Exile

He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left.
2 Kings 24:14 (NIV)

This past Saturday evening Wendy and I gathered with our local community theatre for an annual awards celebration. It was a gala affair and several people gave acceptance speeches for awards they received. I had several people comment to me that they picked up a theme in the speeches. Many members of our local theatre community moved into our small town from elsewhere. They spoke about their feelings of struggling to find a place where they belonged in the community and the theatre provided that for them. I  relate to that. It was 13 years ago that I moved to Pella and found myself auditioning for a show, hoping to meet people.

In today’s chapter we read about one of the most climactic events of the story of the nation of Israel. The Babylonians lay siege to Jerusalem, eventually destroying the city, Solomon’s Temple, and carrying everything of value, people included, into exile in Babylon. Jeremiah’s poem of Lamentations speaks his grief over the event. The events of the book of Daniel and the prophecies of Ezekiel tell of life in exile. Psalm 137 is an angry blues song grieving life in the Babylonian exile and expressing the desire for violent retribution on their captors.

Exile is a theme in our stories, our histories, and our life journeys. At some point in life, perhaps multiple times, we find ourselves unexpectedly stranded in unknown territory feeling like a stranger and in a strange place.

But in our epic stories there is always purpose in the exile. Harry Potter’s awful upbringing at the hand of his aunt and uncle planted and cultivated the seeds of the courage, endurance, and perseverance that would be required of him later. Aragorn lived in exile as a ranger for a hundred years, traveling the known world and living with different peoples, but it became essential to him becoming the man who would reclaim his throne. Even in the Great Story we find Israel learning important lessons that resonate in their culture to this very day. Even baby Jesus was taken into exile in Egypt to escape a murderous Herod.

Exile is an important theme in our journeys.

This morning I’m thinking about my own move to Pella. Without going into the story I will tell you that it was unforeseen and unexpected. There was a part of me that never wanted to be here. But, now I look back on the road I’ve traversed, where the journey has brought me, and I am so grateful for where the exile brought me and how exile taught me all about new things (including rediscovering my love of the stage). Exile is never easy, but it does have purpose in making me the person I’m called to be if I will choose to lean in and learn the lessons.

One thought on “Exile”

  1. Through the preaching of his servants and prophets, God had said he would do this, and now he was doing it. None of this was by chance—it was God’s judgment as he turned his back on Judah because of the enormity of the sins of Manasseh—Manasseh, the killer-king, who made the Jerusalem streets flow with the innocent blood of his victims.

    We live in a society that doesn’t like to discuss difficult things. It’s easier to hurl insults and preach from a soapbox on social media rather than sitting down and having a humane conversation with those who don’t agree with us. There is so much to learn from civil dialogue. One of the topics that I would love to discuss, but hesitate to bring up with hardly anyone, is the topic of God and punishment. This passage reminds me that the Message gives us a number of examples, mostly in the OT, of God issuing punishment to the nations who didn’t follow Him. I don’t like to jump to extremes when natural disasters hit and claim that God is punishing the people there, but I also don’t like completely ignoring the fact that God COULD do that if He chose to. Let’s continue to engage in calm, civil discourse in order to better understand each other and our world.

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