In my last post I talked about how the exiles in Babylon were likely hearing two divergent invitations as to how to live in the city they were held captive in. Should they succumb to the pagan culture and become like the Babylonians to survive or separate themselves from Babylonian ways and trust Yahweh to deliver them like some prophets were saying (false ones according to Jeremiah)? The prophet Jeremiah offers a third way in chapter 29: Be faithful to Yahweh by seeking the welfare and prosperity of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:7).
Jeremiah instructs the exiles in verses 5 & 6 to build houses, settle down, invest in the economy and grow families. He then tells them in verse 7 to pray for Babylon and that their prosperity is directly tied to Babylon’s prosperity. If Babylon prospers, they will prosper as well.
This is all very important to understand before we decide to memorize and apply verse 11 to our own lives in the specific contexts in which we live:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
Verse 11 must be read within the context of verse 7. The prosperity promised to God’s people in verse 11 is all part of God’s plan to use a 70 year captivity in order to bring prosperity, hope and a future about. Yahweh has already said that any prosperity that will come to them will be directly tied to them seeking the prosperity of the city (not of themselves).
So this is where the 7-11 Principle comes in: “You don’t get 11 without first doing 7.”
You don’t get God’s plan to prosper you outside of you being committed to seeking the prosperity of the city, your neighborhood and community. God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a verse intended for personal improvement or self-actualization. God’s promise is to a faith community committed to seeking the prosperity of their city as their primary mission.
The problem is that most of us Americans are better at plundering our cities (to borrow a Tim Keller term) as consumers rather than prospering them as kingdom-minded Christians. I’ll talk about that in my next post.