This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 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. 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.”Jeremiah 29:4-7 NIV
When this was written, Babylon had taken much of Israel into exile. They were far from home and were being told by some false prophets among them that the exile would be short. They would soon return home. But the message Jeremiah sent them was quite different. He told them that a return to Israel was not imminent but that they would be there for 70 years. So, even while experiencing life as an exile, they should settle down, put down roots, and seek the prosperity of the city they found themselves living in. Praying for the pagan city where they had been settled against their will would have been challenging. But their prosperity in the world was tied to that of the city they lived in. So it was in their own best interest to seek its peace and prosperity.
Living As an Exile
As followers of the Lord Jesus, we also are exiles, living in a place that is not our real home (1 Pet. 2:11). Our hope as believers is not in this world of exile. But it is in the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us (John 14:1-3). And I believe that Jeremiah’s message to these exiles is just as appropriate to us today. Even as we look forward to the end of our life as exiles, we are called to live in this land. Be good and productive citizens of whatever country you live in. Pray for your city and country and seek its prosperity.
This is not a call to become like the people around us, though. As Israel in exile remained a distinct people, we should remain distinct from the world around us. Even as we live in this world and seek its well-being. Be like Daniel, who, even while living his life in service to the kings of Babylon and Persia, refused to adopt their religious practices, continuing to be faithful to the God of Israel.