Go on building houses and living in them, and planting gardens and using the fruit of them; Take wives and have sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may have sons and daughters; and be increased in number there and do not become less. Jer 29:5-6
Israel was in Babylon. Today, I don’t want to talk about why they were there. I don’t want to talk about the 630 years they did not keep the law or Sabbath years and years of jubilee, and that God now wanted to give the promised land the 70 years of rest it had been stolen. I don’t want to talk about the parallels to today’s church that has let go of many truths for 17 centuries and not lived to its potential in the promised land, which is Christ. No. I want to talk about appointed times.
God had an appointed time for Israel to come back into the promised land.
For this is what the Lord has said:When seventy years are ended for Babylon, I will have pity on you and give effect to my good purpose for you, causing you to come back to this place. Jer 29:10
Our verse today talks about Israel’s duty and works during the time of waiting.
You, as living stones, are being made into a house of the spirit, a holy order of priests, making those offerings of the spirit which are pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. 1Pe 5:2
Don’t you know that you are the temple of the Lord? Paul asks. To build houses means to build ourselves as the temple of the Lord – both individually as well as corporate.
To live in them.
Houses are built to live in them. Religion has houses of stone, and nobody dwells there. People visit. But we carry life, we bring life. When Jesus talked about mansions he is going to build, he was on his way to the cross, and not yet to heaven. He was talking about us. We are the mansions, and he wants to live in them. He wants to fill the house – again both individual and corporate – with his glory.
The garden was given to man as its dominion. He was to guard it and to look after it. Nowhere does it say that to work the soil was part of the curse, of the consequences of the fall. It has been our duty since the beginning: to make the garden bigger, until it spreads the world. Starting within us. The garden is the gate of heaven to earth. The garden is the kingdom in this dimension. It starts in our inner most being and grows until it breaks out of us into this world. The task has never changed. Again this is true individually and corporate.
Use the fruits of the gardens.
A garden is nice to look at. But it is useful if you use its fruits. What are the fruits? Obviously, my thoughts go to the fruits of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, a quiet mind, kind acts, well-doing, faith, gentle behaviour, control over desires: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23
And I think about the gifts that God gives us.
To use the fruits of the garden is to show forth what the Spirit created within us. It is to use what I have been given from God to make the garden bigger. It is to work together for the maturing of individuals and the furthering of the kingdom.
Whether it is building houses or planting gardens, many different tasks need many different skills.
Take wives and have sons and daughters.
And God gave them his blessing and said to them, Be fertile and have increase, and make the earth full and be masters of it; be rulers over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing moving on the earth. Gen 1:28
Another task we were given in the beginning. And Jeremia not only talks about this one generation, but tells them to do the same for their children.
First, in the time of waiting, go on investing in new generations. Even though you might think that it will be over soon – let’s name it: Christ is coming back soon – invest into the next generation as if it were another 1000 years for him to come back.
Marry – build a setting that is good in the eyes of God to have children in the first place. Then have them and help them grow to a place where they are mature to have their own children.
Paul tells Timothy to teach men that are willing and capable to teach others. Jesus prayed for the ones God gave them during his ministry on earth and the ones that would be touched by them. It’s the same. Both the natural and the spiritual.
Jeremia goes on that we are to bring peace to the place we live in.
We are to bring rest. Peace in the midst of the storm. We are the only ones that can bring God’s peace to this earth.
For years we have been looking for things to change. We have lived in the future. We longed for God to break through big time. But it was not the appointed time yet, the proverbial 70 years had not passed.
Instead, we were to grow and mature ourselves, grow and further the kingdom in the earth, be fruitful and multiply.
And then, Ezra and Nehemiah recognized that the seventy years were coming to an end.
And they proceeded to build the temple and the city walls. In the promised land. Building the kingdom had been taken to a new level. They were building in the place that had been appointed for it in the beginning.
In the promised land.
For I am conscious of my thoughts about you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you hope at the end. Jer 29:11
Use the time you are in to mature. Become a mature son of God. Grow fruit. Grow your garden. Build yourself for the future by living your presence well. And beware: the times are changing.