Instructions From Jeremiah 29 for Living in a Pagan Nation

Published by Matt Kenitzer on

The nation of Israel professed their devotion to God and acknowledged Him within their societies, but their hearts remained unchanged. Gradually, they succumbed to the surrounding paganism and attempted to merge it with their proclaimed love for God. As this continued, God repeatedly sent prophets to warn them of impending judgment if they did not repent. Despite these warnings, many insisted they had not sinned against God, while false prophets declared peace where none existed. Consequently, God’s judgment arrived in two forms: devastation for those remaining in Jerusalem and exile under King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon for others. Among the exiles were the faithful remnant, to whom God provided instructions for their time in exile (see Jeremiah 29).

For a significant period, America recognized God in its societies and claimed to obey Him, with many genuinely doing so. However, as time passed, the ratio of true belief to false belief shifted, and the professing people of God became increasingly influenced by pagan ideologies. This led to God’s judgment on the nation, as the inward unbelief manifested in outward spiritual adultery. Many declared their love for God, but their actions contradicted their words. As this judgment intensified, the remnant – the true people of God – found themselves as exiles in a predominantly pagan nation.

Paganism in a nation is manifest when its ruling authorities reject Christ and His truth. Public schools, from elementary to higher learning institutions like Stanford, have abandoned Christ and now promote various evils in His sight. The apostasy of once-Christian institutions, such as Harvard and Princeton, further highlights this shift towards paganism. In pagan nations, state governments overextend their authority, intruding into aspects of life they have no jurisdiction over, resulting in excessive control over citizens’ lives. Additionally, lawlessness before God permeates the culture, leading people to determine right and wrong according to their own desires, while good is deemed evil and evil is celebrated as good. Lastly, reminiscent of Jeremiah’s time, numerous false prophets propagate messages of peace despite the lack thereof, while faithful watchmen who call for repentance face resistance.

As exiles in the pagan nation of the United States, we must adhere to God’s instructions for living within this environment. These directives can be categorized into three areas: 1) the family, 2) the society, and 3) the church.

Within the family, God instructs His people to “build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce” (Jeremiah 29:5). This directive is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it encourages a focus on creation rather than complaint, preventing feelings of hopelessness and despair in the face of adversity. Secondly, it redirects the people of God back to the fundamental dominion mandate, subduing the earth and exercising dominion over it. This involves utilizing God-given resources to meet basic needs such as shelter and sustenance. Additionally, it emphasizes the establishment of a home and a solid foundation for the family, regardless of the temporary nature of their circumstances. Despite the promise of a return to their homeland in 70 years, the people of God are urged to remain faithful to His unchanging word and continue fulfilling His commands, no matter the challenges they face or the duration of their stay in the pagan nation. This further underscores the importance of establishing a strong home and family unit.

Jeremiah 29:6 addresses the men, emphasizing their role as husbands and fathers in building their families. As the head of the household, men are responsible before God for finding a suitable wife, raising up children, and ensuring the continuation of their lineage. In a society increasingly hostile to the concept of patriarchy, this divine order is often labeled as bigoted. However, it is a natural, God-ordained arrangement for men, women, and children. Disregarding this order constitutes an act of defiance against God. The process of multiplication involves a man and a woman joining in marriage, rearing children, and subsequently giving those children in marriage when they come of age.

The instruction “do not decrease” carries significant weight in contemporary times. In the past, people in pagan nations offered their children as sacrifices to secure perceived prosperity. Nowadays, abortion constitutes a form of child sacrifice, destroying life for self-serving purposes. Instances such as a woman in Kansas holding a sign that reads, “Behind millions of successful women is an abortion they don’t regret,” and New York’s Health Commissioner, Mary Bassett, stating, “Without my abortion, I wouldn’t be New York’s Health Commissioner,” exemplify this tragic trend. The act of sacrificing one’s child for personal gain, akin to the ancient offerings to Molech and Baal, represents a decrease in life and a rejection of God’s command to multiply.

