Last night in our small group discussion we read through 1 Timothy 2:1-7 and talked about seeking peace and about praying for “kings and all those in authority”. Our discussion was framed within the context of the sermon from this past Sunday which was titled, “Blessed to Be a Blessing – Three Requirements for Sharing God’s Blessing With Others”. While listening to others in the group share their thoughts and perspectives I was reminded of the following passage from Jeremiah:
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 their 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 29:4–7
The first thing I notice in the verses above is that it is God who is speaking and it is the exiles (the Israelites who have been led in captivity to Babylon) to whom He is speaking. Not only that, God makes it clear that it wasn’t Nebuchadnezzar or the Babylonians that took them into captivity but rather that it was He (the LORD) who sent them into exile. So once again, we are reminded of God’s sovereignty and how He uses circumstances that we might perceive to be less than ideal (to put it mildly) to fulfill His purposes and to bring Him glory.
The next thing I notice is that He doesn’t tell them to wallow in sorrow or to plan their escape. There were false prophets at that time trying to convince the people that their captivity would be short lived. God, through Jeremiah, was telling them the reality of the situation which is basically that they should get comfortable. Build houses, plant gardens and establish relationships He says. In other words, be faithful in the midst of your present circumstances. Sure they wanted to go home. Sure they were grieved to be stuck in a pagan culture that did not allow them to worship the way they desired. Sure they had learned their lesson and were ready to go home and start over again. But God wanted them to be faithful to Him right where they were. Independent of their circumstances. Independent of their location.
And the last thing I see is that they are encouraged to pray for the welfare of Babylon because in it’s welfare the exiles will also find their welfare. The word “welfare” is translated as “peace” (shalom) in other versions of the Bible. How difficult of a command this must have been. They were supposed to pray for the peace and prosperity of those who have destroyed everything they held dear and who carried them away from their homeland? It doesn’t make sense. And yet, that is what they were commanded to do.
I often wonder what would happen if the people who are always quick with a complaint or a criticism of our present day “kings and all those in authority” spent that time and energy praying for them instead. I just wonder what would happen? Would God hear that cry and heal the land? What if the time that was spent putting together rallies, demonstrations and boycotts was instead spent fasting, praying, and humbling ourselves before an almighty God?
My encouragement for the day is to be more faithful in praying for our earthly leaders and authorities and seeking the welfare of our land.