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 I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
One of the things that I love about studying the Hebrew language of the Scriptures is that it has words that are so much bigger than English words. What I mean is that there are certain Hebrew words that are so full of meaning that they just can’t be translated by one or two English word. For some of them, it literally takes multiple sentences to understand one word. One of those words is in our passage for today. It is mentioned four times in the two verses above. Read the passage again and see if you can pick out the word?
Did you get it? The word is translated as “welfare.” And no offense to the translators, but if ever there was a word that just wasn’t big enough to explain the concept behind this word, it is the word “welfare.” God’s plan is so much more than a desire for His creation to “fare well.” I know that God wants a whole lot more, because the word is a much bigger word: shalom.
Shalom is a HUGE word! We have nothing like it in English. It is often translated as “peace,” but it carries with it the idea of being safe, sound, healthy, whole, perfect, prosperous, and complete. It signifies a sense of well-being and harmony both internally for individuals and externally for societies. A world filled with shalom would be a world in which men and women live in right relationship with God, with one-another, and with creation so that our communities are ones characterized by flourishing and justice and peace. It is a world that functions the way that it was created to function.
This is God’s plan for His people. Shalom is what He wants us to seek in the city. It is an all-encompassing desire to see our neighborhoods, our schools, our parks, our marriages, our businesses, our gardens and even our animals flourish the way that they were designed to flourish. This is a big task! In fact, it was too big of a task for them and it is too big of a task for us; which is why we need Jesus. But there is good news. Shalom is what Jesus came to give us. Not just internal wholeness, but external wholeness as well. This is what Jesus meant when He said, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest. John 10:10 He came to give us shalom.
Spend some time today thinking about where you see the lack of shalom both internally and externally. What is one step that you can take toward this life of shalom?