“But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7, ESV)
Thus said the Lord to the Jews who had been captured and forced to relocate from Judah to Babylon. Some took it to heart and did just what God had instructed. Babylon had a thriving Jewish community and became an important center for Jewish studies. Others, such as Ezra and Nehemiah, longed to return to their homeland and its capital city, Jerusalem.
It may be difficult to imagine what it is like to be an exile, a stranger in a foreign land—even though we see and hear about them every day in the news. People are flooding our southern border; others are fleeing (or trying to flee) Afghanistan and other war-ravaged countries. They will all become exiles, hopefully seeking the welfare of the cities where they end up.
I am learning what it means to be an exile. I’ve been here in Wessington Springs a year now, and I’ve observed that the relational ties of this community go deep. Being a new resident is a challenge. It’s like tuning into the final episode of a long-running TV show you’ve never watched. As much as I could wish to have been a part of this community my whole life, I was not. I appreciate now what it means to be an exile—a foreigner in a foreign land—with no ties, no deep connections.
Christians are exiles too, no matter where they live this side of heaven, because the eternal city of God in heaven is our forever home. Jesus promises that he is preparing a place for us there (John 14:2-3). As Ezra and Nehemiah longed to return to their homeland, we long to be home with God in heaven. In the meantime, we seek the welfare of the city where God has sent us into exile, praying to the Lord on its behalf and doing the work God has for us here until we go home.
This article first appeared in The True Dakotan, September 22, 2021.