redemptive punishment

Vincent Van Gogh, “Flower Beds in Holland”
1883 (150 Kb); 48.9 x 66 cm


Jeremiah 29:1,4-7
For Sunday, October 14, 2007 (Proper 23)

The Babylonian exile was indeed punishment for sinful disobedience. Yet in God’s economy punishment is never an end in itself. It’s end is rather to disabuse wayward believers of their misperceptions that they might find their way back into covenant blessing. This is why in writing to the exiles in Babylon Jeremiah didn’t say, “Boy, you’ve really done it this time.” Rather, he wrote, “Don’t lose hope. Continue to live your lives. Find homes, marry, and raise your families.”

Jeremiah also encourages the exiles to engage their communities: “As they prosper, so will you prosper.” They were to be involved in Babylonian civic affairs: in politics, on school boards, in voluntary associations. Principled cooperation with the powers that be often leads to better outcomes than subversion (a lesson that has apparently not yet reached Wazhiristan).

Now wait a minute, you might say, what then about the American revolution. What happened to principled cooperation with the British. A reasonable response might be that principled cooperation was tried and found wanting. This is the essential argument of the Declaration of Independence.

So what then of all of this for my life? Have you ever faced exile in your life? Maybe due to circumstance, maybe due to rebellion, or whatever… Don’t lose hope. Find a home, marry, and raise your family. God nevertheless has plans to bless you.

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