The prophet Jeremiah sent a letter from Jerusalem to the few surviving elders among the exiles, to the priests and the prophets, and to all the people Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Babylon from Jerusalem. 2 The letter was sent after King Jeconiah, the queen mother, the court officials, the government leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, and the craftsmen and smiths had left Jerusalem. 3 It was delivered to Babylon by Elasah, Shaphan’s son, and Gemariah, Hilkiah’s son—two men dispatched to Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar by King Zedekiah.
4 The Lord of heavenly forces, the God of Israel, proclaims to all the exiles I have carried off from Jerusalem to Babylon:5 Build houses and settle down; cultivate gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Get married and have children; then help your sons find wives and your daughters find husbands in order that they too may have children. Increase in number there so that you don’t dwindle away. 7 Promote the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because your future depends on its welfare. Jeremiah29:1-7 CEB
Although I want to stick mainly to the Psalms in my devotional writing this month, in light of N. T. Wright’s assertion that we study the Psalms within the context of Babylonian captivity – I hope this background will help us realize how super hard their lives were.
The Israelites (some of them at least) got hauled off to Babylon for a sentence of 70 years as a consequence of their sin. THEN God gives them the instructions above – consider the message from their perspective.
First the message: while you are in captivity, don’t waste time crying in your beer. Live life. Prosper. And do this so that the welfare of Babylon improves too. Build your tribe within this larger community in such a way that Babylon prospers and so do the Israelites. Next – think about how difficult it would be to hear from God (even though you got yourself in this pickle with your own rebellious nature) that you are to be a blessing to your captors; you are to carry on with life, even though this isn’t the life you hoped for or expected. Here is your new normal – deal well with it. As we read through some of the Psalms this is their lot. I wonder if you can relate. Do you have a trial you are living through? Are you struggling to be gracious to an enemy?