Bringers of Peace (6)
“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.” Jeremiah 29.7
The kindness of God
Even while they endured the hardships of exile in Babylon, the people of Israel needed to remember that God intended them to be a blessing to the world. They must never lose sight of those promises; they must draw near to God each day, to be revived and renewed in Him; and they must build for the future, to grow their communities in the grace and bounty of the Lord.
God’s message to the exiles in Babylon is His message to us as well.
People may rage against God, turn away from His Law, cast doubts on His existence, and pursue lives deliberately calculated to give offense to His holiness. Yet the love of God perseveres, even for such as these. His Spirit strives to keep rebellious unbelievers from destroying themselves with their sin; only reluctantly does God give people up to the consequences of their folly, and even then, He stands ready to welcome every repentant sinner.
The kindness of God, Paul reminds us, leads people to repentance (Rom. 2.4), and a primary way that kindness comes to an age in flight from God is through the faithful stewardship and diligent love of His obedient people.
God’s love for Babylon
Jeremiah counseled the exiles in Babylon to seek the peace of the nation to which God had sent them. The word is shalom– a kind of omnibus term of blessing, that means something like health, peace, prosperity, wellbeing, and salvation, all rolled into one. Defeated, humiliated, subjugated, and captive, still, Israel was to seek the peace and welfare of the people and cities of Babylon.
The Babylonians had shown nothing but scorn and violence toward Israel and her God; nevertheless, God had business to do with those people, and He intended that at least someof them should know His blessings.
Ironically enough, King Nebuchadnezzar himself became a worshipper of the one true God because of the faithful, frank, and loving ministry of Daniel (Dan. 4). As Daniel sought the welfare of the king and his court, through faithful living and bold witness, so all the people of God were expected to do with their neighbors in every quarter of the empire.
Joy and beauty of the earth?
And so we must do today. In many churches today, we rejoice and are quite happy when someone finds his way to our fellowship and begins to know the blessings of salvation and new life in Christ. But waiting for people to find their way in to our fellowship is a far cry from seeking the peace of our neighbors as part of our being-in-the-world as a community. In Psalm 48 the Church is pictured as the joy and beauty of the whole earth. In how many communities today are churches regarded in this way? Not many, I suspect.
The Church does not exist for itself. It exists for God, for the Lord Jesus Christ, and for the purposes of the divine economy. God’s intention through the Church is that the rule of King Jesus – a Kingdom where liberty from sin and guilt leads to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – thatrule might increase and affect the lives of hurting and needy people everywhere. It is the Church’s task, and the calling of every particular church, to love their neighbors and, like Jesus in that upper room, humble themselves to reach out as witnesses for Christ by word and deed.
Believers have been redeemed unto good works (Eph. 2.10); we are not our own, we have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood and righteousness. The Church, as the Body of Christ, and each believer in his Personal Mission Field, should reflect in our earthly sojourn the same kind of care, giving, outreach, compassion, service, and witness that Jesus demonstrated while He was on earth.
The Church is now Jesus to the world, and we will not be able to fulfill that high and holy calling apart from a prayerful and consistent effort at bringing the salvation and blessings of God to the people in our communities.
1. In what ways does your church seek to bring the beauty and joy of the Lord to its community?
2. Would you describe your church as reaching out to your community or waiting for the community to find its way to church? Explain.
3. Do you agree that Jeremiah’s instruction to the exiles in Babylon is relevant for Christians today? Explain.
Next steps – Demonstration: Try to find some way each day that you can show the beauty and joy of Jesus, and bring His peace, to people in your Personal Mission Field.
T. M. Moore
This week’s study, Bringers of Peace, is available in a free PDF download, suitable for individual or group use. Simply click here.
Our booklet, Joy to Your World!, can help you get into a more consistent groove as a joy-bringer to the people around you. It will help you identify, map, and begin working your Personal Mission with greater fruitfulness. Order your copy by clicking here. Order two copies, and work through it with a friend. For more insights to God’s purpose in sending His people into captivity in Babylon, see our Scriptorium study on the book of Isaiah (click here for all 23 installments in the series).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.