We are baptized into Christ: we are justified and are being renewed, gradually conforming to Christ’s image. Through his enduring word and sacraments, the age to come breaks into this present age that is fading away. “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), which frees us to take our temporary citizenship seriously, but not too seriously.
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.
Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord (Jeremiah 29:4-9).
Exiled from the land, the Israelites were exhorted by the Lord to use their days wisely. God gave the prophet Jeremiah a letter to read to them (Jer. 29): Babylon was not their home, but they were not to spend these years lamenting for the “good ole days,” as they had been.
According to Jeremiah’s letter, there never were any—Israel had adopted an idolatrous and sexually immoral way of life, oppressing the poor and the exile, and cheerfully embracing the false doctrines of the “lying prophets” who pretended to have revelations of prosperity over against Jeremiah’s calls to repentance. The “good ole days” turned out to be nothing but the calm before the storm of God’s judgment as they were carted off to Babylon in chains.
Yet the Lord was still with them, promising a new day when he would turn their sorrow to joy. He exhorted them to: (1) go about their daily lives, planting vineyards and sharing the common ups and downs with their pagan neighbors; (2) grow in numbers, both through covenant families and by witnessing to their neighbors through their hope in Yahweh’s promise; (3) ignore the false prophets; and (4) pray for the city and its rulers (v. 10).