the Church on the Hill
by D. Eric Williams
Pastor, Cottonwood Community Church
Early in the reign of Zedekiah the prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter of encouragement to his exiled countrymen which said in part, This is what the LORD of the Heavenly Armies, the God of Israel, says to all the exiles who were taken from Jerusalem into exile to Babylon, 'Build houses and live in them. Plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and father sons and daughters. Take wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so they may have sons and daughters. Increase in numbers there, don't decrease. Seek the welfare of the city to which I've exiled you and pray to the LORD for it, for your welfare depends on its welfare" (Jeremiah 29:4-7). In a nut shell, Jeremiah was writing to a captive people, telling them to take dominion and to support their oppressors.
According to the covenant, persistent disobedience results in exile (Deuteronomy 28:36). Thus, deportation was not evidence of Israel's abandonment but of God's continued interest in their welfare. Like all punishment promised in the covenant, exile was designed winnow the covenant people and turn remnant Israel back to Yahweh. Some apostatized under the lash of chastisement and they were divested from the heritage of Israel but as we know from Scripture many Jews taken into captivity were pious servants of the most high God. For them, exile brought refinement not rejection.
It is interesting to note that the deportees represented the influence and expertise of the Jewish nation. It was the policy of Nebuchadnezzar to carry off the leaders and the entrepreneurial class of a nation in order to short-circuit dreams of revolution. The “nobodies” left behind did not have the charisma, experience or training necessary to stir the popular patriotic fervor required to throw off a foreign yoke. In reality, the influence and expertise of Judah had come under the sway of Babylon.
Christians in the USA are not in literal exile but, much like the Jews of Jeremiah's day, we are a nation within a nation. The kingdom of God is not of this world but it is in the world and is intended to be realized in this realm. Thus our allegiance is first to Jesus Christ and our primary citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. As things stand, an American Christian who is truly serious about his faith will eventually find himself in opposition to the culture and politics of the day.
So yes, we are a people in exile; we are a people oppressed. And like the Judeans held captive in Babylon we find that the prevailing power seeks to steel away our citizens of influence and expertise. Unfortunately Christians are often accomplices in this endeavor. Too many Christians send their children to the public schools, receive public aid, turn a blind eye to cultural rot and kneel before the god of "fitting in." In this way the oppressing power snatches away our people of influence and expertise. It is a successful tactic. People in exile, indoctrinated in the ideology of their oppressors, will never rise up in opposition.
Nonetheless, Jeremiah 29:1-9 tells us that God's people in exile are supposed to take dominion and support their oppressors. In other words, the prophet provides us with a biblical political strategy tailor made for twenty-first century America.
Next week: Taking Dominion God's Way.