The command to not decrease can also be understood in the context of contemporary discussions surrounding overpopulation and climate change. Despite claims that the planet is warming due to an excessive population, obedience to God’s commands does not lead to disaster. Rather, it is disobedience that results in calamity. Therefore, regardless of the challenges faced in the current nation, it is crucial to uphold God’s command to not decrease the population.

The “but” in Jeremiah 29:7 connects the family aspect of life in a pagan nation to the broader societal context, emphasizing the importance of not living disconnected from the society in which one resides. The previously discussed family aspect is intended to serve as a catalyst for further action. Christians are called to seek the welfare, or shalom, of the city in which they reside, praying for its well-being and understanding that their own welfare is intertwined with that of the city. This concept of shalom is often misunderstood by Christians who believe it is unattainable in a pagan nation or that seeking societal peace is incompatible with evangelism. These misconceptions stem from a lack of understanding regarding the proper use of God’s law.

In seeking the welfare of the city, the primary objective should be the proclamation of the gospel of Christ, as it is through salvation in Him that true peace is found. However, in order to be effective and honoring to God, one must understand the role of God’s law in preparing the way for the gospel. This involves upholding justice and mercy, establishing righteousness in the land, and recognizing that the law is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. The societal peace brought about by adherence to God’s law can pave the way for the reconciling peace of salvation, provided that the gospel is not neglected. This approach requires a balanced, two-handed framework, with both the law and the gospel working in tandem to achieve their respective goals.

Seeking the welfare of the city involves confronting the evil and paganism within society through a discernment grounded in God’s truth. This confrontation is necessary because unexposed sin can obscure the need for the Savior. In addition to exposing sin, seeking the welfare of the city involves providing genuine help to those in need, without enabling slothfulness and negligence (cf. Prov. 19:15; Eph. 4:28). This principle is exemplified in Paul’s command that those who refuse to work should not eat (2 Thes. 3:10). In pursuing the welfare of the city, one must strive for justice and equality according to God’s created order and law, rather than humanistic government ideals. This includes upholding biblical standards in matters such as marriage, outlawing public sodomy, and opposing forced taxation. The ultimate goal of seeking the welfare of the city is to establish faithful Christian leaders in governing positions, guided by a biblical worldview and the truth of salvation through grace alone, faith alone, and Christ alone.

Prayer is a vital component of seeking the welfare of the city, as God instructs exiles to pray for the city and nation in which they reside. This includes praying for the repentance of society as a whole, the tearing down of idols, and the regeneration of hearts for the sake of both individual and societal welfare. Additionally, prayer should be directed towards governing authorities, seeking their obedience to God and their salvation, as well as towards fellow believers, asking for wisdom, endurance, and a strong witness. Through prayer, exiles can actively contribute to the welfare of the city and nation in which they reside, striving for peace, justice, and adherence to God’s truth.

The church must also be vigilant in guarding against false prophets and teachings, as they can deceive and lead believers astray. This requires a commitment to examining all claims and teachings according to God’s Word, as well as a willingness to push back against any falsehoods. Elders, in particular, have a responsibility to teach sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it. In times of exile, when struggles are heightened and the temptation to follow appealing but false teachings is greater, the need for testing and guarding against deception becomes even more critical. Believers must resist the natural inclination towards comfort and ease, and instead remain diligent in protecting and fighting for the truth of God’s Word.

The spiritual aspect of human life is essential to the welfare and peace of the city, as it addresses the heart of the matter. Exposing falsehood and false prophets is a demonstration of care for the people around you, both in society and within the family. By understanding and applying the law and the gospel correctly for the glory of God and the love of others, believers can contribute to the spiritual and societal welfare of their communities.

In conclusion, as believers living in an increasingly anti-Christian and pagan nation, it is crucial to remain active in following the instructions provided in the Old Testament, which are still relevant and applicable to our lives today. By building strong families and communities, protecting the church, and seeking the welfare of our areas according to God’s standard, we can live wisely and fulfill the will of our Lord (cf. Ephesians 5:15-17).

Categories: Culture

Matt Kenitzer

Matt serves as the pastor at St. John’s Reformed Church in Friedensburg, Pennsylvania. He earned the MDiv degree from Cobran University in Salem, Oregon in May 2018.