Jeremiah 29:1-7

These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. This was after King Jeconiah, and the queen mother, the court officials, the leaders of Judah and Jerusalem, the artisans, and the smiths had departed from Jerusalem. The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah son of Shaphan and Gemariah son of Hilkiah, whom King Zedekiah of Judah sent to Babylon to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

It said: 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 what they 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. Jeremiah 29:1-7

When I was in the seminary, I studied the book of Jeremiah in a class that met at 8:00 AM, taught by a very kind hearted, slow talking, soon to be retired professor, who had written his doctoral dissertation on “Sacred Rocks in the Old Testament.” Need I mention that staying awake in class was more difficult than the required readings and research paper?

It turned out to be one of my favorite classes. I came away with a much better understanding of the prophetic tradition, the centrality of the Babylonian Exile, and a sense of connection to Jeremiah as a person.

After spending his life warning the powers that be of impending doom, bringing bad news upon bad news, personally suffering, witnessing the brutality of the Babylonian army, then escaping to Egypt, he writes a letter to the exiles. It is a surprising letter.

You could file his letter under “Making the Best of a Bad Situation” or maybe “Exile for the Long Haul” but there is more going on in the letter than that. The key is certainly the last sentence: 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.

No call for revenge or retaliation. No prayers for the destruction of Babylon – although Babylon was responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem. Instead, God (through Jeremiah) invites Israel to love its enemy, pray for its persecutors, and in that, Israel will discover its own salvation.

What would the world look like if we truly waged peace with prayer rather than war with bullets? Would we really be so worse off?

Let us pray: Lord, you are our teacher, our guide. Our lives are our schoolhouse, our experiences our lessons. May we continue to be open to what you would have us learn. What it means to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to seek the welfare of our cities, and to trust you even in the darkest times in our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Jeremiah 29:1-7”

  1. Steve Leeman Says:

    Great story. Thanks for your insight and wisdom!

  2. Carolee Groux Says:

    It is easier said than done, loving our enemies; trying to obey the command, “love your neighbors as yourself”. It is also difficult to “turn the other cheek” when hurt or betrayed. Although Babylonia was responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem, God (through Jeremiah) asks the Israelites to love their enemies, pray for them, and in doing so they will find their salvation. I have heard crime victim’s families forgive the murderer, the rapist, the kidnapper. How difficult this must be; but in forgiving the criminal God must cleanse the hatred from their hearts and minds. We pray that God will lead us to be forgiving people.

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