Pray for the Peace and Prosperity of This City
by Rev. David Rodriguez on July 01, 2020
Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. Jeremiah 29:7
In 568 B.C., the Kingdom of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and carried God’s people away to live in exile in the city of Babylon. This all happened because God had pronounced judgment on His people for having turned from Him to worship idols instead. The people lived in exile for 70 years. Finally, in 516 B.C., the Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt and God’s people were able to enjoy His presence in their home once again.
While they were in captivity, the people mourned the loss of their home. Their words of anguish are recorded for us in Psalm 137:1-4
By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
For there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
And so, God directs the Prophet Jeremiah to tell the exiles to pray for the city of Babylon. Even though it is their place of exile, even though it is not their true home, even though they are just temporary aliens there, God wants them to pray for Babylon. The people are called to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. And as God blesses this city, so too will they be blessed.
Later on, in 410 A.D., many of God’s people were living in another city, Rome. The Goths had just sacked the city and the Pagans saw this assault as punishment for turning away from their idols, so they blamed the Christians for the situation. The Christians saw this situation as a sign of the apocalypse. In response to the anguish of Rome, Augustine offers his famous work, The City of God. In Book XIX Augustine writes:
Wherefore, as the life of the flesh is the soul, so the blessed life of man is God, of whom the sacred writings of the Hebrews say, "Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord." Miserable, therefore, is the people which is alienated from God. Yet even this people has a peace of its own which is not to be lightly esteemed, though, indeed, it shall not in the end enjoy it, because it makes no good use of it before the end. But it is our interest that it enjoys this peace meanwhile in this life; for as long as the two cities are commingled, we also enjoy the peace of Babylon. For from Babylon the people of God is so freed that it meanwhile sojourns in its company. And therefore, the apostle also admonished the Church to pray for kings and those in authority, assigning as the reason, "that we may live a quiet and tranquil life in all godliness and love." And the prophet Jeremiah, when predicting the captivity that was to befall the ancient people of God, and giving them the divine command to go obediently to Babylonia, and thus serve their God, counseled them also to pray for Babylonia, saying, "In the peace thereof shall ye have peace," -the temporal peace which the good and the wicked together enjoy.
This Fourth of July, we have the opportunity to reflect on how the Lord is calling us to live in this place. We do not yet live in our true home, the New Jerusalem of Heaven. We are just passing through this land, living as temporary aliens. However we have a responsibility while we are here. God has also called us to pray for the peace and prosperity of our city, of our land.
Our earthly home faces difficult challenges such as crime, gangs, pandemic, war, homelessness, racism, and so on. Some may think they are cursed to live here. Some may even compose laments such as Psalm 137. However, God has placed us here to be a blessing to this place. God has called us here to pray for the peace and prosperity of this city; and not just for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all who live here.