When I started writing for this blog I said I would not attempt to convert anyone to any particular belief. I also said I would not avoid talking about my place as a Christian. And so it is that the coming posts contain numerous Bible scripture references. To get the most out of the coming posts it would be helpful for you to have a Bible available. I used the NIV translation for my writings.
Over the next few weeks my sister will be posting my thoughts concerning the commandments God gave the Israelites for Living In Exile [Jeremiah 29:4-14]. The commandments were very specific about how they were to live while captives. It is my belief that these same commandments apply to prisoners like me, or anyone in their own prison.
Let me explain…
I’ve been contemplating Jeremiah 29:4-14 and how I’m doing here in exile. I keep asking myself how it is I’m to “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” [Jeremiah 29:5] I’ve filled my locker with personal items I’ll need for my time here. I’ve got my cell mate situation stable and I make my bed every morning. Yet I do not feel “settled down.”
As I walked the track recently (summer took one last gasp of near 80 degree weather) things began to dawn on me; revelation is a strong word but I feel again that they Holy Spirit was talking with me.
The first thing to hit me was sparked by seeing two guys in their late teens to early twenties playing Frisbee. They were shirtless and playing in a grassy part of the yard. As they ran, laughing, the setting sun made their skin glow with youth and energy. And for a moment I was transported to the edge of a beach watching people having fun. It lasted only a moment yet in that moment I saw two people who had “settled down.”
“How,” I thought, “can they laugh and run so carefree?” I actually had to stop walking because I heard a voice ask, “Where in Jeremiah 29 does God say to the exiles, through Jeremiah, that they should not or cannot be happy in captivity?”
I had no answer.
So I had to go back to the beginning and ask myself, “Why would God tell the exiled Israelites to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, eat and procreate? Was it only to assure the survival of His people or was it more?” Then the answer came to me in the form of Jeremiah 29:7. God tells the exiles to pray for the prosperity of the city they’ve been sent to. This amounts to praying for the prosperity of their captors!
Of course for their survival, but recall God cared for them in the wilderness by turning the exiles over to the care of others – so by telling them to pray for their captors’ prosperity (peace) He was assuring the best possible environment. He was giving the exiles an implicit command that becomes apparent when combining Jeremiah 29:7 with Jeremiah 29:5: Be content, find happiness, survive emotionally – live life. So I pray for the prosperity (peace) of my correctional institution.
“Okay,” I said to myself, “But what other truths exist in the parallelism between the exiled Israelites and we inmates?”
As I began to walk again I also began to see things like: The exiles lived under foreign law and inmates live under foreign law; the exiles obeyed foreign masters and inmates obey foreign masters; the exiles lived in foreign (unfamiliar, strange, confined) lands and inmates live in foreign (unfamiliar, strange, confined) lands; the exiles created a culture and life within foreign powers, lands, and laws and God has commanded inmates to do the same.
Keep that thought and next week I’ll continue with my breakdown of Jeremiah 29:4-14
Happy New Year, ~ jdoe