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.
Have you ever felt like an exile? Maybe you were the new person at school, sitting by yourself and feeling like you were a social exile? Or maybe you feel like a spiritual exile, wishing for a more innocent era where Sundays were reserved for church and rest only, not football or kids’ sports or household chores.
Or perhaps, like the Israelites you were forced from your country of origin, looking for a safe place to live – maybe waiting to return home. Yet, despite the worldliness of the Babylonians, the Israelites were told to go live their lives – build houses, plant gardens, eat the food of the land, marry and have kids.
This passage reminds me of my in-laws, who were, in essence, exiled from their country of birth. Born in Indonesia at the brink of World War II, both of my in-laws and their families were forced into internment camps. After the war, those of Dutch-Indonesian descent were forced to leave the only home they ever knew, boarding big ships for the Netherlands, and leaving behind all they were accustomed to – the tropical climate, the food, the way of life.
In their new land, even though they knew the Dutch language, their darker-skinned Indonesian roots made them stand out. Assimilating into the new culture might not have been easy, but they did, indeed, learn to eat the new foods and put down roots. And again they did as described in Jeremiah 29:7 (Message), “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.” They became teachers, accountants and academics.
As young adults, my husband’s parents married and immigrated to the United States, where, again, they needed to find work, a home, and learn to eat yet another culture’s cuisine. And again they did as described in Jeremiah 29:7 (Message), “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare…”
Do we work to make the place we live in better? What about the second part of verse 7? As it says in the Message: “Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.” Are we praying for our city?
Let’s use Jeremiah 29:12-13 to pray:
Lord we pray our city will call upon You and come and pray to You, because You will hear us. Help us seek You and find You, as we seek You with all our hearts.