Hope for the Exile
I felt compelled to write a short note to you today on the hope of our faith. I hope it encourages you.
This week I marveled at the beauty of God’s word; how it weaves together a story of rescue for his children.
As I reflected on the rescue part, my spirit recoiled at the truth of our exile status. First, exiled from the Garden. Then, we witness the exile of the children of Israel at the hand of Babylon. Strangers in a strange land, they were.
We too live as exiles.
We live in the tension of engaging in our everyday lives, yet longing for our true home. How do we live in this tension?
The stories of Joseph and Daniel remind us that we can not only get by living in this tension, but we can thrive. Too often we’re presented with the option of either opposing the world in which we live, or adopting the customs and worldview.
Jeremiah offered a third option when he instructed the children of Israel how to live as exiles among the Babylonians:
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.”
This is our message today.
Seek the peace and prosperity of the place in which we find ourselves.
The second part of Jeremiah’s instructions was a reminder that YHWH was coming for them.
And he comes for us.
We should not assimilate to the culture by adopting its worldview or moral standards, nor rise up against it, continually crying out against it.
But seek the third way: live in anticipation of our Beloved, seeking God with all of our heart and soul.
Do we not cling to the hope of the return of Jesus? Are we not his pilgrim ambassadors, exiles in a foreign land pining for reunion?
Can we not rise above the cultural muck and set our lives ablaze with the hope of YHWH, who is making all things new?
And yet I fear perhaps we do not live clinging to this hope. I believe that maybe we’ve allowed complacency in. Assimilation doesn’t always look like an outright rejection of God’s Way. We can fall asleep, slowly adopting the way things are, to the point where the holy fire flickers out.
But a life lived in anticipation? That’s life on fire. When young lovers part ways, the days drag on—yes, life goes on, but each moment fills up with the hope found in the wandering eyes of the lover.
When will she return?
Is today that day I see him again?
The days only add to the flame.
Does your light dim? Has our flame flickered out?
Recall today, fellow exile, Israel’s promise to his son Judah. Judah, who will always have a king upon the throne. And one of those kings will have “eyes darker than wine.” In him, the world will see mysterious beauty and abundance. He is the one "who will wash his garments in wine?”
Remember, dear pilgrim, Jesus with his mother in Cana. And how he conceded and submitted to her request, and intervened at the party; turning water into wine. Think of the lavishness of the gesture and the symbolic nature of it in the culture.
What do we have today as we dress for work, drop the kids at school, sit through another class?
We see the blessing of Judah come to remake our hearts with the abundant beauty of his goodness and holiness. We see the Lion of Judah himself, making the old ways, new. Marking the path for reunion.
What do you have to look forward to today as you take on another day?
Home! The Lamb of God, coming to rescue us from exile.
This is why we still gather each Sunday—those Little Easter days of Hallelujah!
How can we sit and be still in our seats when we gather on Sundays? How can we whimper out of our services with long faces and heavy hearts because of the calamity of our own Babylon?
Where is the fire of our Hope?
How can we not jump, sing, clap our hands; sing new songs; speak to one another in spiritual songs?
Where is the constant Hallelujah of our lives?
Where are the Burning Ones?
Home cometh, fellow Exiles, on the wings of heaven and his heart burns for reunion.
Does yours? Does mine?