Exile Word on the Week 14th January 2023.
The graphic picture of the exile in the Bible has been captured by the operatic composer, Verdi, in his opera Nabucco. Few can resist the plaintive cry of the Hebrew slaves in Babylon as their captors taunt them to sing the songs of Zion. How can we sing in a foreign land they replied?
The Hebrews’ pain in being separated from the land of their birth was accentuated by their love for Jerusalem, the city of David. This was a place steeped in their history. It was the seat of their kings. But above all it was where the Temple of the Lord was located (Psalm 137 verses 1to 6).
It was where the Lord’s presence dwelled – in the Most Holy Place, between the cherubim and above the mercy seat (1 Kings Chapter 8 verses 6 to 9). Underneath was the Ark of the Lord’s covenant containing the 10 Commandments written on stone. They could never forget Jerusalem!
In addition to their memories of Jerusalem the exiles had the prophecy that the exile would last 70 years. A generation would pass before their return but that return was sure (2 Chronicles Chapter 36 verse 21).
Such certainty is not available to our Ukrainian friends. Their period of exile will soon have completed its first year. Their longing to return to their homeland has not diminished. The tide of war ebbs and flows. The stream of refugees continues to arrive with additions from other war-torn countries.
A relatively new feature in Ireland is the organised protest of the ‘far right’. These people alight on perceived ‘weakness’ in this case the ever increasing flow of refugees which is causing a strain in some places. This they try to exploit and by networking bring in others to form intimidatory meetings at the places where refugees are housed. Hardly the Irish welcome we are known for!
But there is a bigger picture. Whether or not you are a refugee when you put your trust in Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit enters your life and you are twice over the Lord’s. First by creation then by Jesus’ act of redemption on the cross. We now have the assurance of an everlasting home in heaven (1 Peter Chapter 1 Verses 17 to 21).
The Apostle Peter then goes on to describe believers as exiles and strangers here in the world. Heaven has now become our real dwelling place through Jesus…”He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter Chapter 2 Verses 11 to 25).
Our exile ends the day we go to be with Jesus – John Chapter 14 verse 6.