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Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord.
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
In yesterday’s devotion I began explaining the 7-11 Principle. I shared how Jeremiah 29:11 (“For I know the plans I have for you…”) is one of the most popular bible verses — with various products available for purchase as proof. But this verse is commonly not understood within its context of the Babylonian captivity.
The Babylonian’s invasion of Jerusalem not only resulted in the plundering of precious resources like gold and silver, they also plundered the people. Jerusalem’s exiles were the best and brightest of the city. Tim Keller imagines that the Jewish exiles in Babylon were being pulled in two directions. The Babylonians were likely saying, “Give up on Yahweh and follow our gods. Become one of us!” But Jeremiah 29:8-10 reveals a false voice the exiles were hearing:
“Yes, this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you… I have not sent them…When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.’” (Jeremiah 29:8-10)
Jeremiah 28 records how the false prophet Hananiah claimed that the LORD was going to quickly free the exiles from under the yoke of Babylon, essentially saying, “Stay true to Yahweh by resisting Babylon!”
Jeremiah comes into the middle of this and offers a third option: “Stay true to Yahweh…by blessing Babylon.” The exiles must have thought, “This doesn’t make any sense at all! Being faithful to Yahweh means blessing the city we are being held captive in?” But this is exactly what Yahweh was saying in verse 7: “Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
This is the basis for the 7-11 Principle: You don’t get what is in verse 11 until you do verse 7. You don’t get the promise of God’s blessing without committing first to bless others.
I had the privilege of spending the last five days at a conference led by the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). Over 3,000 Christian leaders gathered and recommitted to seek the blessing of the city as an expression of faithfulness to God. These leaders are addressing homelessness, removing tattoos from former gang members, creating jobs in various sectors, starting urban farms, providing business mentoring and reinvesting in marginalized neighborhoods by networking with mainstream investors. This was truly a group committed to the 7-11 Principle found in Jeremiah 29. You don’t get the blessings of verse 11 without committing to bless others like in verse 7. God is looking to raise up leaders who understand this principle of servant leadership that seeks the prosperity of others before oneself. These leaders understand that their success is wrapped up in the success of others.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In your leadership, do you ever feel like an exile living among agitators? What would it look like to seek the prosperity of those you find yourself living and working among? Can you imagine a situation where your success is wrapped up in another’s success, even if this means the success of a “competitor” of some sort?
Have you been guilty of asking God to bless your plans instead of asking for him to show you his plans? How can you tell the difference between the two?
Think of someone you’ve successfully mentored. How was their “success” in some ways a success for you as a mentor?
Are you connected to any organizations that are purposefully seeking the prosperity of the city in which you live as an expression of their faith in Christ?
Lord, I have been guilty of asking you to bless my plans instead of seeking your plans first. I want to stay faithful to you wherever you place me and have the courage to seek the prosperity of others before my own prosperity. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Blessing for All Peoples (Jeremiah 29)
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