“I know the plans I have for you…”
Jeremiah wrote to the exiles in Babylon with instructions and prophecy. His instructions are that the people should not to sit and cross their arms in anger at the Babylonians’ destruction of their capitol city, though they would seem justified in this reaction. He tells them to carry on with life, to seek the peace and prosperity of the city they have been carried off to, to not listen to false prophets among them (Jeremiah 28), and to recognize that God has a purpose for them there in exile. The Israelites were exiled because of their idolatry and immorality, with the purpose of bringing them to the point of acknowledging their sin and turning back to God for restoration.
We, too, are exiles in the sense that our God is not the god of the land, but we are called to prosper where God has put us. What do we do with this thought? In a book by James Davison Hunter, he suggests that God does not call the church to change the world or win the culture war, but to be a faithful presence in the culture. As God has been faithfully present with his people by pursuing us, identifying with us, and offering us life through the person and sacrificial love of Jesus Christ, we as God’s followers are to be that kind of presence in the world, reflecting our Creator and Redeemer. This happens as we give instruction to the work of God in all areas of our lives, inside and outside of the church. We can be humble and have hope as we strive to make the world a better place in the places God has called us, recognizing that God is sovereign and we don’t know his plans or purposes. The things we can do are just a foretaste of God’s kingdom. This is a refreshing thought in it’s lack of triumphalism—we don’t know what God is doing, but we trust that he has a purpose for his people and that he’s using us for those purposes.