Are We In Exile?
“...Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you.” Zechariah 1:3 NIV
Sometimes as we read the stories of the Old Testament we lose sight of what it was like living in those times. I was reading about the excavations of the Babylonian Empire around the time of the exile of the Israelites. The Babylonians removed conquered peoples, like the Israelites, from their land and moved them as a people closer to the heart of Babylon.
Picture these defeated Israelites, stripped of freedom, possessions, and their way of life transported to a new place under the rule of a foreign king. As they entered the heart of Babylon, they would see the beautiful temples built to worship the gods of the Babylonians. These were big, glorious, and immaculate structures built to gods like Marduk and Ishtar. They represented the wealth and dominion of the Babylonians.
For the captive Israelites, it must have shocked them to see these magnificent edifices to false gods and evidence of the power of the Babylonians (and by implication their gods). Meanwhile back in conquered Jerusalem, the Temple lay in ruins and the structure that housed the very Spirit of God destroyed by these pagans.
They had to wonder if the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was truly the one true, creator God. By appearances, He would seem defeated. The glory of their Temple was replaced by the resplendence of the Babylonian temples yet He was never defeated. He said He allowed His temple to be desecrated and plundered because the people’s hearts had turned so far away from Him.
But God never gave up on the people, and the prophet Ezekiel who described the Spirit departing from the temple in Chapter 10, describes in chapter 43 His glorious return to that place once again as the people’s heart change.
How often have you looked at circumstances in your life and thought that things were so bad that no loving God could possibly be in control? Like the Israelites who saw the temples to false gods mockingly stand in the face of their destroyed temple in Jerusalem, do the defeats of your life ridicule you to the point that you question if Jesus truly has conquered the enemy?
If you feel this way it should sound like a wake-up call for you as it did for them. Perhaps it is evidence that your heart has cooled toward Jesus and turned instead to the idols of our culture. If He is not the love of your life, it could be the reason for your frustrating defeats in your life. The verse for today proclaims that if we will turn our hearts back to Him, He will return to us with overcoming victory in our lives.
Does your life resemble a monument to defeat and failure? Do you feel like the Lord has forsaken you? Perhaps it is a call for you to look away from things of the world and make Him the first love. Return to Him.
J Todd Hostetler