Seeking the Good of the Cities
This Sunday, in 1 Timothy 2:1–4, we saw that God intends for the church to be the agency of good for society, and the church fulfills that calling …
by seeking the good of all people through prayer, (2:1)
by aiming for the kind of society that allows us to thrive in godliness, (2:2) and
by living ultimately for the pleasure of God (2:3).
The Big Story Theme
Paul’s exhortation is right in line with a theme that develops throughout the Old Testament, beginning with Abraham in Genesis 12. Abraham and his offspring, God’s chosen people, are blessed by God to be a blessing for all peoples of the earth (see Genesis 12:3). We can already see the priestly function of that calling in Abraham, who intercedes for the good of others (see Genesis 18:22–33; 19:29; 20:17). Then a little later in the Book of Exodus, the Lord tells Israel,
Now therefore if you indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me kingdom of priests and a holy nation… (Exodus 19:5–6)
God affirms two things here: he is sovereign over the whole earth, and his people serve as his priests on the earth over which he is sovereign.
Looking to Now
Israel’s failure to live up to this calling didn’t nullify the calling. The calling lived on in the hope of a future day, a day of redemption and restoration. Isaiah foretold, as part of that redemption,
But you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat of the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. (Isaiah 61:6).
In the New Testament, the apostle Peter picks up this hope in a letter to persecuted Christians. These were believers who had been mistreated by the authorities, persecuted and slandered by those outside and within, and Peter tells this fledging gospel community,
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)
The brazen hope! The people of God, however society might measure their influence, have the influence that matters most. That’s because the people of God, as the priests of God, are those who come to God on behalf of society. We are God’s priesthood in society, seeking the good of society through prayer and godliness.
And our godliness includes most centrally the message of the gospel — our speaking it and living in step with its truth. We show and tell the good news of Jesus to a dying world. We “proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
That is at the heart of what we mean by our third essential as a church. Our essentials — the things we really really care about — are worshiping Jesus, serving one another, and seeking the good of the Cities.
“Seek the good” is precisely what God told his people exiled in Babylon, way back in Jeremiah 29:7. Things were not how they were meant to be. God’s people were still in waiting, longing for the fulfillment of God’s promises, and he tells them, while they are waiting,
But seek the good of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for it its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:7)
My goodness! That sounds like Peter … like Abraham … like Paul!
Seek the good of your society by prayer.
For so it is God’s plan. Father, let it be.