As Christians, this world is not our home. We are sojourners and exiles in this world (see 1 Pt. 2:11). We are citizens of heaven (see Phil. 3:20). Like Abraham, we look “… forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10 ESV). How, then, should we live as exiles?
The prophet Jeremiah addresses this question. God’s people find themselves in Babylonian exile because of their sin. They are under God’s righteous judgment. Even still, God gives them tremendous hope.
Most of us are familiar with Jeremiah 29:11, which says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope’” (ESV).
The beauty of this promise comes with the despair of where God’s people find themselves. It’s easy for us to bypass the context of Jeremiah 29:11. But until we understand the gravity of their situation, we struggle to see just how great God’s promise is.
We, too, live as exiles in a foreign land. We know there is more to life than the mess of our current situation. In a world full of sin and death, we know there is hope. That’s why we love Jeremiah 29:11 so much. Just as God promises a future hope for the exiles in Jeremiah’s day, we also have a future hope as followers of Christ.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (ESV).
As exiles in this foreign land, we await the return of Christ “… who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Phil. 3:21 ESV).
In Jeremiah, we know God promises to restore His people in seventy years (vv. 10, 14). But He doesn’t tell them to sit back and do nothing as they wait.
For most of us, seventy years is a lifetime. And as we experience the pains and struggles of this foreign land, we long for the land to come—the new Jerusalem.
John writes, “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:2-4 ESV).
As God’s people, we really do have a future and a hope. And it’s found in the gospel.
But how do we live in the meantime? Jeremiah 29:4-7 gives us an idea of what faithful living looks like in a foreign land.
Jeremiah’s letter reads, “‘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’” (ESV).
God calls those in exile to build houses, plant gardens, raise families, and improve the city in which they find themselves. And as we wait for the new Jerusalem, shouldn’t we do the same?
It’s easy for us to throw in the towel. We see how sinful our world is. We see sickness, pain, and death. We cringe at evil. And we long to be at home with the Lord. We even cry out, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (see Rev. 22:20).
But as we wait, we live. Here and now. In this messy world. For the glory of God. And we build houses, raise families, grow potatoes, and seek to improve the culture in which we live. Why? Because God has a plan for where we find ourselves. That we would love Him and make disciples wherever He calls us to be (see Mt. 28:19-20).
So, Christian, take heart. This world is not your home. But God does have a purpose for where you are. Consider how you might live where you find yourself for His glory, clinging to the hope of the gospel. And longing for the day of Christ’s return. Before long, you’ll be in the new Jerusalem!