There’s a story in the book of Jeremiah that we talk little about. Yet, in it you will find one of the most well known verses in the Bible.
Chapter 29 begins with the prophet writing a letter to the people of Jerusalem who had been captured and taken to Babylon. I can only imagine what being exiled to a foreign land must feel like. The changes in culture and language. The loss of home and family and freedom.
How scared they must have been.
I wonder at the excitement they must have felt when news of the letters arrival spread throughout their community. I can actually feel the hope that must have coursed through their veins with the expectation of deliverance that was most certainly spelled out in the pages they now held.
Surely, this captivity was about to end! Soon they would be set free from this bondage and back to the very thing they longed for… home!
To life as it was... before.
I can imagine the scenarios that played through their minds as they began to open the letter. Was there a secret plan in place? Had Jeremiah come up with a way to help them escape? Was he even now just outside those city gates preparing to set them free?
And how their hearts must have broken when they saw those first words, “This is what the Lord says.. ‘Build homes, and plan to stay.’”
Plan to stay?
Just reading these words thousands of years later brings tears to my eyes.
The letter goes on to encourage the exiled people to not only build homes but to plant gardens… get married… have children… and then have them marry!
“We’re gonna be here that long?!?”
As Christians today, we focus so often on being set free from bondage. And, yes, there are many bondages we should seek to be free from.
But we cannot deny that there are situations in our lives that we cannot change. We cannot avoid. And we cannot escape.
Which begs the questions - what does your Babylon look like?
The death of a dream? A marriage? A loved one?
Loss of health? Home? Finances?
Or can it be summed up by simply saying “COVID-19”?
Babylon is that place we land unwillingly and with no desire to stay. And to open our minds to the idea of putting down roots and learning to live… no… even thrive in Babylon is offensive to our senses.
I shared this concept with a group of teens recently. Many of them are living in the Babylon of broken homes. It is not of their choosing - yet they have no other option. Their current condition is based on the choices of others.
And they must reap the consequences.
I challenged them to look even further into Jeremiah 29. In verse 7, the people are told to “work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray for it. For its welfare will determine your welfare.”
Pray for the peace and prosperity of my Babylon?
I don’t want to live here!
I. want. to. go. home.
Back to before.
Back to normal.
We can wail and scream and cry. Search for a means of escape… ignore the obvious… and attack those around us.
But when you’re in Babylon… you’re in Babylon.
At the moment when their hearts couldn’t have sank deeper into their chests, hope appeared on the pages of that letter.
Yes, they were stuck in Babylon. Yes, they were asked to accept their reality and learn to live with it.
A hard ask.
But then the Lord gave those beautiful words we love to claim without acknowledging those earlier sentences… He said, “I know the plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
He goes on to invite His people to search for Him wholeheartedly with the promise to end their captivity and restore their fortunes - but it wouldn’t happen for seventy years.
Life had changed. And it would never look the same for them again.
I asked earlier what your Babylon looks like.
How long have you been there?
How hard has it been?
Does the thought of staying offend your senses?
I get it. I do.
And while your Babylon might look different than mine, I invite you to link arms and join me in praying for the peace and prosperity of our individual Babylons even as we shake the dust off our weary hearts and begin searching for ways to build a life inside our situations.
Take comfort in knowing that God knew where to find the exiled people - after all, the letter reached them even though they were far from home. He knows where to find you as well.
When we stop searching for a way to escape Babylon, it is then we can pick up a hammer and begin building a new life inside the wrong side of the walls we so despise.
It may not be where you’d choose to be… but if that’s where you are, I hope you will find courage to rise up, build, plant roots and thrive - even in Babylon.
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