Increase, Don’t Decrease

…Increase in number there; do not decrease. – Jeremiah 29:6

jeremiahThis section of the 6th verse of chapter 29 of the book of Jeremiah, jumped out at me at our church service this weekend. It was part of a larger portion of Jeremiah that we were looking at this week. In fact, the sermon was a great service itself which spoke to me deeply in so many ways. Something I’m putting together for a later post. But this section jumped out at me as it seemed like almost on offhand comment in the section of scripture and could easily be overlooked.

For context, this is part of a letter that Jeremiah sent to the Jews exiled in Babylon. He talks about settling down and basically making the most of their current situation. Not to dream of the “good old days”, but to live in the reality of your day and make the most of what God has given you. The section ends concludes (or at least the section we covered) with probably one of the more famous verses in the bible. Jeremiah 29:11;

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

A great promise to hold onto when you are going through your darkest moments, but this is not the topic for today. Today I want to think about verse 6, “…Increase in number there; do not decrease.”

Jeremiah up to this point was telling the exiled people, don’t be discouraged. Build houses and settle down, plant gardens, get married and have children. Enter into the local economy and contribute. Make an investment of yourself and your family in Babylon. Then the verse we are focused on, “…Increase in number there; do not decrease.”

I wasn’t sure what to think of that when I first heard it, but after thinking upon it (and looking some things up as well), I’m convinced that God is telling them, increase in number and be God’s presence in the city which they had been exiled to and the city will be blessed because of their presence.

If we jump back to chapter 5 of Jeremiah, we see God saying,

“Run up and down every street in Jerusalem,” says the Lord. “Look high and low; search throughout the city! If you can find even one person who is just and honest, I will not destroy the city.” -Jeremiah 5:1

God says, that the presence of even one godly person in the city will save it. As long as there are godly people in a city, it will never be captured by Satan. Although the presence of evil and the unjust can seem overwhelming, the presence of God’s people will keep the city from falling to evil.

You’ll notice that Jeremiah never says, “Go out and preach God’s word. Knock on your neighbors doors and tell them they are condemned without Christ”…no he says,

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. -Jeremiah 29:5-6

Just go out and live consistent, quiet, committed faith driven lives. This provides an example of God’s fruits as well as a moderating presence. I’m not saying there isn’t a place for evangelism or a more proactive approach, but as I stated in my post back in July entitled, Citizens of Heaven,

The only Bible that the unsaved are bothering to read, is the bible that is characterized by our lives. If our unsaved friends and neighbors do not see Jesus Christ in us, they may never see Him at all.

Most people know I’m a Christian, I’m not ashamed or afraid to tell anyone. Those I’ve never had that conversation with, see my posts here reposted on Facebook and Twitter, so they know where I’m coming from. If they read my words, but do not see them reflected in my life, then I’m not being a good representative of Christ. I’m not perfect, we never will reach the full glory of God, but our hope is that through our lives, despite our shortcomings and failings, through our presence and our works in our local community, we can make it a better place. And we do these things not make ourselves look better, but to share God through our lives.

Here are some hard words from the books of James:

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does.

If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:22-27

By the way a Christian lives, he testifies for or against Christ. If Christians are living out the Christian life before the world, they become a transforming presence. Their lives become a reminder to the quality of life that can be lived if one chooses to live in communion with God.

I’m honestly not quite sure how to end this post, as I could go on and on about this, but let’s suffice it to say, that simple statement, “Increase, don’t decrease” led me down a path of learning that I’d not anticipated and has got me reflecting on life and how I live it in my community in ways that I was not expecting.  I can truly be a positive impact, just by living my life according to how Christ wants me to.

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