In the last post, we spoke about the punishment of the exile. Also, we mentioned that it was at this time that God sent the prophet Jeremiah to prepare the people for their upcoming transition to Bayblonian life. In chapter 29:4-7, Jeremiah proclaims;
Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:
So as to fully appreciate the shocking nature of that which follows, we must remember that God’s people have been under a covenantal arrangement for a very long time. Indeed the trauma of the exile itself is largely due to the fact that they are now being kept from living out this covenantal arrangement in the land of their fathers.
This is important to grasp because, for a very long time, the faithful have been called to go to war and conquer those who threaten their habitation of Canaan. In this regard, one can easily imagine the warriors of Judah, sharpening their swords, waiting in anticipation for the word of the prophet, to do as they had done for so many years before.
But imagine their surprise when they hear what Jeremiah says:
Thus says the LORD of hosts….’Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 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. 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.”
Consider for a moment how shocking that must have been for them to hear. In fact, the last time that anyone would have heard anything like this, would have been during the time before they were delivered from Egypt!
And while, one the one hand, this instruction would have seemed perfectly familiar to Abraham and those living under a pilgrim principle; on the other hand, for those who had only ever lived in the land under a theocratic principle, this was utterly shocking. However, jolting as it may have been, the instruction that flowed from Jeremiah’s lips was vital: God was showing them that they were going back to the pilgrim principle of their fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This then, leads us to the point in the story where we start to see an important pattern emerge; a pattern that will be of great help in leading us to form a biblical strategy for mission and cultural engagment in the church today. We will think more about this pattern in the next post.