This morning I read Jeremiah 28 and 29 as part of my regular Bible reading. Nearly everyone has heard the wonderful verse "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." (vs 29:11) This verse comes historically in the time when Israel is about to be taken exile to Babylon. Dragged away from their homeland because they had turned their backs on God.
Yet God still says he has plans of good for them.
In some small way, I think I might understand the feelings of despair the Israelites felt when taken captive to a foreign land. Josh and I spent eight years in what God promised to us was a good land. We had our season of wandering in the desert, like the Israelites, and then the joy and blessing of entering a land of promise. A year ago we were called out of that good land and the best way to describe our current status in our new home is as "foreigners". We're not in the desert, but we are not at home here either. Yes, we have a lovely home, Josh has the best job he's ever had, we have each other, yet there is that sometimes dull, sometimes profound sense that we don't belong here.
"By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion...
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land?"
Psalm 137:1 and 4
In chapter 29, through Jeremiah, God tells the people : "Build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; takes 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 in exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare." vs 5-7
The Lord urges the people to live in this foreign land, to settle there and create homes. What a merciful heart God has, for he could have said "You'll go there and live miserably to make you realize how good you had it when you were under my care in Israel." No, he wanted them to live. And he promised them a future, hope, good, fortune, blessing when they deserved worse.
Although they were in a foreign land, he wanted them to seek the welfare of Babylon. For in that, they too would find welfare.
In a larger sense, we all live in a foreign land. As Christians, this world is not our true home, yet God has placed us here to live and to be part of his plans. While we know that ultimately there will be an end to all these things around us, we are also told to seek the welfare of this land that we have been "exiled" to.
I think that means you should pray for this nation, for its leaders (whether you like them or not), and for the Church.
I think that means you should vote.
I think that ultimately it means that we must rely on our sovereign God who has purposely placed us here for such a time as this.
As hard as I have found it to live in a "foreign land" after eight years in a "good land", I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God's plans for me and my family are for good and not evil. I find myself more and more dependent on him for all my hope and joy.
When the world seems foreign, that's a good thing. It causes us to look to our only hope, Jesus Christ. This season I am in personally, and the season our nation is in, has the power to return our hearts to their true home.