“This is what the LORD almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile… ‘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…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.
I read a wonderful piece yesterday about a guy who has taken this verse as a challenge in the wake of the presidential election. He understands that our country is in exile from the tenants of God. It doesn’t matter which candidate sits in the oval office this morning. What matters is the mess we have gotten our country in over the last decades. Charles Stanley preached a few weeks ago that it is not any one leader who led us into our country’s chaos, but a series of administrations that ruled the country with the Bible closed.
This passage was God’s mouthpiece instructing His people to settle in – it was going to be a long ride. He encouraged them to invest in their exile by setting up homes, and throwing out seed in their gardens to provide for their families. The instruction to marry and have children made it obvious that their exile was going to be multi-generational, and they were to increase as a people among their captives. To decrease would mean to become invisible and be swallowed up in the society for which they were enmeshed. The LORD knew the only way they could live in peace among their kidnappers would be by asking the LORD for His peace and eventual deliverance.
Our culture has become one where Christianity is on the decrease and the rising tides of the flesh mandate the day. We have become a nation carried off by the individual desires of its residents instead of the determined worship of one God. As God’s chosen people, we must do what our Father instructed back in Jeremiah’s time… build our spiritual homes while in exile, settling into the life of a divided country for which we find ourselves. We must plant seeds of hope and faith in God so that the harvest will produce different fruit than the poisonous fruit we see today. We must marry our faith with God’s laws not bending His word into our own agenda. The only way we will live among the exiles during this precocious time is through constant prayer and supplication to the only One who can and will deliver us from ourselves. His instructions were clear…settle down! No moaning, no groaning, no plotting, no planning… build, plant, multiply, invest, increase, prosper, turn our face back to the LORD.
‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declared the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you, plans to give you hope and a future…You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you…and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you…where I have banished you…and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’ Jeremiah 29:13-14.
Sometimes we are forced into exile because we no longer stand out as His children. We have become a nation of the invisible where it is tough to determine who is living out God’s agenda and who is living out their own. To be unified we must all look towards the same Leader and work towards the same message – the message of God’s word. That Leader rules from within each of us and not from Washington, giving us ability and opportunity to allow His reign through our voice and actions. We are instructed to pray for our leaders and invest in the country for which we have been exiled. So settle in, build lasting homes, plant seeds, invest and by all means let us increase as Christians instead of decreasing as a divided body of the people of God.
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