Jeremiah exhorts intercession for Babylon
Jeremiah admonishes the captive Israelites: “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.” (Jeremiah 29:7) It is a daring letter and stunning statement by Prophet Jeremiah. The Israelites were carried away from their land as captives into Babylon. The sullen, disappointed, demoralized, depressed and discouraged slaves were angry and hated the Babylonians. Their mood and state of mind is well captured in Psalms 137. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?” (Psalms 137: 1-4) The exiled Israelites show their anger and frustration in these verses. “O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalms 137:8,9)
Jeremiah asks the furious Israelites to pray, intercede and bless the city of Babylon. They would have been happy and glad if Jeremiah had asked them to curse or be involved in an armed rebellion. Cities may not be favourable for Christians or conducive for living with a Christian worldview. These reasons cannot be used as excuses to shun from the responsibility of prayer and intercession for a city. Instead, like Israelites, Christians are planted in cities by His Sovereign will and power. It is not by accident the Israelites were in Babylon then or us, in different parts of the world, today.
Christians cannot be unconcerned about the cities in which they are living. Christians’ prosperity, security, progress, survival and blessings are dependent on the prosperity, security, progress, survival and blessings of the city. The vision of Jeremiah is that the city should have social peace, economic sufficiency and political stability. The city and citizens cannot be divorced or disconnected from each other, because the latter constitutes it, and the former play their respective roles in its day-to-day functioning. To be unconcerned and uninvolved will be spiritual, social and economic suicide. The Israelites could not escape the city or rebel against it or destroy it, but they could seek its welfare by being people of God interceding for the city. Today, even if we live in cities like Babylon that are oppressive, God expects us to be gracious by loving, praying and interceding for our cities.
Written by J N Manokaran for Movement Day Chennai