Exile is a theme throughout the bible. Many will know about the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon in 587BC. But I want to explore this more as a theme throughout the bible.
Exile means to be expelled or barred from ones home country, to become a refugee, a foreigner or an alien. We see in the beginning Adam and Eve ate from the tree in the garden and were exiled. This experience led up up to the building of the Tower of Babel in Babylon. From here God disinherits the nations and calls Abraham.
As we fast forward through the patriarchs, the exodus the judges and then the kings we see Israel falling time and time again into sin. And as a result Israel is exiled in (587-6BC) from their nation to Babylon.
This is a result of their rebellion against God and what much of the prophetic writings are warning Israel about.
Daniel and his friends find themselves in Exile in Babylon and we will talk more about them later. But as Daniel studied the prophecies he saw that the time of exile was to be 70 years. He then prays for a return of the people to Israel. This happens but the people are still living under oppression. They are still effectively in exile as they are far away from God. Fast forward to the New Testament and you have a people under an oppressive regime waiting for their messiah to deliver them from exile and liberate them.
Remember that it is sin and rebellion that caused the exiles throughout the bible. Jesus death and resurrection make the way open for us to come home. And as such many people who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour speak about coming home.
Yet we are spiritually home but living in a world that is far from Christ. Peter talks about this in his first letter. He addresses it to those who reside as aliens. In some translations it says strangers. An alien is a foreigner: a person who comes from a foreign country; someone who is not at home where they are living. We are those people.
In part of the Greek for alien it says we are sojourners, travellers in a strange place. That is, we are temporary residents, this is not our home. Yet in our lives we often seem to live as those who are pretty comfy, we have become camouflaged without the environment around us. So much so that it is difficult to recognise those who are of the heavenly kingdom and those who are of the earth.
The Lord is reminding us that we are in Exile, that the culture we live in isn’t ultimately our culture, but ours is the culture of heaven.
Let’s jump back to Daniel. He lived in Exile, studied in Exile, wore the clothes of Exile yet was distinct. There were lines that they drew and as such they were distinct, you might want to call that holiness. They knew that Babylon was not their home. We are in a type of Babylon, this is not out our home and part of the Lockdown is to remind us that we are in Exile, the comforts of the world are not to be our comforts. This has been a time where many have felt uncomfy. For much of the Church you couldn’t distinguish it from the world.
It is in 1 John 2:15-17 that John warns the people about love for the world.
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. 1 John 2:15-17
We are in the world but we are not of the world. I am not advocating a bunker lifestyle, where we run for the hills and bunker down until the Lords return, absolutely not.
Jesus lived as one an exile, a foreigner a refugee whilst in Egypt and he lived as one without a home during his life. We too are Exiles, living in a type of Babylon.
I believe part of this season is reminding us that we are in Exile and anticipating a heavenly home, that we are strangers, aliens and travellers, to use the biblical language. Called to be different, distinct, you could even call it holy.
So my prayer is that we learn how to be in the world but not of the world. To be distinct but not weird, to love the people but not have a lot of the world recognising our home is in heaven.