587 BC is the point of no return, when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem. Eleven years before that, in 598 BC, Nebuchadnezzar was trying to repopulate lands that he had destroyed, so he showed up in Jerusalem and began to take the young, bold, and beautiful to rebuild cities and be assets to Babylon. He left Zedekiah as a kind of puppet king in Jerusalem.
- During the decade in between, the people of God were wondering,
What’s going to happen to us?
Where is God in the midst of this?
Jeremiah 29 is the letter that comes to the people during this uncertain decade, and the word from the Lord is this:
“Build houses,” “settle down,” plant gardens, cultivate vineyards, “get married,” “have children,” and, most importantly, “promote the welfare”—the good, the shalom—of Babylon (vv. 5-7, CEB).
• Babylonian story of creation vs. Hebrew story of creation;
Jeremiah 29 calls us back to Genesis 1.
• “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen. 1:28, KJV)
• “Fill the earth” (v. 28, CEB).
• “Have dominion” (v. 28, KJV).
The command from Genesis to “fill the earth” (CEB) is the essence of what the prophet Jeremiah is telling the people in exile.
The Greek word oikonomia, or “household,” is the root of the word “economy”!
The idea is that our lives are intertwined and connected
and that things to which God has called us
make us part of a great household of people who care for one another,
minister to each other through our work.
• There is no divide between the sacred (home/life) and secular (work) spheres.
• Our response: As the people of God - “Lay Ministers” in our congregation and our communities!
(real-estate agent=minister of homes; coffee-shop barista=minister of lattes).
The letter from Jeremiah tells the people in exile to work in roles that bring beauty to this community!
- Do work in ways that are honest and fair!
- Seek the good of those in the household where God has placed them!
- Be God’s image, his reflection, as they do this!