“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)
At first glance this verse from Jeremiah appears to be a very encouraging word from God and is often quoted to those facing trials. However, when you look at it in context you soon realise that what God was asking of the Jewish nation was extremely challenging given the circumstance they found themselves in.
Jeremiah, a prophet of God during this time, wrote to the Jewish captives in Babylon instructing them to move forward with their lives and to pray for the pagan nation that enslaved them. They had been physically beaten, captured and removed from their homes. Their city and temple lay in ruins and they were forced into slavery. It was at this point that God instructed them to build houses, plant gardens, marry and raise families whilst seeking the peace and prosperity of Babylon.
Given the trauma they had experienced at the hands of their captors it is truly unthinkable that God would ask this of them, but God promises that His plans are to prosper them and not to harm them and in seeking the peace of the city, they too will have peace.
Understanding the context of this scripture, gives us both hope in the midst of pain, suffering and hardship and the clear mandate to seek the welfare of the city or nation that God has called us to. The English Wesleyan minister William Lonsdale Watkinson in his sermon titled, ‘The Supreme Conquest’ said, “But denunciatory rhetoric is so much easier and cheaper than good works and proves a popular temptation. Yet it is far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
Our temptation is to point out faults and identify problems (curse the darkness) rather than to actively go about solving them (light candles).
Recently, we were encouraged from this passage of scripture to believe that God is at work in our country. We were challenged to be people who build up rather than those who break down. People who pray often and fervently for our nation, especially for our youth and to lovingly and persistently move towards others as bridge-builders, seeking reconciliation across racial divides.
Jeremiah 29 calls the Jewish exiles to relate to Babylon in an uncommon way. They are to engage in the city, to love the city and to establish deep roots within the city. Similarly God calls us to do the same in our country and more specifically in the city where He has placed us.
What does “Lighting a Candle” look like in your context?