A Tale of Two Cities: Yesteryear and Exile

A Tale of Two Cities: Yesteryear and Exile

I’d like to invite you to come with me to a place where some of us have lived before and some of us, the younger ones, have only heard of. The name of the town is Yesteryear.

In Yesteryear:

  • Laws were rooted in the Judeo/Christian ethic.
  • Families were stable, and divorce was rare.
  • Living together unmarried was even rarer.
  • Our military was superior, crime was minimal, and poverty was held in check.
  • Terrorism was not on the radar.
  • Savings accounts were common.
  • Debt was manageable.
  • The economy was growing.

Have you ever lived in Yesteryear? Do you still live there?

My guess is, you’ve moved – or been moved – to a new place.

The name of this new place is actually found in the Bible.

It’s called Exile.

In Exile:

  • We have religious pluralism – lots of gods.
  • Law is rooted in personal rights instead of personal responsibilities.
  • A family is almost any assortment of humans.
  • Our massive military cannot stamp out tiny terrorist cells.
  • Crime has caused us to secure our cars, homes, credit cards, and identities.
  • Poverty has millions living on a government check.
  • Terrorism is a daily color-coded warning.
  • Companies have downsized, shut down, or gone overseas, and the people who own them make 200 times more than the people who work in them.

Exile. Is this where you live now?

I’ve always believed that the essential skill for Christian living is to discern the culture we live in and connect it to relevant texts of the Bible when God’s people were facing the same thing. The best textual site for learning about life in Exile is Isaiah 40-55.

In chapter 40, we drop in on a strategic heavenly planning session of the divine court where the Sovereign Lord of Israel is making a royal proclamation meant to be overheard all the way to Exile. He announces to the heavenly court:

Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her
That she has served her term,
That her penalty is paid,
that she has received from the LORD’S hand
double for all her sins.
(Isaiah 40:1-2)

Apparently, God’s judgment has served its purpose and has come to an end.

Judgment is a word I haven’t always liked. Too harsh, too condemning. But I am beginning to change my mind. The judgment of God is our salvation. The word means more than damnation or condemnation. God’s judgment is his verdict, his declaration of truth about the status of things. It is God’s evaluation of how we are living.

It is the invitation to live honestly before the face of God, to walk humbly, to love covenant-faithfulness, and to do justice. It is his order to bring things as they are to an abrupt halt, to do an about face, and to move toward God. Judgment is always God’s first saving move.

The beginning of our salvation in Exile is to embrace the reality of our sins that landed us here. As a result, we have experienced God as absent but according to Isaiah 40, that’s about to change.

A voice cries out:
‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
The uneven ground shall become level,
And the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’
(Isaiah 40:3-5)

They are being instructed to build a highway—a runway for the entrance of God. He is en route to Exile.

Dare we believe that God’s glory is coming to Exile?

Can a people who have been overrun by other cultures, other religions, other powers, and other gods believe that their God is taking notice of them and coming to help them?

Yes.

Our God is present, not in temples, handmade statues, military victory, or political overthrow – but in the person and work of Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit, who lives in the hearts of believers.

The people of God are never given overwhelming proof to convince us of final freedom. Our God has the capacity to back his beeping dump-truck-load of convincing evidence up to our questions and dump the whole load on top of our head until we are crushed under an irrefutable ton of proof.

But God has never operated that way. It has always been a whispered promise.

We are required to walk by faith in promises that have not yet fully come to fruition, trusting that God will deliver us all from Exile.

Today’s post is an excerpt from The Church in Exile: Interpreting Where We Are.

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