Jeremiah 29:4-6 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.”
Can’t we sympathize with those faithful servants of God dwelling in Babylon? Exiled amid a pagan and god-hating culture? We know something about living among pagans. Using the right pronoun is a high crime in our society. God is imminently concerned for our welfare, so he calls us to not be discouraged but to build, to seek fruitfulness; in the field and in the home.
And this is warfare, for the Babylon in which we live hates fruitfulness. Abortion and the politics of sodomy are opposed to the cultural mandate and the ethics of our King. And the culture now is one of mammon and not husbandry – not sowing and reaping plenty as good stewards taking dominion of the soil, but our modern culture seeks the god of money and lays everything on its altar as sacrifice in pursuit of self-gratification with this idol.
Ladies, it’s hard to imagine how counter-cultural and warlike remaining in the home is. How violent a demonstration against the world a full womb is, the vehement politics of submitting to one man and raising 3, 4, 5+ children, even dare I say, teaching them yourselves, what a “revolution?” Men do you know how subversive it is to marry in the sight of God with vows of fidelity? To commit, for life, to a single woman and provide for her? To rear children? To remain in those children’s’ lives?
To put your hand to the plow of your job, not to seek riches for the god of Mammon and self-gratification but for the welfare of a wife who serves and helps you and children who depend endlessly on you -this is subversive. This is Reformation.
In Jeremiah, the Israelites are not told to withdraw into monasteries, or to cease the cultural mandate but to proclaim their faith in God by fulfilling the cultural mandate in a city in which to do so was vehemently and violently opposed. To commit in love to your spouse, to plant fields, to bear fruit, to have children – was and is kingdom work.
The Lord says of marriage in Malachi 2:15 “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So, guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” The lord also says in Ecclesiastes 9:9 “Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.”
Retirement is not your portion; the boat and cable package are not your portion in this life. Your kids aren’t – they leave and colonize…. Your wife is your portion – your crown of glory. My point here is that in Exile, the call to obey God’s command to bear fruit and multiply while taking dominion of the earth wasn’t dead, this kingdom work went on. And we are a church culture all about kingdom building in this way. Marriage? Check. Complementarianism? Check. Child-rearing? Check. Quivers and mini-vans full to the brim? Check. Submissive helpmates striving to make a bunch of clowns into respectable men? Check.
God seeks our welfare so He says plant, fill the womb – raise families as a banner and buttress of the Kingdom of God. And we all give it a hearty Amen.
The problem is the verses in Jeremiah don’t stop there. There is something else God wants the Israelites to do as kingdom building in Babylon. Jeremiah 29:4-7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
God isn’t concerned with the welfare of his children and their families only. This is what Jesus preached and they killed Him for it. There are transgendered god-hating sodomites who wallow in abortion and statism whose wellbeing is your responsibility. There are homeless drug addicts wanted by the police and they need you. We are called to seek the welfare of the city. Who has energy for that? We got diapers. We got meals to make. We got overtime. We got baseball practice and flute lessons and a garage to clean. We got a kid 3 months behind on his arbitrary self-imposed English lit requirement.
You might be thinking, “don’t talk to me about the salvation of nations – that’s why God built hell – so we don’t have to worry about them – God’s got it covered.My whole families’ clothes just go from dirty basket to washer to clean basket to backside to dirty basket. The welfare of the city? What about the welfare of my family? Do you know how much cable cost? How much I spend at Costco a week? Welfare of the city?”
We take kingdom building seriously…. when we talk about it in the context of the family. Making babies and making money. It’s what Protestants have been about since Luther.
But here, again, we either neglect our calling or ignore our calling and feel justified in doing so because marriage and family is a huge, weighty, taxing responsibility. But God doesn’t say if you have some time left over. If you can afford it. When it’s convenient. When is the welfare of the city ever convenient? We turn inward, building walls around our families – our responsibility, our leisure, around our children’s dream to be and do EVERYTHING and we call it the kingdom of God. But it’s just a ghetto. And inside we turn up the Christian music to drown out the sound of sorrow seeping in through our shabby masonry. And I am not knocking genuine protection. Defending your family from the smut of the world, and the influences of pop-culture and ungodly values is necessary. Christian marriage. Christian childrearing. Christian headship. Christian education. We turn them all into a ghetto: they are all necessary, but we use them as an excuse to obey only a portion of God’s calling in our lives and thereby build a ghetto whose walls are high and hard to climb. But you are called to bear fruit in more than just your field and marriage bed. You are called to bear fruit outside the walls of your home.
As Dean said a few weeks ago. We focus so much on making money and giving little Johnny the best that our lives become about making money and giving little Johnny the best. So often, our mission isn’t Jesus but our own families.
I don’t know about you but I have found myself exacerbated with my children’s selfishness and must repeatedly tell them their lives aren’t about them. They aren’t the only people in the world. But when I have I ever taught them anything different? The family is a well-insulated ghetto. Community life? Friends? Service and outreach? How, when we literarily can’t get out of the house? We refuse to or we ignore the need to. My welfare and the welfare of my family. This is largely how our lives are structured. Ours is a systemic problem. It’s a bigger picture problem that needs a big picture adjustment.
Your little kingdom is one home, in one neighborhood, inone church, in one great big city – in which you were planted to bear fruit. You were planted to bear fruit in Seattle, a land that is 80% pagan and unbelieving. Whether you like living in this area or not. You do. And the field is ripe for harvest. Surely in this context Dutch evangelism wasn’t the only kind of evangelism you were meant to pursue.
In Jesus’ name, provided for in every way by the Father, according to the will of God – you are called and equipped to bear fruit and love others. Across the table and across the street.