Think about you might be dwelling in a overseas land, distant from something you as soon as discovered acquainted. The language is completely different. The meals is completely different. The faith is completely different. The garments are completely different. As you wrestle to seek out your house on this unusual land, there’s something else that makes it even more durable: You didn’t transfer there of your individual free will. You had been forcibly eliminated out of your homeland. You might be in exile — an alien in a foreign country.
That is the place we discover the nation of Israel in Jeremiah 29. The prophet Jeremiah has simply despatched a letter to the leaders of God’s folks as they stay in exile in Babylon. However what he writes to them is just not one thing you’d count on in a letter to a weary and damaged folks. As an alternative of telling them to pine for his or her homeland, work towards ending their exile, and even to struggle again towards their oppressors, God says one thing stunning:
That is what the Lord of Armies, the God of Israel, says to all of the exiles I deported from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Construct homes and stay in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Discover wives for yourselves, and have little kids. Discover wives on your sons and provides your daughters to males in marriage in order that they could bear little kids. Multiply there; don’t lower. Pursue the well-being of town I’ve deported you to. Pray to the Lord on its behalf, for when it thrives, you’ll thrive.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7, CSB)
By Jeremiah, God tells the folks to hunt the nice of town as exiles. It’s an odd exhortation given they’re to be a set-apart folks. In Joshua 23:7, God informed the folks to distance themselves from the nations surrounding them. That is after they spent the complete e book of Joshua placing a lot of these inhabitants of the nations to demise. Even earlier than the conquest, God informed His folks to not be just like the nations round them (Deut. 12).
However right here, in a overseas land, God tells Israel to stay among the many Babylonians, however not change into them. He tells them to settle in, however not get comfy. To hunt prosperity, however that prosperity has a goal.
These verses appear misplaced, even opposite to God’s coronary heart for His folks, particularly after they had been exiled for changing into just like the nations round them. They’d change into lazy and compromising, and consequently they fell away from worshiping God alone. However embedded on this letter to the exiles in Babylon, we see the very coronary heart of God — a coronary heart that has not modified, and a coronary heart that existed from the very starting of time.
A confusion of phrases
Nowadays, there may be lots of speak about justice — and lots of misunderstanding about justice. In some circles, we hear somebody say “social justice” and we instantly assume they care extra about political causes than they do constancy to the gospel. In different circles, we see a scarcity of participation in particular packages for the underserved as callousness and a failure to obey Scripture.
For these of us who (hopefully) don’t discover ourselves at both excessive, we’re left confused, usually with extra questions than solutions. What constitutes biblical justice? How ought to Christians stay as exiles on this world? That is virtually labored out in another way for particular person Christians, however earlier than we speak concerning the sensible, we have to first perceive the theological underpinnings that compel us to look after the neighbors round us.
God of justice
Very like the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day, we’re strangers in a overseas land. We live in a world that isn’t our house. We’re exiles. Each day we’re confronted with the truth of our “otherness” on this world, whereas additionally being confronted with the necessity for this world to be made new.
When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a backyard to domesticate and a world to fill (Gen. 1:28, 2:15). His command to them was to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. Every little thing on this world is the Lord’s (Ps. 24:1), so He wishes the flourishing of each human being and the enlargement of His creation. His coronary heart from the start has at all times been the nice of His creation — all of it.
However sin entered the world, and it made this command more durable to implement. As an alternative of loving God’s world, we use and abuse His world. So He created a brand new folks for himself, the Israelites, and gave them a Legislation — His Legislation that speaks to His very coronary heart. We frequently consider the Legislation as being solely the Ten Commandments, however it’s so far more than that. The Previous Testomony Legislation was given to indicate God’s folks what He was like and what He anticipated of them as they inhabited a brand new land — a land they had been known as to domesticate and fill with His goodness.
Embedded on this Legislation is a name to like the stranger and the sojourner (Deut. 10:19). Embedded on this Legislation is a name to justice towards outsiders (Ex. 21-23). Why? As a result of He’s a simply God who executes justice for all who’re oppressed (Ps. 103:6). At the same time as He known as His folks to stay set-apart lives, He additionally known as them to stay incarnational lives. Of their each day dwelling, as they obeyed His regulation, they informed all who they got here in touch with what God is like.
When God’s folks rebelled towards Him once more and He despatched them into exile, His coronary heart didn’t change. His need for His folks didn’t change. They had been to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth with extra picture bearers who would love like God loves and stay in accordance with His requirements for holiness and justice. God wishes to be recognized, not solely by those that know His identify, however by all who’re created by Him and have but to bow the knee to Him.
This name to stay incarnational lives continues all the best way into the New Testomony.
Jesus is the mannequin of justice, not solely on the cross, but additionally in how He handled those that had been marginalized in society (Samaritans, girls, kids, the sick and the poor). When He made a brand new folks for himself, the Church, they continued on on this mission. They informed the world what God is like each of their speech and of their actions (Acts 4:32-35, Gal. 2:10, Heb. 10:34).
This love for God spilling over into love for folks is all all through church historical past. It’s usually stated that in the course of the 14th-century plagues in Europe, everybody else fled to keep away from illness whereas the Christians stayed, figuring out they might absolutely get sick and even die. God’s folks have at all times been a set-apart folks, however not out-of-the-world folks. If the earth is the Lord’s, then we should always all be working towards the nice of the world in each space of our lives as we stay right here as exiled — even when it prices us our lives.
A name to motion
Let’s return to Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles once more and see the way it will help us at this time. Just like the exiles then, we’re exiles now. Our work and every thing we do in our communities ought to search the welfare of our metropolis and its inhabitants. Our work is for the nice of the world. Christians are ones who don’t fall again in retreat within the face of oppression and exile; as a substitute we transfer ahead in love, wanting God’s glory to unfold all through the complete world.
Jeremiah informed the Israelites to do a number of issues:
- Construct homes and stay in them. Basically, make your self at house.
- Plant gardens and eat their produce. Domesticate the land that you simply inhabit on your good and flourishing.
- Discover spouses and multiply there. Once more, make your self at house.
- Search the nice of town
So how does this assist us? The instructions given by Jeremiah are comparatively easy and likewise broadly utilized. As exiles in a land that isn’t our house and that may be hostile to us at occasions, we will obey these identical instructions wherever we’re situated.
We are able to “bloom the place we’re planted,” because the saying goes. We could be good neighbors (“construct homes and stay in them”). We are able to hold our yards clear and ensure we aren’t too loud at quiet hours. We are able to invite neighbors into our properties and serve the place we’re wanted.
We are able to get married and begin a household. We are able to honor marriage, even when we’re single. We could be “fruitful and multiply” by making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28). We could be trustworthy in our jobs, seeing our work as God’s means of making order and flourishing on this planet. We are able to volunteer in colleges and serve in meals pantries. We are able to get to know native officers. We are able to even watch the information. And we will at all times pray.
Identical to the nation of Israel, we’re exiles on this overseas land, ready for our metropolis that’s to return. We’re not to get comfy or give in to compromise — however to dig in and contribute so the world will see that there’s a God in heaven who has created all issues, is holding all issues collectively, and has an excellent homecoming deliberate for many who belief in Him.
Copyright 2020 Courtney Reissig. All rights reserved.