Give me a word, Lord: EXILE

Jeremiah 29:5-11 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.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

I prefaced today’s devotional with a bit longer scripture reading than normal, but sometimes you have to read the scripture in context to absorb the meaning. Yesterday, I attended a Lifeway Women’s Simulcast with our church small group. The teachers were all excellent, and I gained much biblical knowledge and insight, but the one who spoke to my heart the most yesterday was a blind teacher named Jennifer Rothschild. She taught out of Jeremiah 29, and y’all, it was such a breath of fresh air to be reminded once again that God never fails His children. He hasn’t forgotten us. We may feel that we are in exile now, but He’s going to bring us out of exile. I’d like to share some of what I gleaned from Jennifer’s talk yesterday.

The people of Jerusalem had been exiled to Babylon. They were in a foreign land with foreign people, and they must have felt so alone. I think we can all relate. Our country does not look like our home any longer. COVID 19 has wreaked havoc on the country. Riots are occurring. Jobs have been lost. Work places are more stressful. We may feel completely alone and isolated. We may feel like we are in exile. So what do we do today while we wait through our period of exile? Let’s just wallow in our grief and depression as we wait for our rescue. That’ll show them all, right? WRONG!

The people of Jerusalem likely felt a lot of the things we are feeling right now. God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, and He gave him some specific instructions. We can’t sit around and wallow in the self pity. We have to continue to live. We can live expectantly knowing that God is with us through our trials, and although we may feel isolated, we are never truly alone.

In verses 5-7, Jeremiah tells the people that God said to actively participate in life even though they are in exile. He told them to build houses, get married, have children, and multiply. He told them to plant gardens and eat the produce. He told the people to increase, not decrease, and to seek the good in the city in which they have been deported to and to pray to Lord, and they would prosper. We may feel alone and isolated right now, but we must continue to actively participate during this time of exile. We should be building relationships, constructing and not destroying. We need to plant things in our lives and nourish these things. We must increase our relationships and the depths of those relationships. And while we are doing this, we must look for the good in all of it. No matter how bad things look, there will always be some good to be found.

In verses 8-9, Jeremiah reminds the people that they must continue to pursue God. There will be false teachers and those around us that will deceive us. Have you watched the news lately? Or have you scanned through social media? If so, you can relate to these verses. There is so much deceit being spewed by public leaders and public figures, on the news, and shared on the web. We must protect ourselves from the lies. How do we do that? Pursue the truth. If we are pursuing God, staying in His Word, and asking for discernment, we will be protected from the lies. You won’t know a lie is a lie if you don’t know what is true. Learn the Word, cling to the truth. Pursue God during this time of exile.

Lastly, in verse 10, Jeremiah tells the people that they have to be patient. Oh man! That’s the hard part. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Oh, but friends, we have nothing but time on our hands while we await the restoration. Jeremiah assured the people that God would come and get the people of Israel and restore them. It was a promise from God, and we all know that God doesn’t break promises. The people had to patiently await the time of rescue from exile.

We are in a time of exile right now. We may not have been literally moved from our homes and been taken to a foreign land, but we each may feel our own particular kind of isolation. We aren’t the people of Jerusalem that were exiled to Baylon for 70 years, but we feel the weight of the wait. The wait may be long, and the extreme heaviness of the weight of the wait may seem unbearable, but Peeps, we are not in this alone. God already knew in advance everything that would be going on in our lives right now. He may be allowing these things to grow us in our relationship with Him. He may be allowing this so that we can plant more seeds. He may be allowing these things to occur so that the number of believers may increase. I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I do know with all of my heart that I am not alone. You are not alone. We can endure the weight of the wait if we continue to pursue God while we wait. Be patient. He hasn’t forgotten us. He will restore us. God has plans for each and every one of us, plans for welfare, not disaster, and plans for a future and a hope!

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