URC Daily Devotion 4 January 2024

Jeremiah 29: 4-14

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  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.  For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let the prophets and the diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,  for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, says the Lord.  For thus says the Lord: Only when Babylon’s seventy years are completed will I visit you, and I will fulfil to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.  Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you.  When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,  I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.


Having grown up and lived in small towns for most of my life, at the age of 43 I found myself having to move again after a family trauma. I said to my 11-year-old son, “This is an opportunity, really.  We can move anywhere we like in the country.  Except London. I won’t move anywhere near London”.  That’s what I thought. God, however, had other ideas.

After a successful job interview in West London, I found myself sitting in Richmond Park, talking to God about my reluctance to accept it. “I love living in the countryside, God,” I moaned, “I have a red squirrel that visits my garden and a woodpecker that picks grubs from my front lawn – how can I leave that behind and move to the city?”  Then I looked up as a flash of bright green parakeets flew, squawking, overhead, and spotted not only three squirrels playing chase in the tree alongside me but a herd of deer grazing just feet away from where I had been sitting, feeling sorry for myself.

God doesn’t always lead us down the paths we would choose. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that are challenging or unsettling, taking us out of our comfort zone, even into hostile territory. We may find ourselves looking back at past times with rose-coloured spectacles, yearning for how things used to be, wondering why God has brought us to our current situation.

‘How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ Well, like it or not, that is what we are called to do. Instead of pining for the past, we are called to live in the present and build for the future. If we trust, then God will open our eyes to what is good in that situation and where, through our discipleship, we can make a difference. Because God’s there already.

Me and my son? Fourteen years later we love living in London – it’s our home, after all.

When life goes pear-shaped,
challenge or change rising to meet us,
Help us trust in your promise, O God.
Your plans and our plans may differ,
Your time may not align with our time;
but you promise a future with hope.
Let that be enough, God.
Let us live for today as your people,
seek you with all our heart right here in this place,
and sing your song, even in a strange land. Amen


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