Most people have favorite things: foods, colors, songs, books, authors, movies, coffee shops, etc. Having a “favorite” anything means you have experienced similar other things and have decided a certain one means more to you than all the rest. I am no different. I have favorite songs, authors, books, coffee shops, movies, and foods. It would be difficult for me to say I have a favorite Bible verse. I do however have what I would refer to as a life verse. It is a verse that speaks to where I am on my spiritual journey. It is a verse that provides a sense of motivation, clarity, and purpose. It sets the course for my days. The prophet Jeremiah wrote,
“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the LORD for it; for in its peace you will have peace.” (Jeremiah 29:7)
The context for this verse is a letter written by Jeremiah to the Israelites who had been taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar and relocated to Babylon. Jeremiah encourages them to make Babylon their home, go about their daily activities, and seek to be a blessing to their captives. A difficult charge indeed. It would be difficult to consider being a blessing to those who robbed you of your home. It would be difficult to consider being a blessing to those whom you have been enslaved. It would be difficult to consider being a blessing to the people who removed you from your familiar place of worship and introduced you to foreign gods.
I can relate to this verse. It says something about the way I approach life. I do not equate pastoring a church to being carried away as a captive to a foreign land. Quite the opposite. Serving the Lord through the gospel ministry brings great fulfillment, joy, pleasure to my life. I would not want to be doing anything else with my life. However, I can relate to how the exiled Israelites must have felt. I understand what it is like to move away from the familiar and comfortable. I understand what it is like to leave family and friends. I understand what it is like to have assurance of how long I may remain in a certain place. I understand what it is like to become familiar with new routines, schedules, and people.
Jeremiah told Israel the surest way for their city to prosper would be for them to pray for its peace and welfare. God Himself placed Israel in Babylon for a season and with a purpose. It may not have always been peaceful for them as captives. The assurance of God’s placement would enable them to find and live in peace. For a city to experience God’s blessings, the people of God occupying the city must, through prayer, seek its welfare and peace (literally its wellness and wholeness).
I believe with all my heart that God has placed me where He has for a reason and a season. I believe He has done the same in the past. It is my duty, privilege, and responsibility to pray for the peace of the city where I have been placed and to the best of my ability be a blessing to that city. I have committed my life to this end. This verse is more than just an obscure Old Testament verse. It fuels me to faithfully serve the cities and people God has allowed me to be carried away captive for Him.