Jeremiah 29 vs 4 - 6
“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. “
In the late evening news last night it was reported that the Prime Minister had warned that no immediate end to the present health crisis was in sight this year and possibly well into next. That would make it all but a year since we were hit by the first wave of Coronavirus and the restrictions that have touched each one of us to a greater or lesser extent, curtailing our activities and changing our way of life if only for a time. We long, in most cases, for our former freedom and to be rid of the things that restrict our daily and family life. That’s not surprising but is it time for a change of attitude?
When the nobles, tradesmen and inhabitants of Jerusalem were carried away to captivity in Babylon it left people bewildered and confused, they were God’s people how could this happen? This was despite the repeated warnings of the prophets which called for the people to return to God from whom they had strayed. False prophets told them what they wanted to hear that it would be for a short time and God would restore them to their land. However, Jeremiah sent a message from God to the exiles in which they were told to settle down for the long haul; to build homes and plant gardens.
The circumstances in which we find ourselves are not of our choosing but as those who believe in God’s sovereignty they are the circumstances which at the very least God has permitted. How are we to react? Let me suggest three things. First accept that things have changed, new realities prevail. That is often hard for us and it’s why the message of the false prophets to the exiles God will get us out of this soon (my paraphrase) was so welcome. Things may not change for a while and when they will return to what we have known as normal life is anybody’s guess. Secondly as God’s people we have to maintain our spiritual routines as far as possible; our equivalent to building homes and settling down. And finally, remember that God’s Spirit is not limited nor his Kingdom restrained by earthly circumstances. That calls for faith on our part and our prayers that through all of this God’s purposes will be advanced. Beyond that it calls to for us to do our part. When we read on down the chapter a bit we come to God’s instruction... “Increase in number there and do not decrease.” It is our calling to witness to Jesus in these circumstances as much as in any other and perhaps more so. When we cannot depend on church based evangelism to share the gospel then we have got to do so individually, each one reach one! Is that not mainly how the gospel was propagated in New Testament days, by one sinner telling another where grace could be found, by one bringing another to the Saviour?