God calls His followers to serve the world and remain in it, but not fall into the schemes of the world set in place by the evil one. Otherwise, there would be no one to advance the Gospel. However, this presents a difficult tension of how to serve and be in this world but not belong to this world. This tension is where Christians and the Israelites in Jeremiah’s time find themselves. In Jeremiah 29:4-9, Jeremiah explains how the Israelites should correctly live in this tension in Babylon. In this article, we will get a better understand how we should live in this world but not hold the perspectives and ideals of this world.
Analyzing Jeremiah 29:4-9
This passage is the introduction to a message from God through Jeremiah delivered in a letter to those in exile (Jeremiah 29:1). This introduction focuses on instruction on how to live while in exile, but note how it starts out in verse 4, “I have sent into exile.” God makes it clear that this exile is not something that happened to Israel, but something that happened for Israel. Since He is the God of Israel, He knew that in order for them to turn away from their sinful ways and back to Him, they needed to see the consequence of their sin. Then He goes into how they should conduct themselves while in Babylon. In Jeremiah 5-6, He instructs the exiled Israelites to integrate themselves into Babylon. This shows God is not planning to take them back home quickly and that they should not act as if they are in exile, but instead set up infrastructure and grow in number. In verse 7, God prompts them to seek the best for the people of Babylon, “seek the welfare of the city”. He tells them not to just get by with the people of Babylon, but to serve them and seek the best for this city. They are even commanded to pray for the people on their behalf. This shows the heart of God for how His followers should live in the world. This section on instruction is finished up with a warning, “Do not let your prophets and your diviners…deceive you” (Jeremiah 29:8). They may claim to be speaking with the authority of a god and demanding our allegiance, but we must know that they are speaking a lie. This teaches us how to walk the line in seeking the well-being of those outside the Church but at the same time not fall into their sinful ways.
Analyzing Jeremiah 29 as a Whole
When examining the section of text before this passage, we can learn about who this letter is written to (Jeremiah 29:1-2), when it was sent (Jeremiah 29:2), and how it was delivered (Jeremiah 29:3). This gives us insight into the types of people who were taken to Babylon instead of being killed or left behind—which seem to be people with some special purpose or skill. When examining the text after this passage (Jeremiah 29:10-13), which is the continuation of the letter, we learn about God’s plans for His people and why He sent them into exile. The letter goes back and forth between messages of hope and warnings to not waiver in their faith when false prophets try to lead them astray. All of this explains that God sent them into exile for a reason, and they must learn to remain faithful during exile so they can remain faithful in all things.
The Connection of The Book of Jeremiah & Daniel
The Book of Daniel is written about Daniel, his friends, and the other Israelites who are actually in exile. While Jeremiah is a letter of prophecy and instruction that is sent to the people in exile. So basically the book of Jeremiah is the commands and promises of God and the Book of Daniel shows us what people actually did with those commands and promises.
Since these books were written during the same time frame, we can gain a greater context of how Jeremiah 29:4-9 and the rest of Jeremiah was received. While the Book of Jeremiah focuses on prophecy and some responses to those prophecies, the Book of Daniel shows us examples of people like Daniel who were faithful to God’s commands which were spoken through Jeremiah. Specifically, in Chapter 9 of Daniel we see Daniel’s response to this letter to from Jeremiah to the Exiles, but we see Daniel living this out in verses like Daniel 1:8 and Daniel 6:10-11. In these verses, we see Daniel refusing to bow to the way of Babylon and living out Jeremiah 29:8, but still all throughout the book we see Daniel and his friends supporting Babylon so much so that no one could be found like them (Daniel 1:19). Due to the Lord’s favor of course.
Between these books, we can learn how God wants us to live in this sinful world and live out the Great Commission, but also not letting the world lead us away from God. In my personal life context, I have seen more evangelism opportunities present themselves when I have worked hard to be good at my occupation. Like the kings with Daniel, when people see God’s favor in your life and a work ethic that comes from working for the Lord first, they are going to trust what you have to say more and want to understand why you are different.
By walking this line well, we are a better image of Christ and therefore can better live out His commands. In John 17:14–19, Jesus further explains this tension. He wants His followers to recognize and walk in this tension well by prompting us to walk in truth while also still walking in and serving this world as Jesus did himself. This verse from John is where the popular phrase, “in the world, but not of the world” comes from. However, in this Desiring God Article, they make a great case that it should be “not of, but sent into.” Which I agree it captures the mission Jesus is calling us to better.
In this great video from the Bible Project, they beautifully explain this tension we live in and how to walk in it well. Check it out and then we will keep unpacking this text below.
This passage teaches us through the words of God through Jeremiah how to seek the welfare of the world but not fall into the ways of the world. We see God’s desire for holiness and faithfulness in His people to the point of being willing to send them into exile in order for them to learn to walk with Him in the midst of temptations of the world. Even when we like them, fall into sin, we can know that God has grace for us and will walk with us as we learn to endure those temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13). This is further seen when we examine the parallel book of Daniel, where Daniel gives us an example of how to live in the tension of facing temptation, but remain holy and faithful to God and the people God has placed us under. Jesus also lived in this tension and wants us to live in it as well while still remaining loyal to him. Ultimately, this verse teaches us the importance of recognizing the tension we face as believers and how to be a better representation of Christ by walking in the tension well. This is because people will see how different your life is and wonder what is different about you, and then you get to tell them it is Jesus that changes everything. There is nothing special about us, just who we trust in.