October 4

Escape isn’t Always God’s Plan

Jeremiah 29:4-7 Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters….And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.

The children of Israel were about to fall under the harshest judgment God had given His people: they were to be exiled to Babylon, far from Jerusalem, far from the Temple, and far from their homeland. They would be ruled by the despised heathen, and would have to be in contact with the Gentiles, something most of them considered anathema.

Before that event, however, the prophet Jeremiah had a word for them. Contrary to the thinking of most of God’s people, God was the One behind their having to go to Babylon for 70 years. Some found it virtually unthinkable that God would allow, much less ordain, that they were to live among the unbelievers, under complete foreign rule.

Cutting against the grain of expectation, Jeremiah told God’s people that they were to submit to God’s hand. They were not to fight the exportation, but to cooperate with their captors. They were to build houses and make a living and a life in Babylon. If that wasn’t hard enough to receive, God instructed them to “seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.”

The thought of being there was hard enough; to settle down was difficult to do; praying and seeking the peace of the place had to be nearly inconceivable. But that was God’s word to them, for their blessing and prosperity.

Without Jeremiah’s prophetic word, it would have been easy to think of escape—and escape as early as possible—as the only intelligent or godly response to the situation. This was only humanly natural, and was the pattern for anyone captured earlier in Judah’s history. But God wanted them to stay in their situation, build their lives and pray for their city—yes, even a city ruled by and filled with the ungodly.

There are times when we are called to move out of an ungodly or unhealthy situation. But there are other times when we are called to stay in a situation that has proven unavoidable, and is uncomfortable. Perhaps instead of putting all our thoughts and prayers toward escape (“Lord, get me out of here!”), we need to ask God if His plan is for us to pray for the peace of our town/street/place of work. In Christ, we have more spiritual authority than we generally are aware of. Perhaps God’s plan is that we use the power of our prayers to bring God’s power to bear upon our circumstances.

Freedom was indeed part of God’s plan for His captive people. But 70 years of exile was ordained first. So in the meantime, they were to be praying and seeking the peace of the city they lived in.

Prayer: Father, help me to know when I should escape a situation or when I need to exert Your authority in prayer instead. Use me in whatever place I find myself to bring in Your Kingdom.

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