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)
This is a very interesting prophetic word. A sizable portion of the Jewish population, including King Jehoiachin, the princes and nobilities, had already been exiled to Babylon. Writing from Jerusalem, the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the elders and priests in exile.
Jeremiah had prophesied that the deportation to Babylon was God’s plan. Now, he was telling them to settle down and live life normally; build houses, plant gardens, marry and have children. Above all these, to seek the welfare of the city to which they had been exiled and pray for its prosperity.
Jeremiah stood alone. Other prophets had prophesied peace and they were still prophesying restoration in two years. It is easy to see why this weeping prophet was often maligned and unpopular. For more than two decades, he had been prophesying judgements contrary to the encouraging words of the other prophets. Like our generation, most people only like to hear pleasant words that tickle their ears rather than the truth.
You can understand that this latest message from Jeremiah sounded treasonous to the Jews. Babylon had invaded their homeland, killed many people, destroyed their beloved temple and exiled them. They had just suffered national shame. Instead of crying out to God for vengeance and deliverance, Jeremiah asked them to pray for the welfare of the capital city of their invaders. It did not make any sense to the exiles.
Welfare is translated from the Hebrew word, shalom. Usually, shalom is translated as peace. But it has a richer and broader meaning. Besides peace, shalom encompasses the ideas of general well-being, flourish, prosperity, security, success, favourable circumstances and satisfaction. What a word! No wonder the Jews use it for their greetings just like we say hello.
Pray for the shalom of Babylon! That means to pray for shalom to be upon their enemies and their capital city.
Though revolutionary, the divine rationale is quite simple – ‘for in its welfare you will find your welfare,’ which simply means that if the city prospers, they would also prosper. Their welfare and destiny were intricately tied to the welfare and destiny of the city. Hatred and animosity toward their overlords would do them no good.
In the same way, this should be our attitude and posture toward our own country, Singapore. None of us are exiles in Singapore. We are born here. Some of you have emigrated here and call Singapore home. So, we have more reasons to pray and seek the welfare of Singapore.
We do our part by doing our jobs and building the economy, participating in National Service for able-bodied men, contributing to society in diverse ways, upholding the morality and good family values, etcetera. The attack on morality and the family through LGBT activism has escalated in the recent years. The activists target the young people in the colleges and universities. Many people, including Christians, fail to understand that families are the basic building blocks of society, and thus the nation. The collapse of morality and family have serious ramifications for the nation.
Interestingly, Jeremiah encouraged the exiled Jews to continue to procreate – marry and ‘increase in number there; do not decrease’ (Jeremiah 29:6 – NIV). Singapore’s birth rate per woman in about 1.3, which is well below the replacement rate of 2.1. Well, the younger married women among us can do their part. This will be their national service. It is also consistent with the first mandate that God has given to mankind – ‘Be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28 – ESV).
We can also seek the welfare of our beloved country by praying and interceding for her. Pray for our government regardless of your political persuasion and the party you support. Pray for Singapore’s continual economic viability, prosperity, security, peace and moral health. Pray for God’s hand to be upon our land. It makes sense because when our city-state prospers, we too will prosper. Besides, God has a plan and destiny for Singapore. Like what He said to the Jews through Jeremiah, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NIV). Therefore, let us pray and seek God with all our heart for the welfare of Singapore. God hears us.
May Singapore be blessed!
Pastors Les & Adeline Chua