we are becoming the people who reveal His Kingship… no matter where we live.

Live like an exile: Live Sent!

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4“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…  Jeremiah 29:4

The Israelites having been dragged from their homes in Jerusalem and force-marched to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar were longing for home. Their itching ears grasped hold of every voice that promised a quick return. But Jeremiah basically tells them to let it go. God has sent them.

God sent them to Babylon.

In Christian discipleship the theme of “exile” challenges us to live sent. We are longing for a home where all goes well. But now we are what Peter called “sojourners and exiles.” (1 Peter 2:11) We could just bide our time and tread water, taking what we can from the world. But Jesus will not have it that way. God always has His exiles formed with the word, “sent.”

I sent you.

If God sends us into a wilderness, a city, a difficulty, a workplace, a church, a nation, a campus or even our hometown, He sends us with a purpose. There we can get to know Him. There we can see Him form our heart and character for His purposes. There we be a part of His plan for people. There we can announce the extraordinary good news of God. Its at this point that we must have a proper view of the One who sends us.

Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20:21)

We’ve been sent as servants of the crucified King, the Lamb of God, the Shepherd of our souls.

Live like an exile; live sent.

Live like an exile: God’s got a plan for my future.

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10“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. 11For 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. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I 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 sent a letter from Jerusalem to the exiles in Babylon. They where itching to be done with the captivity King Nebuchadnezzar had forced on them. I imagine they got to the end of the letter and where shocked. Then they had to read it again. But the word that would have sent them back to the top would have been what he put at the end.

“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. 11For 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.”

Bad news. Good news.

You are going to be in Babylon for 70 years.  Then, I will bring you home.

God raises the issue of trust about the future.

Are you trusting the One who holds your future? He says, “ I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

We long for a home properly ruled by The King Jesus. We are not there yet. But even now, we live under His graceful rule. As the church we live like exiles as the people of His Kingdom. Our hope for the future resides not in the inventions, wisdom or economies of people but in the presence of our King with us now.

So we live like an exile. We engage in the world today because our hope is secured in Christ Jesus. We live like all the great people of faith described in Hebrews 11:
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13These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.