Time to look at the meaning behind Jeremiah 29:5, “Build Houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit;” for prisoners.
There are many references to houses in the Bible. It’s evident that both the structure and concept are of vital importance to God. Let’s look at a few verses that best illustrate the idea of a house with Jeremiah 29:5.
In Numbers 12:7-8 we’re told God speaks face-to-face with Moses because Moses is “Faithful in all My house.” That must mean beyond the Tent of meeting, right? So what then is “all My house”? It means in all ways and all things. [But recall, Moses didn’t start out that way – he made a choice – he opened his eyes and came out of darkness.] Here we understand that when “Faithful in all” God’s “house,” He will meet us face-to-face. God’s “house” therefore is more than a structure.
In Joshua 24:15, Joshua says we must make a choice and in Joshua’s household they will serve the Lord. Again – a choice and a concept of a house that reaches beyond the physical structure. Joshua is saying that wherever he or his family may be, they will serve the Lord. Joshua’s house reaches as far as his family, not the walls inside of which he resides.
Solomon says in Psalm 127:1 that, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” This seems to contradict Jeremiah 29:5, however it does not. It says that we have a choice: To build with God or without. Jeremiah 29:5 clearly says to build with God! And as we learned previously, God, through Solomon, is again telling us His house surpasses any physical structure.
There are more by my point is made – for we inmates, God is asking us to build houses beyond physical structures. Our houses may be things like continuing to be a husband, father, son, brother, or friend. Joining in a church sincerely or perhaps loving the unlovable. Suddenly, we’re building houses of faith within God’s house and for God’s command to be, “Faithful in all My house.” Imagine the power of every inmate – as well as every person walking the street – building a house of faith instead of brick. No wonder Jesus’ church was built upon a single rock – no physical building could ever encompass God’s earthly house.
Now we’re left with understanding that it means to plant crops and eat the reap. Crops begin with seeds, right? Let’s look at scripture around “seeds.”
In Matthew 13:2-8 Jesus tells the parable of seeds scattered by a farmer. We know he was not being literal; it’s a parable after all. So what then? Obviously it’s seeds of faith. So in telling the exiles, and by extension we inmates to plant seeds, He’s telling everyone we can. Also, as in Matthew 13:8 we will be, and by extension He will be, blessed with a crop, “A hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” How wonderful to be a farmer of faith. This is then confirmed in Matthew 13:23, “He who hears the word and understands it (sic) is the one who produces a crop…” Looking further, Matthew 13:43 explains who we become if we successfully plant the seeds: the righteous! We can also look at Matthew 13:31-32 and see God ask that we plant a seed as tiny as a mustard seed and gain a tree for birds – other inmates – to perch in. So it’s vitally important for inmates, as it was with the exiles, to understand what God meant in Jeremiah 29:5.
Finally, the strongest scripture, 1 Peter 1:23-25; Here we are told that we are born of “imperishable seed… through the living and enduring word of God. For all the people are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Sounds dismal in a way. The exiles, and by extension we inmates, wither and die but through them- and we inmates – God’s word lives – by the seeds we sow and the ongoing crop produced.