4 This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”
The book of Jeremiah can sometimes be a bit heavy for me, with all the doom and gloom that is foretold within its pages. As I read today, Jeremiah was under such attack, and even under the threat of death, because he kept telling people what they didn't want to hear. It didn't matter that every word was given to him directly from God. In fact, that really made it worse, because when people are living life by the seat of their pants, they don't want to hear about the mess they are making in their britches. People get really angry at whoever dares to express judgment on them, even though the judgment is from God. They don't want to hear that what they're doing is wrong. They just want to shoot the messenger.
That's kinda what was going on during this time frame. He had been given the unenviable task of telling all the Israelites that God was so angry with them that they were going to stay in captivity to Babylon for seventy years! He'd even gone around wearing an ox yoke around his neck to demonstrate how the Jews would be under the rule of their captors. The yoke was broken during a confrontation with Hananiah, a false prophet who promised that God would release them from captivity within 2 years. The people wanted to believe the quack and disregard the real deal, so Jeremiah told Hananiah that the people would end up under an even heavier yoke, one of iron. I guess that's kinda like being ruled with an iron fist. Not fun. In any case, Hananiah died because he'd opened his big mouth and told such a whopping lie, saying it was from God.
So time has moved on a bit, and Jeremiah wrote a letter from Jerusalem to the elders, priests, prophets and everyone else who had been exiled. You already read the letter in the passage I quoted, so now I'm going to retell it with my own unique flare, as I'm so fond of doing.
To whom it may concern, and it better concern everybody;
I had a little chat with God last night, and He has some things He wants me to tell you. You brought your circumstances on yourselves. I tried warning you about what would happen if you didn't straighten up and fly right, but you didn't want to hear it, did you? No surprise, I'm used to it by now. You always think you know better than I what's good for you, and then when you get yourself in a jam, you whine and complain about it.
Well, it's too little, too late. You're stuck in Babylon now, and you will be for a long, long time. I know it's not fun, but that's the way it is. I would suggest you accept your circumstances, and live your lives where you are. Build homes for yourselves! Plant a garden and eat what you grow. Settle down and get married! Don't think this is the worst time to bring a new child into the world, either. Raise a big family and enjoy them while you can! Trust me, you're going to be in this place long enough to see your own children grow up and have kids of their own, so don't let life pass you by.
While you are there, don't gripe about the king that rules over you. Don't complain about the slave labor you're under. Whatever you do, do it to glorify ME. That means that no matter how much you hate doing what you're doing, you work hard and do a good job. Work to bring peace and prosperity to the city where I sent you. Pray for it, too. Because your welfare is dependent on the city's welfare. If it does well, you will too. But I'm not going to bless a slacker, so if you do a crummy job, you're going to be miserable the entire time.
You'd do well to remember that I don't plan to leave you where you are forever. At the end of 70 years, I'm going to come to your rescue and do all the good things that I promised you before. But that's a long time from now, so you'd better make the best of the situation you're in now.
Do you ever feel like that? Like you're stuck in a dead end job, or you're trapped in a living arrangement that you can't find a way out of? Grumbling about it only makes things worse, doesn't it? But if you'll quit feeling sorry for yourself long enough to start thanking God for something, you'll feel less crabby all the time. God can use you wherever you are. Look how many times He used people who were thrown in prison for no good reason! If He can use their circumstances, He can use yours. But only if you allow it.
Whatever you set out to do, even if you don't want to, do it to bring glory to Him. Be an example to other people. You may be the only Bible they ever read! (I know, another tired cliche, right?) Make sure that your pages are worth reading. For all you know, that may be the exact reason God has put you where you are.