Life in Exile

In his recent Wednesday Bible class videos, David Dirrim has talked about some Old Testament events that have many similar characteristics with current world events. One of those events is the exile. Israel spent time in exile in Babylon and faced many challenges as a result. We may feel like we are experiencing the opposite. After all, they were taken from their homes, while we are stuck in ours. Still we face many of the same challenges, feelings and attitudes.
One of my favorite scriptures about that time in the story of Israel if Jeremiah 29:4-7, which details God’s instructions about what it means to live in exile as a follower of God. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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.” We can learn at least four things from Jeremiah about living during this time of isolation while still being a part of our community.
  1. See God’s hand in our world. I first want to step back when I read “to the exiles whom I have sent into exile.” Even in the midst of struggle we can find evidence that God is working, if we will take the time to look.
  2. Keep living life. It is easy to get out of our routines when so many pieces of those routines are removed. What Jeremiah describes in these verses is regular life in a time of irregularity. We need to recognize that a change in location and circumstances does not have to change everything about our lives and good practices, both physically and spiritually.
  3. Be a good neighbor. Jeremiah tells Israel that God says to “seek the welfare of the city” where they live. As we see God at work, some of that work is providing us with opportunities to love our neighbors. Even while distancing, we can check on others, offer to help when possible and be considerate of the needs of others.
  4. Pray. Specifically, notice where that prayer should begin: others. In our current pandemic the welfare of others does directly impact our own welfare, but our praying for their welfare goes beyond that motivation. It is following the example of Jesus to put the welfare of others above our own.
A few verses later is the one that people usually quote from Jeremiah 29, where God explains that He knows His plans for the exiles. He knows His plans for us too. Take heart in that in exile this week.

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