Rise Daily: April 18
THIS WEEK’S THEME & PASSAGE
Serving the City – Jeremiah 29:1-14
This week’s sermon from the series “Where We are Going: The City and the Mission“
THIS WEEK’S MEMORY VERSE
Memorizing scripture is a way to keep God’s word close to our hearts. Each week we will select one verse of scripture to remember as a community.
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.
Each day’s devotion will focus on one part of the week’s passage.
1 These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 2 This was after King Jeconiah and the queen mother, the eunuchs, the officials of Judah and Jerusalem, the craftsmen, and the metal workers had departed from Jerusalem. 3 The letter was sent by the hand of Elasah the son of Shaphan and Gemariah the son of Hilkiah, whom Zedekiah king of Judah sent to Babylon to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. It said: 4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon…
MEDITATION ON THE WORD
In our busyness and distraction, it is easy to skim through our reading rather than taking it in. Yet we believe this is the inspired word of God. Take a moment to pause, thank God for the scriptures and ask him to speak to you through them today.
When the invading armies of Babylon vanquished the people of Judah , the victorious King Nebuchadnezzar carried off Judah’s best and brightest into forced exile in order to use their skills for the glory of his own city-state.
For the people exiled, this was a kind of death. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion” (Psalm 137:1). Zion (Jerusalem), the capital of Judah, was the great city of God. Or at least it was meant to be. The city that God intended to be a blessing to all the peoples of the world—through his chosen people—had been degraded by their violence, injustice, and idolatry. They had forfeited their great city, and it seemed they had forever lost their God. The desolation of soul they must have experienced is captured by something expressed by the 16th c. theologian John Calvin:
“And surely no more terrible abyss can be conceived than to feel yourself forsaken and estranged from God; and when you call upon him, not to be heard. It is as if God himself had plotted your ruin.” 
In a sense this is exactly what happened. God had plotted this. The prophets had long predicted this exile as a national punishment for Judah’s complete and self-destructive rejection of God’s law. But their ultimate ruin is not what God had in mind: it was precisely the opposite.
“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:10–11, ESV).
Exile was not the end but the means to the greatest good. God was using the experience of a temporary exile in a foreign city in order to return his people to himself, to perfect the city that would one day bless the entire world. Zion would be the place of the cross, where Jesus would suffer the ultimate exile from God the Father in order that people from all nations would never experience that “terrible abyss” themselves. God had not left his people. He was carrying them.
1: Judah: The united kingdom of Israel was split by civil war after the reign of King Solomon (c. 971-930 BC), dividing into the northern kingdom of Israel (also Samaria) under Jeroboam, and the southern kingdom of Judah under Rehoboam. Israel was conquered by Assyria in 720 BC, and Judah by Babylon in 597-582 BC.
2: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 516.
THIS WEEK’S RISE REFLECTION
How are you being called to be part of this vision of reaching a tipping point of gospel renewal in our city? How is God calling you to use your gifts and resources to bring growth and flourishing to the city? Our hope is that this would be a spiritual process before it’s ever a financial calculation. So as you reflect, pray that God might work through you and others as we pursue this vision—knowing it will stretch us in our faith as we make our commitments. We know that this vision and its financial goal is something that only God can make possible. But we trust a God who is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.
For your Heart: Take a moment to reflect on your personal take on what it means to be in exile. Pray that God would help you process what may feel like a burden, a responsibility, a longing, an expectant joy or the promise of a cosmic homecoming.
For your Church: Pray that our church would see how Jesus suffered the ultimate exile because of his ultimate love for his children. Pray that our church would be fueled by his love to seek the good of all people.
For our City: Pray for the many people in NYC who are in exile from their country, family, support systems and may be lacking access to economic opportunities and health care. Pray that God would provide for their needs and protect them.
Our vision is a city renewed by the gospel. This vision needs all of us.
We are calling on everyone at Redeemer to rise and say “I’m in” to pray, engage, and give as part of a gospel movement for the good of the city. Are you in?