Read: Jeremiah 29:1-23
Consider: Jeremiah’s prophecy against the people of Jerusalem wasn’t all gloom and doom. In chapter 29 the people who would be taken into exile to Babylon were told to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children. It would have been very easy for them to see their exile as purely temporary, so why bother? Jeremiah prophesies in verse 10 that the people would remain in Babylon for seventy years, before God would call them back to Jerusalem.
Many people are very familiar with what is said in Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
But the prophesy doesn’t end there. Jeremiah goes on to remind the people that while God has great plans in store for them, it would be seventy years before they would be ready to call on God, pray to him and seek him with all their hearts.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:12-13).
Not many of us would consider ourselves to be in exile, though many will be living in cities far away from their place of birth. God doesn’t want us to spend long hours yearning for the past, but to invest time and energy in the present. Are we to pray for material prosperity? I think the application for us today is to pray for spiritual prosperity. Many of our cities are in spiritual poverty. We can either accept what we see around us, or we can pray for the spiritual prosperity of our cities, knowing that ‘… if it prospers, you too will prosper’.
Just one small example. On one road in Edinburgh over the next few months a church building will come back into church use. The building ceased to be used as a church after two congregations merged and it closed its doors in 1990. Exciting times! A new congregation is born and a building returns to its original use. What a witness in a country that thinks Christianity is dying.
Pray: Father, give us a fresh insight into the spiritual poverty of our cities. Help us to pray that they will become spiritually prosperous and we also pray that people will return to you and seek you with all their hearts. Amen