The Shalom of the City
Gracious Lord, it is to You I look as my creator, helper, and guide. Reveal more of Yourself to me today.
Read JEREMIAH 29:1-32
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world…, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2).
As a result of exile, the people of Israel found themselves bereft of much that they thought connected them to God: the land, the temple, the priesthood and a king. Jeremiah wrote this letter when the exile had begun, but there remained a king of sorts and a functioning temple in the land. His task was to confront both the exiles and those who remained on the land with a hard physical and theological fact. The book of Daniel may be seen as a reflection on the very question posed by Jeremiah: what does it mean to be a faithful Jew in Babylon?
There are two answers to that question. The first encourages those in exile to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city” (7) in which they live. The result will be that “in [the city’s] shalom will be your shalom” (7, my translation). Part of their calling as God’s people was to become good citizens of Babylon. Not only would this benefit those among whom they lived; it would become part of their own experience of God’s blessing. Daniel worked this out in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. We, too, are called to seek the shalom of those among whom we live, and so to know God’s blessing ourselves.
The second part of the answer is that being in exile was not a license to become indistinguishable from Babylon. However settled the people became, they remained in “captivity” (14), called to live by the words of God and not by the words of the empire (19) or the lies of false leaders (23). Wherever we live, in Babylon or Jerusalem, New York or Jakarta, we do so with a sense of service in that place to God, who is bigger and more far-seeing than the particular place to which he calls us.
Consider how your service among those with whom God has placed you may bring blessing both to you and to them.
Father, I pray I will be able to bloom where I am planted. Deliver me from the “greener pastures elsewhere” syndrome. Prosper my life in You, wherever I am.
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