Across the Pastor’s Desk: Living in the land of our God

Published 8:00 pm Friday, December 2, 2022

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Across the Pastor’s Desk by Ryan Quigley

Back between 598 to 538 BCE The people of Israel were taken into captivity by the nation of Babylon. It wasn’t a pretty thing by any stretch of the imagination, especially when we consider the Holocaust and other events in modern history. According to the Bible, the reason for this Babylonian captivity was to serve as God’s hand on them for their sins as a people. 

For 70 years before their release, the people of Israel were to live in the foreign land with its foreign culture. However, according to the Bible, they were not to just sit idly by and exist in the land either.  Rather, they were to conduct their lives in such a way as to impact where they were and the people around them. In the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah had this word for them:

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 “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.For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,[a] for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the Lord.

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.” ­— Jeremiah 27:5-10

The people of Israel had many others saying that they will only be in the land a short time.  Many said that they would all be returning to their homeland soon. Yet, God had to speak to them and remind them that he has a bigger plan.  He had to remind them that his timetable wasn’t theirs.

As we live out our lives here on this earth there are going to be moments, seasons of time, where it seems like we are in our “homeland.” Things are going your way, the sun is shining on you, you are favored and highly blessed. But there will also be moments when it may seem to us that we are not in our “homeland,” that rather, we are in a foreign land. The world looks like it is against you, raining on your parade every day, enemies on all sides. Both seasons come on all of us, the good and the bad.  

Regardless of whatever season we find ourselves in, we have an opportunity to seek the welfare, or as some other Bible versions say, the good, of our land.  We can live and raise our families in this land, we can work in this land. Above all, we can seek the good for our land. Not everyone is going to agree with how we seek the good of the land. But that is a beautiful thing. It’s OK to disagree. The common ground that we all share is that we want the welfare of our community.

As followers of Jesus Christ, how do we do that? How do we seek the goodness of our community? First, we witness. We share the good news about Jesus and how he saves lives! Seeking the goodness of the city should always start with the ultimate absolute goodness, the good news, which is what the word gospel means. And what is the gospel? It is Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who came and lived a sinless life on this earth in human flesh, who paid the cost for our lives by dying on a cross that we may have eternal life with him in heaven. That’s good news. Second, we seek the goodness of our city in prayer. We pray for our community, its leaders, its institutions, its programs and all the departments. Therefore, pray for the mayor, city council, schools, emergency responders, etc.

I would like to conclude on the last verse from the earlier text. God speaks through the prophet. He says “…I will visit you… I will fulfill my promise… I will bring you back…”  Here is why this is so important. God never leaves his people. God always fulfills his word. The people of Israel needed that reminder. It was not going to be easy living in a foreign land. Just as its not easy for us when it seems like we are living in a season when all is going wrong. The people then, just like many now, need the reminder that God has not forgotten them, nor has he forgotten you.

God bless you all.

Ryan Quigley is senior pastor at Albert Lea Assembly of God.