Continuing on with a look at Jeremiah 29:5 from last week, Living In Exile – part 1 …
“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.” What? I can’t do that literally. So what do these commands mean? To understand these I had to think back on scripture I had read in relation to prisoners – inmates – exiles. Because the answer to this question is paramount to understanding Jeremiah 29:5 and 29:7’s link to inmates.
Why are prisoners special to God?
In Psalm 107 we see God’s blessing of rescue for those who were rebellious but turned back to Him; focus here on verses 10 through 16 and again a choice is given: turn to Him and be rescued or live in darkness. In Psalm 68:6b,c we see that God gives prisoners a choice: be lead out with singing or live in a sun-scorched land. In Psalm 146:7 we see God upholds the cause of the oppressed and sets prisoners free but only if they chose (choice again) to be bowed down. In Psalm 79:11 God is asked to heal the moans of prisoners. Finally, in Isaiah 42:5a and Isaiah 42:7 we have, “This is what God the Lord says…open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness,” – again a choice: open your eyes and be freed or remain blind in captivity.
So why are prisoners special to God?
Two reasons: 1) They suffer and 2) They, like no other, have a choice. Only those whose physical, mental, and emotional freedom is controlled by others can find the meaning of true and total freedom in God and His word! Who among those walking freely in the world can feel or know what freedom is until first suffering in exile? Who besides the prisoner can truly know the power of faith and God? These are the reasons God’s greatest were pulled from among the worst of people – because in some form they were prisoners and suffering even if not evident to themselves. They all were given a choice: Remain blind or open their eyes and walk out of darkness to be set free both spiritually and physically – what better army can there be to spread God’s word? Wasn’t the greatest contributor to the New Testament, Paul, a prisoner? Yes!
And isn’t it now obvious why God also calls out widows and orphans and the poor and the disabled? All are suffering in their own prisons and we have the ability and responsibility to open their eyes, bring them into the light and free them!
So when we combine our understanding of God’s love of prisoners with His command to live life while in exile, and it’s okay to find happiness there, we can see He is waiting for us to prosper (find peace) in captivity.
But how? Next week I delve more specifically into Jeremiah 29:5, “Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit.”