This year in Bible study, we're looking at the return to Jerusalem. So for the last few weeks, we've been in the throws of the exile. The people of Israel were doing pretty well, worshipping God, defeating their bad neighbors, but then they decided they didn't like being different. They wanted to be just like everyone else, so they asked for a king!
We want to be just like everyone else, give us a king! God clearly told them the downside of having one, they'll take your money, your land, your daughters, your life. But they were still determined that they wanted one. Their first king, he looked so good, just like a king should, tall and handsome. Now the fact that he was an impatient maniac, well, that didn't seem to bother the people too much. The next guy, he was a good king. He was pursuing God's heart, most of the time. The best part was that he recognized when others pointed out that he was going astray and he course corrected. His son inherited the throne and the tumble began.
Three kings in and they are already back to a life of forced labor, building things for a kingdom they never got to enjoy. It just gets worse and worse until nobody is looking for God and he lets them be taken by force from the land he had given them as a gift.
This last week, we were reading Ezekiel. And there everyone was, worshipping other gods, living their own lives, separated from God. They tore themselves away from him and served the creations of their own hands. And just to show them how much they loved the land more than him, he had them removed. Off they went. Only a few left given vineyards they never desired or learned how to care for.
That's us sometimes, in exile. And it's not the being taken away part it's the separating ourselves part. We might live in the same house, go to the same church, do the same devotional book every morning, but we're not really invested. We're not really looking for the true God. We're just doing our own thing. Oh it looks good on the outside, to those that don't know the living God. We look devout and committed and fanatical, but the truth is we don't really know him today.
We separate ourselves and distance ourselves from his power because, we're afraid that things are never going to change and hope for a future is too painful to bare. Or because we expected it to be different, that we would always have that honeymoon stage when we ate up every word from His mouth and felt his lavish love but when the hard work came and we had to seek him with our whole heart it was just too much work. Or maybe we just drifted. Followed the tide and let it take us where it may, thinking surely God is with me, but there was that moment when we could have steered closer to him and chose to keep floating instead.
Some of us have been in exile for awhile, we've created a life here, we got on with reality and stopped hoping for a homeland. Our children have grown in our presence while we've been out in this outcast homeland. We have forgotten the beauty of seeing the sun rise in the presence of the Lord. It's been so long, we've gotten so comfortable that we don't even consider our selves foreigners anymore. This is our home, how could it be that there is a way that is more true to who I was created to be?
But there is a hope and a future. One that doesn't include my separation. One that has me living in the land that was gifted to me. A place flowing with milk and honey, that God has conquered and declared good. He wants me to follow him there, but it means giving up the creature comforts of my exile home. I have to trust in the one that declares that this is not how it should be. Life is good here in the exile, I get by, not much to complain about. Why should I risk trusting? Why should I follow God out of this land and into a place known only as Promise?
Really, do you promise, God? Do you promise that I can trust you? Do you promise that your love is sufficient? Do you promise to be faithful and true? How can I believe in your promises? Give me something to prove your love, your faithfulness, your truth!
Is his proof sufficient? Is his grace and love enough? Will I walk out with him into the unknown Promise? I want facts! I want tangible! I want what I already have but with more comfort! But you offer only peace, not more creature comfort. You offer hardship, not more luxury. You offer love. Is your love enough for me? Is your love actually bigger than all my created comfort? Is your love more trustworthy than my own faulty heart? I want it to be! I want your love and grace and mercy to be sufficient. But I can see now that here in the exile, it will never be enough. As I stay in this land of my own doing, you will never be enough and so I must go. I have to leave and go towards the Promise. I have to leave all of me, all that I've built up and invested in just so I can get to a place where you are enough and that is sufficient. And so I don't even pack a bag nor take one last Instagram pic, no final posting on Facebook, I walk away as empty as I came into this land of exile.
But I walk away with hope and a future. I travel towards the land of Promise. I may never reach it in this life, but it's where my hope is.