In the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament, Chapter 29, an account is given of the Lord’s plan to turn His people, the Israelites, over to the Babylonians for 70 years of captivity before rescuing them and bringing them back home to Jerusalem. It is from this passage that we get the oft-quoted verse: “‘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’” (verse 11).
Meanwhile, there are instructions as to how they are to live while in exile, and most of it comes as rather a surprise to me: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (verses 5-8).
It sounds to me as if He is telling them to make a home for themselves, while in exile. This is not their permanent home, and yet the Lord wants them to carry on as if it were. Seventy years is a long time. Many of them will not live to see God’s plan fulfilled. Don’t postpone life in the meantime. Live it the same way you would live it were you at home in Jerusalem.
I believe there are obvious lessons for us here for how we are to live in a world to which we don’t belong. Christians know that their permanent home is in heaven. God is preparing a place for us, and He promises to take us to it. Meanwhile we are in exile on this earth (for 70 years), and yet the Lord wants us to make a home here – a place we will settle, carry on our business and watch our families grow. While we are “almost home,” we make this our home away from home.
I love talking about and living for our permanent home in heaven. I like knowing that this is not it. “This world is not my home, I’m just a-passin’ through/My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue/The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door/And I can’t be at home in this world any more.”
Truth be told, I don’t like being almost home, I want to be home. I have made convenient spiritual alliances with my heavenly home that in my mind excuse me from the responsibilities attached to my temporary Babylonian home. I like spiritualizing this, but in fact, that form of spirituality is a copout.
We spent the better part of a year fighting to save our “almost home.” That fight was all Marti and many of you who jumped in to help, but not as much from me. That’s because this home spells responsibility. This home represents sacrifice, duty, and facing into lots of things that have become barriers to me.
It’s interesting that the Lord told the children of Israel to build houses, not just set up tents. I would have thought tents would have been the way to go. After all, it’s only 70 years; and yet 70 years is a lifetime, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that their time in captivity coincides with what the Bible allots as the average amount of time a person is allowed on this earth.
All this means I have some work to do before my 70 years is up, and I need some help. I need to get my heart into this. You guys get it. You stepped up when our home away from home was in jeopardy.
Forgive me while I try to work this out in front of you, but pray for me, and if God gives you something to pass onto me by way of encouragement, send it along.