Along with many other designations, September is National Prosper Where You’re Planted Month. The phrase “prosper where you are planted” isn’t one we often hear. However, I’m hopeful “bloom where you’re planted” sounds familiar.
The expression “bloom where you’re planted” means to stop looking for ways to exit your current circumstances and invest in ways to grow and improve at the moment. This may mean that you stop looking to leave your place of employment and commit to learning everything you can about your current role. It could also mean that you stop looking for a job if God calls you to stay home for a season while your kids are young.
In the book of Jeremiah, the phrase bloom where your planted meant that when the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, they were to accept their circumstances for the seventy years God allowed Babylon to rule. Jeremiah had the job of delivering the news to the Israelites that they were heading into exile. When I imagine the Israelites began heading into exile, realizing their choices finally started to sink in, I believe they were filled with regret.
Up until then, their responses were much like that of toddlers or teenagers who experience threats but rarely face actual consequences for their choices. Yet, they must have felt immense shock to be held responsible for their choices after years of only receiving warnings.
The king and priests of Israel threatened to kill Jeremiah (Chapter 26). And then they followed a false prophet named Hananiah’s predictions for two years just because they preferred his lies over the truth. That didn’t work out very well for Hananiah though, Jeremiah told him God was angry with his lies, and he would die, and then he did. (Jeremiah 28:15-17)
Are you wondering why Jeremiah was so confident God had the Israelites best interest at heart as they faced discipline? It’s not fun to deal with the consequences of our sin. If God loved the Israelites, shouldn’t he forgive them? God sent his chosen people into exile. Isn’t that taking things a step too far?
Jeremiah 24:4-7 says,
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. (NIV) emphasis added
Jeremiah understood that God’s choice to allow Babylon to rule over Israel was his mercy covering these people. And if God planted the Israelites for a season to give them the heart to know him and return to him, then it’s possible that we can experience the same mercy and grace.
Here’s How to Bloom Where You’re Planted (Even When You Feel Like You’re in Exile)
Jeremiah 29:4-9 says,
This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “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. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, 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.” Yes, this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “Do not let the prophets and diviners among you deceive you. Do not listen to the dreams you encourage them to have. They are prophesying lies to you in my name. I have not sent them,” declares the Lord. (NIV)
There are several specific, actionable steps Jeremiah tells the Israelites to plan for:
- Build houses and settle down – Don’t live in tents as your ancestors did in the desert. Make Babylon your home.
- Plant gardens and eat what they produce – Provide nourishment for yourself from your land.
- Marry and have children – Move forward with your lives.
- Increase in numbers – Don’t let your generations die out.
- Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. – Pray for your neighbors to succeed!
- Pray to the Lord for the city. If the town prospers, so will you. – Don’t wish harm on the people around you. Instead, look for ways for everyone to thrive!
- Don’t be deceived by false prophets. – Seek to discern God’s truth alone.
The biggest challenge with blooming where we are planted is staying focused on the right steps. The list above seems simple, but there are a lot of things I notice missing.
Here’s what’s NOT on the list of how to bloom:
God never says to try to control the Babylonians in any way. The only thing the Israelites are called to do is pray for their prosperity and avoid listening to their false prophets.
Everything on this list focuses on improving the home, family, and community but in very different ways.
- Home – active building of house and garden (care for building and body)
- Family – personal choices like marriage and family then encouragement for family lines to continue.
- City – prayer for good things
- Spiritual life – active choice to avoid the wrong prophets
Seventy years in exile is a long time. It’s at least an entire generation who lived under the rule of another king. But God never told them to rebel. He never called them to manipulate the laws to the people around them were forced to do things against their will. Instead, he called the Israelites to focus on loving him and caring for their families, bodies, homes, and city.
It’s not always easy, but the reward for the Israelites was that they would return to God with their whole heart. Isn’t that worth putting in the effort to bloom where you’re planted?