(Psalm 137:1-6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “By the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.”
The Bible refers to the forced removal of the Israelites from their homeland and their captivity in a foreign land as being “exiled.” The most prominent example of this was the Babylonian exile, which occurred in the 6th century BC when the Babylonian Empire conquered the Kingdom of Judah and exiled its people to Babylon. See our four-part series for more information on the Babylonian exile by clicking :
Part 2 – Who was Zerubbabel?
Part 3 – Who was Ezra?
Part 4 – Who was Nehemiah?
Simply stated, exile was God’s punishment for the Israelites’ disobedience and unfaithfulness. Our question for this study is to ask the question, Would God exile us today for our idolatry and moral decay in our nation? And is exile necessary before repentance and renewal can take place?
Exile, as a form of punishment, has been used from the very beginning of God’s creation of the earth. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden. This was a permanent relocation because of their sin.
(Genesis 3:22-24) – “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”
While the concept of exile typically involves being forcibly removed from one’s homeland and being sent to a foreign land, a person can be exiled within their own country. This can occur when a person is banished from their community or forced to leave their home or region due to political, social, or religious reasons. Governments or other authorities may use tactics such as arrest or the threat of arrest to restrict the movements and activities of individuals seen as threatening their rule. Even forced relocation to a different part of the country might occur because of crime, high taxes, and other autocratic policies hostile to individual freedom. When individuals do not conform to certain norms or beliefs, they can be ostracized or marginalized within their community. This can take the form of social exclusion, discrimination, the loss of one’s freedoms such as speech, or even physical violence, and can have a profound impact on the lives and well-being of those who experience it.
(Ephesians 4:18) – “They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”
Exile of any kind is a tragedy. Remember that the principal goal of leadership in God’s eyes is to draw a nation closer to Him. The people installed poor leadership who, in turn, promoted their addictions of idolatry and sin. Idolatry can be the pursuit of wealth and absolute power over the people of a nation. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets argued that exile happened because the people failed to follow God’s instructions. Remember, the people had made a Covenant with God (contract) where God gave the people specific instructions to show their faithfulness to Him. As the people ignored His Laws and other instructions, God became angry. Out came the prophets. God sent warning after warning to His people. Finally, God exiled His people because they just could not follow His Laws and instructions. It should not come as a surprise to anyone!
Exile, however, brings opportunities. Even before the destruction of Israel and the exile of Judah happened, the prophets spoke of eventual restoration. The Babylonian captivity significantly impacted the nation of Israel when it returned to their land. They would never again be corrupted by the idolatry and false gods of the surrounding nations. A revival among Jews took place after the return of the Jews to Israel and the rebuilding of the temple. We see those accounts in Ezra and Nehemiah as the nation would once again return to the God who had delivered them from their enemies. During exile, the people learned how to rely on themselves more, and how to adapt to new situations and surroundings. The people also became more resilient. The most important learnings were what their shortcomings were and how to live up to their part of the covenant they had made with their God.
The story of the Prophet Daniel is packed with stories about the Babylonian exile. Daniel would spend most of his life, seventy years, as a captive in Babylon. He would become a prophet, an interpreter of dreams, and a prisoner. He would fast, worship, and pray to the God of Israel under the threat of his life. He would survive a den of hungry lions by calling on God’s power and presence. The life of an exile was difficult, but God called Israel to repent, remain faithful, and trust in His saving Grace. We, too, are exiles in this world, longing for the day when we will live at home in the presence of Christ our King. We are citizens of heaven, but we take up residence in a sinful world for a time. Our task, present Christ’s image to all we meet on our journey. The Apostle Paul sums it up perfectly:
(Philippians 1:19-26) – “for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.”
During Daniel’s time in exile, he refused to compromise his standards and remained faithful to God. Daniel used his influence to help others and remained steadfast even when faced with hardships. The good news is that we can look forward to happy endings from our God. But first, we need to look at our sins. Our national sin is comprised of ever-growing entitlements and pork-barrel spending. Our nation is in a precarious financial position, one that can only grow worse. Our nation is in a mess spiritually, morally, and politically. The nation has forgotten God who had blessed us abundantly. We now celebrate lawlessness and slaughter our offspring both in the womb and on the streets of our cities. Our lack of borders is changing the very nation we live in. And finally, our nation’s enemies see our weaknesses, and all anxiously await our demise. Is exile upon us?
(Matthew 10:22) – “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Jesus understood this well. If you live for the next world, this world will hate you. Do you notice the hate lately? Our nation has become a hostile environment for those who live for Christ. None of us know when we will see our current exile end. Do you even recognize our nation any longer? Be aware, however, of one very important Truth from our God.
(Revelation 21:8) – “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”
- Do you think God is punishing our nation?
- Ideas to Explore: There is very little good news. Life expectancy is down, crime is up, the value of our money is disappearing, those rights we were guaranteed in our Constitution are rapidly going slipping away, children are under attack, and please, add a few of your favorites. No nation can survive the slippery slope we are on.
- Whom do you think people are turning to for clarification and help?
- Ideas to Explore: Government, media, churches, Hollywood, schools, science, God? We see a nation giving up God, following a corrupt world in pursuit of false promises. To whom are you turning for help?
- Where is all the hate coming from?
- Ideas to Explore: Who is rioting, who is killing, and who is it that you fear?
- Are you willing to accept the sins of our nation to just get along with each other?
- Ideas to Explore: We have been divided into groups who can no longer live with each other. Our government wants your children, our parents want their children back. How do you think this will end?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations