Living in exile
Jeremiah sent a letter to the exiles from Jerusalem who had been taken to Babylon, telling them how they were to live.
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. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. (Jeremiah 29:5-10)
All of us who are Christians are exiles, even if we still live in the place where we were born. We were born into a world that is controlled by Satan and were his subjects. When we put our faith in Christ we were reborn spiritually and became subjects of God’s kingdom.
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)
We received a new citizenship.
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)
We are citizens of Heaven but we still live on earth. When we were saved we became exiles, and so Jeremiah’s instructions to the exiles in Babylon apply to us.
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.
We are to become productive members of the society in which we find ourselves. God has put us in the world to be lights.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
We can’t obey this command if we live in monasteries or in isolated communities where we have no contact with others.
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.
We are to increase in number. The Jews did this by marrying and having children. Christian do it by sharing the gospel with others.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
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.
Christians are also commanded to pray for our government leaders and for all who are in positions of authority.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.
When Jeremiah delivered God’s messages he had to compete with false prophets who were trying to deceive the people. We must not believe everyone who claims to speak for God.
For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Matthew 24:24)
We can avoid being deceived by false teachers and prophets by following the example of the Bereans.
The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)
For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.
God intended for the Babylonian exile to last seventy years, after which he would allow the Jews to return to their own land. Our exile has lasted almost 2,000 years. God has set the time it will end but hasn’t revealed when that time is. When the time comes he will remove all of us from the earth and take us to our home in Heaven.
For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18)
If we want to serve God effectively we need to always remember that this world isn’t our home. Our real home is Heaven and we are only exiles here.