Do your Land Good and Live as an Exile

From 606 to 586 BC, the people of Judah were conquered by the Babylonian Empire. At different times, different groups of Jews were taken to live in Babylon. In all, the nation would spend 70 years in exile under the judgment of God. But God promised that, after that exile, he would return the nation to its land.

Of course, there are many false prophets who urged the people not to willingly go to Babylon, to try to avoid the exile. These evil men tried to get the people to believe that God would restore the nation to the land within 2 or 3 years. But God’s word for the people was a call to go to Babylon, settle down, and live godly lives.

Jeremiah 29:4-7 — 4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 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. 7 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.

God had a word for the people who were in exile. Build a house. Have a family. Get a job and feed your family—the whole concept of growing a garden. Pray for your new city. Do good for the city. As you help the welfare of the city, you help yourself. Even if this land is not your ultimate home, do what you can to live a godly life and do the land good.

While modern Christians are not Jews in the 6th century BC, we sometimes feel similar things. WE look around in our land, in our city perhaps, and we feel like strangers and aliens in a foreign land. The nation does not value what we value. The nation can be harsh to our beliefs. The nation participates in grievously sinful acts. What are we to do?

I would suggest that God’s word in Jeremiah is pretty close to what his word would be for us today. WE are not to run away and hide. Nor are we to embrace the sinful worldview of our culture. We are to live godly lives in the real world. Set up a home. Have a family if the Lord provides that opportunity. Work a job. Pray for the nation. Share the gospel. Bring about God-honoring change when you can. Do what you can to do your city good, for in doing your city good, you do yourself good.

A Trite Accusation

The strategies of the enemies of God against the church of the Lord Jesus Christ have not changed much. The devil and his minions have a fairly thin playbook. Sadly, humanity is often so blinded to history and logic that the old plays work time and time again.

Consider the way that the people of God have faced destruction and persecution in times past. In Exodus, the Pharaoh ordered the murder of Hebrew infants in order to keep his government from being threatened by the people of God. In Daniel, a faithful man was throne into a den of lions for praying, because some wicked men convinced an emperor that prayer was a threat to his governmental power. When the Jews clamored for Jesus’ crucifixion before Pilate, they argued that Jesus was a subversive even as they declared, “We have no king but Caesar.”

We see the same strategy used in the book of Acts as Paul has preached the gospel in the city of Thessalonica.

Acts 17:5-9 – 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.

See the same accusation. When the people of the city could not get hold of Paul, they dragged some of his friends before the authorities. And what words did they use as a weapon? They said of the Christians, “They are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” The Jews claimed that the Christians were subversives because of the authority of Jesus.

It is worth recognizing that this move is the very same play in the enemy’s playbook that we have seen used time and time again for thousands of years. Why? Because he will use it again. Look at our present culture. Watch the way that political winds are blowing. Watch for an Orwellian move in our government to strip people of their rights, to persecute, to punish, to imprison, to shame people based on our thoughts. The secularizing forces in our government cannot abide a genuine freedom of religion. There will be, if the Lord does not move in a massive way, a stripping away of the freedom of Americans to live as genuine Christians. And the argument that will be used will look like the one in Thessalonica, Jerusalem, Persia, and Egypt. It will be an argument that says that a devotion to the Lord is dangerous for society, because followers of God value their relationship with God more than they value the political leadership of the day.

The funny thing is, in all of these cases, the argument, besides failing to actually work, is patently false. Daniel was a faithful servant of the king. Jesus did not intend to threaten Pilate or any Roman government. Paul even wrote to the church in Romans 13 to submit to government and in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for all our leaders. In general, followers of Jesus are faithful citizens of the countries where we live. There are, of course, certain commands we cannot obey, commands that violate the law of God. But unlike people without a clear moral compass, Christians recognize that we are under the authorities that the Lord has set over us and will follow their lead so long as their lead does not violate the higher authority of the word of God.

But, Christians, be aware of what the strategy is. You and I will be seen as dangerous, subversive, backward. And a large part of that argument will be that we are submitted, not to the atheistic worldview of our society, but to Jesus. The world hates the Savior. And the world will not tolerate his followers.

What then do we do? We remain faithful. We pray for the opportunity to live peaceful and quiet lives in Christ as Paul commanded: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We trust our God. And we continue to take the gospel to the nation. Jesus has all authority. He has commanded us to make disciples. And that is what we do, even in the face of a false and trite accusation that we are somehow subversive elements in society.

A Prayer We Often Miss

When you pray, do you pray for governmental leaders? When you pray for them, do you pray biblically?

In 1 Timothy 2, God calls us to pray for political leaders, but the rationale he gives us might surprise you.

1 Timothy 2:1-2 – 1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

Paul says to pray in all sorts of ways for all sorts of people. He includes rulers, which is fascinating since Nero was the Emperor of Rome at that time. Part of a Christian’s prayer life is to include requests regarding kings, presidents, etc.

But note the why. I think that is fascinating. We pray for our leaders, because we want to live peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified. This is not praying for the leaders that we be massively impactful in the community. It is not praying for the leaders that we get special favor to become the church of the state. It is not praying for our leaders that we get to put up a nativity scene in the town square or a monument to the Ten Commandments on the courthouse lawn. It is a prayer for our leaders that we be allowed to live out our faith in peace.

Christians, be praying for leadership. Be praying for government. But this is no call to think that government is the solution to the problems of the land. We pray so that we can be free to serve the Lord. WE pray, because we want to see leaders saved, which pleases God just as much as it pleases God when non-leaders are saved (cf. verses 3-ff). And with that prayer is our commitment to live out peaceful, quiet, godly, dignified lives as Christians.

May we be people who pray for our leaders and pray biblically. And then may we be a people who live as the Lord has called us, peacefully, quietly, with dignity, in godliness, in accord with the Lord’s commands, to the glory of God.