From the Rev Bobby Liddle.
The nation of Israel had completely turned away from God and was consequently defeated by the Babylonian empire. Many were killed and many others taken into exile in Babylon. It was a time of incredible hardship and confusion. But the prophet Jeremiah was instructed by God to write to the exiles. This is part of what God told him to write –
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 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.’ Jeremiah 29:4-7.
They were to expect a long stay!
One message we take from this today is for us to pray for the welfare of the city or community in which God has placed us. We are part of it and in its welfare we will find our welfare. This was part of our prayer as churches through the weeks of ReLENTless.
This places on us a sense of joint responsibility for the community in which we live, even if that community is either foreign or hostile to us. With a growing sense of disillusionment in the Stormont Executive and falling voting numbers the temptation can be to step away from the process and do a Pilate by washing our hands of it. Let me suggest that Christian people have no right to do this. We are called to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you… and pray to the Lord on its behalf.” Prayer is not a static thing, it motivates and calls us to action, to play our part and do what we can. Along with prayer the exiles were to plant gardens, build families and multiply.
Given the hard won freedom of democracy we have in the UK we have the right and, I believe, the duty to seek the welfare of our community by participation in the process of government. As we approach Assembly elections and the referendum on membership of the EU, we would do well to acquaint ourselves with the key issues; pray about them; pray for those standing for election; pray for wisdom on how to vote e.g. How will we vote? Why will we vote for a particular candidate? Why will we vote to ‘stay’ or to ‘leave’? Politics are not divorced from God’s Word. God’s second greatest commandment is to love our neighbour. Have you ever thought, ‘ How will my vote benefit or harm the poor, the marginalised, the ‘other’ community ‘?
Our welfare is tied up with the welfare of the wider community so we need to pay for its welfare and be actively involved in seeking its welfare.
Yours in His name,