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. (Jer 29:7)
The prosperity of our nations, or the lack of it, is something which consumes the interest of the media at present. Every day the headline news is of the crash of share prices, the demise of banks somewhere in the world or the attempts of governments to solve the problems by making vast amounts of money available to the financial institutions. One expert noted that, in Britain we were now budgeting more for the rescue of our financial system than for the entire NHS which makes a complete mockery of the arguments that certain drugs which can extend or save lives are too expensive.
Where is Your Security?
Jesus told us not to store up treasures on earth because they are so vulnerable and we will set our hearts on them (Matt 6:19-21). In the prosperous West we have not taken those words seriously enough. We have pretended that what Jesus really said was, if you store up treasures on earth don't make the mistake of becoming too attached to them. But Jesus wasn't offering some good advice, He was giving us a command, "do not." In the light of recent weeks we can perhaps begin to see why. How many Christians have stored up pension funds based on shares, some of which are worth only half of what they were a week ago? How many have put their trust in the money markets to provide for them, rather than in the Lord? How many have felt wealthy because the value of their property has soared in recent years.
Throughout the history of God's people, whenever they have put their trust in something or someone other than their true Sovereign, He has removed their prop from them. It is what happened in Jeremiah's day. Many of the people had been carried off into exile by the Babylonians. But see what the Lord tells Jeremiah to write, "I have carried you into exile." The Babylonians were simply God's instrument to discipline His people.
There was no quick restoration for the people of Judah. They remained in captivity for 70 years. But from the outset they had God's promise that He would bring them home, He would return them to their own land. In the meantime it was their responsibility to pray for the place where they were exiled. Though they were in great anguish because their world had been turned upside-down (see Ps 137) the Lord told them to get on with life, to settle and live ordinary lives. They were told to pray, not that they would be returned home, nor even that they would be blessed where they were. They were told to pray for the prosperity of the very people who had taken them into captivity.
The Lord Jesus told us to store up treasures in heaven. We now have a wonderful opportunity to reassess our values and our dependence on God. We may live in turbulent times but it is only what has been permitted by the hand of God. Nothing we can do will shorten the period of this financial chaos. Instead, like the people of Jeremiah's day, we are called to pray, not for our own good but for the blessing of our nations.
Prayer College Assignment
Our nations will be most greatly blessed if they turn in dependence to God. People have been praying for revival in Britain for many years. Now is not the time to become discouraged but to redouble our efforts. Pray that those who have been or will be adversely affected by the financial crisis will seek out the true treasure of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord (Phil 3:7-8).