Jeremiah 29 records for us the exile of God’s people into captivity in Babylon. Here Israel, living as slaves, are to remain for a long time (v. 28). It was a less than ideal situation for God’s people. They were strangers in a foreign land, with sin all around them, and where foreign gods were worshiped. It would have been natural for them, in this awful context, to have huddled together in fear, create their own sub-culture to exist in and to avoid the world, hate the Babylonian culture, and see Babylon as nothing more than their enemy. But God had a different plan for Israel in Captivity.
Verses 4-7 describe God’s vision for Israel’s long sojourn. They were to “Build houses, and live in them,” “plant gardens, and eat from them” and raise families, even to the third generation. Verse seven speaks more broadly, they were to seek the peace of the city! God loves the city. He always has. Genesis 2 where God gives Adam and Eve the cultural mandate, tells us of God’s original vision for a city full of people who will worship Him. Even while sin, having entered the picture through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, corrupted that vision for the city God has not forgotten it. Revelation 21 speaks of a New Jerusalem, a Heavenly City, coming down. So in the New Heavens and the New Earth to come God will give to His people not a country landscape, but a city! God loves the city, and He desires to see it transformed by the power of the gospel, through the people of the gospel.
In Jeremiah 29 God’s vision for city transformation involves two elements: (1) Dwelling in the City, and (2) Seeking the Peace of the City. This means being present in the community, bringing aid to the community, alongside the plan for evangelism and gospel-centered outreach. We should not be interested in a purely social gospel, which makes the epitome of the gospel social reform. The Gospel is most definitely more than social reform! The Gospel is Jesus Christ’s death on the cross for sinners, bearing their punishment in order that all who have faith in Him alone for salvation should be saved from God’s judgment. That is the Gospel! But while the gospel is more than social reform it is not less!
God commands Israel, as He would command you and I, love the city! We must seek the city’s welfare and that involves both sharing the gospel and helping the needy! God loves the city, friends, do you?