- In: Thought for the Day
- By Clark Cowden
There is so much that is changing in our world today that it is easy to get disoriented. We can feel unsettled, unsure, and full of questions. But, it could be that God is disorienting us so that the Spirit can move us to a new place of learning, understanding, and serving. In Jeremiah 29:2, it says that “King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem.” For those who remained behind after the exile, this was a “brain drain”. They were now living in a leadership vacuum. All of their key leaders had been carried off. It would have been disorienting to figure out how to live in a place where all the key leaders were now gone. For the exiles, they had to figure out what God was up to and how they should now live in this strange, new land. Discontinuous change forces us to figure out how God is calling us to live in new ways and opens us up to new learnings that we would not achieve otherwise. What is God prompting us to learn in the midst of today’s disorientation?
02A Sending God
In the missional conversation, we think about God as the One Who is sending us into the world to join what the Spirit is already up to. But, in Jeremiah 29:4, it talks about how God sent the Israelites into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This seems backwards to us. If we want to make a difference in the world, we think that God would want to send us to Jerusalem. But here, it is the will of God, to send God’s people into exile in Babylon. This catches us by surprise and makes us wonder what God could possibly be up to in Babylon? Have you ever wondered what God’s purpose was in sending you where you were/are? I believe that there were things God wanted the Israelites to learn, that they could learn better in Babylon than in Jerusalem. I believe God wanted the Hebrews to discover that God was active in places that they had not imagined before and that God cared about people and issues that they had not realized before. We do not live where we live by accident. Where is God sending you today?
03Put Down Roots
In Jeremiah 29:5, it says, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” I think this was something God needed to say to the Israelites because they didn’t want to live in Babylon. They had been forced to move from Jerusalem against their will. They had been pushed out of the comfortable, familiar surroundings they had lived in their whole lives. They were in a strange, new place where they didn’t understand the culture. It was a hard adjustment. It would have been easy to remain detached and think about how soon they could leave this place and move on to something better. But, God wanted the Hebrews to put down roots in their community. The verbs in this verse are build, live, plant, and eat. They described how God wanted the people to live. God wanted them to invest in this community, to become aware of what God was doing in that place, and make it their home. It can be hard for people in a mobile culture to put down roots. But, that may be exactly what God is calling us to do today.
04Invest in People
Jeremiah 29:6 says “Take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.” The choice of a spouse is a major decision. You don’t just marry a person - you marry into a family system. And when you marry someone from another race, ethnic group, or culture, it requires a lot of learning and understanding. Were the Israelites ready to invest themselves in a people very different from themselves? How would this change their values, their faith, and their lifestyle? God was calling them to invest in the people of their new community. To do this today requires us to live incarnationally, to come alongside of a people, and learn who they are. If successful, we get to know them at a deep level, their fears, their anxieties, their hopes, and their dreams. Part of being the sent people of God is to invest ourselves in people, and to know them deeply, that we might become more aware of how God is at work in their lives.
05Seek the Welfare of the City
Jeremiah 29:7 says “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.” In western culture, we often think that we can change the cultures and systems in which we live. We don’t always realize how much our cultures and systems are shaping us. How we think, feel, and act are influenced by the places where we reside. Part of being a sent people is caring about where we live. God cares about the well-being of our city. God’s Spirit is already at work on behalf of the place where we live. Our welfare is always connected to the welfare of the community we are living in. We cannot be insulated from the influences of the neighborhood, nor should we be. God wants us to pray for our communities, invest ourselves in their welfare, and realize that we have an important role to play in our neighborhoods. How can you seek the welfare of your city today?