“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take 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. 7 But 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 29:4-7
Three weeks ago I had the privilege of preaching in Visakhapatnam, India. This is a summary of my notes from that Sunday.
All of us here today are writing a story, for ourselves personally, for our families, and as a church. From the beginning of time there is One who is writing a Greater Story, and our stories only have life and purpose when our stories line up with His. He is writing a story that ends with a new heaven and a new earth and peoples from every tongue, tribe and nation gathering around the Throne worshipping Him. And He has invited us into this story to play a part, not because He needs us, but because He loving allows us to play a part. We remember that although we are currently living here on earth, that this is not our home. There is coming a day when we will see the Lord face to face and our dwelling place will be with Him (Revelation 21).
Much like Abraham and Sarah who were called out to a place or land they did now know, we are being called out to a new city a heavenly one; so they had their gaze set on it and did not return to where they were being called out from (Hebrews 11). Our eyes are to be set on that day to be looking/ longing for that day to come.
But in the waiting, we as the Church have a purpose, to be a City of God within our cities. The Church has a purpose in our cities as part of the Greater Story.
The Lord is speaking to those in exile from Jerusalem, who find themselves in Babylon, a place that is not their home. Much like today the Israelites find themselves not home, and they are going to be there for a while.
So what does the Church do in the waiting?
Be Planted Where You Are
Verse 5a – Build Houses and live in them
This is a long-term command, the Lord is telling them to set up roots where He has planted them. As we remember the words of Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there!” That is be committed to where the Lord has you, finding rest in the truth that it is Him who has placed us wherever we find ourselves. Whether we love the city we are currently in, or want our as soon as possible, He has placed us in our cities for a purpose.
Verse 5b – Plant Gardens and eat of their produce
Not only are we to be planted where we are, we are also to contribute to the society and the culture of our cities, wherever we find ourselves.
Be About the Cultural Mandate
Verse 6 – Take 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
In Genesis 1 & 2 we see the Lord create Adam & Eve then gives them the Cultural Mandate in Genesis 2:15 –The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
Also connecting with the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28)
The Lord continues this original command telling the exiles that as they wait for deliverance, to be home, they are to marry and have children; to fill the city with the people of God.
Adam and Eve were to fill the earth and seek to make it look like the Garden; we as the Church in our cities are to seek to fill it and be apart of the Lord’s work of restoring all things to Himself
Be About the Welfare of the City
Verse 7 – But 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.
Welfare = Shalom / peace
We as the Church are to seek the peace of our cities. All aspects of peace, that we as the Church in our cities will seek to push back evil. To where we see injustices we will push back for the greater good of the City. That we as the Church in our cities would stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. That we carry out the Great Commission in our cities by brining the Gospel to those we work with and shop with and ride the bus with that all may know Him, the author of peace.
Ultimately the Church is called to be Salt and Light in our Cities so that the watching world will take notice and praise God for it (Matthew 5:13-16).
He has called to Himself making us His own, and is preparing a Heavenly City for us; while we wait for that day He has placed us as a light on top of a light stand in the midst of cities, so that all may see and give Him glory!
While we wait, we must be about the Greater Story that He was called us to, to be a City of God within our cities!