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S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 36:11 Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king, and he ruled for eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 He did what was evil in the Lord his God’s eyes and didn’t submit before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke for the Lord. 13 Moreover, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, despite the solemn pledge Nebuchadnezzar had forced him to swear in God’s name. He became stubborn and refused to turn back to the Lord, Israel’s God…
15 Time and time again, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers because he had compassion on his people and his dwelling. 16 But they made fun of God’s messengers, treating God’s words with contempt and ridiculing God’s prophets to such an extent that there was no hope of warding off the Lord’s rising anger against his people.
17 So God brought the Babylonian king against them…
19 Next the Babylonians burned God’s temple down, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, and set fire to all its palaces, destroying everything of value. 20 Finally, he exiled to Babylon anyone who survived the killing so that they could be his slaves and the slaves of his children until Persia came to power. 21 This is how the Lord’s word spoken by Jeremiah was carried out. The land finally enjoyed its sabbath rest. For as long as it lay empty, it rested, until seventy years were completed.
22 In the first year of Persia’s King Cyrus, to carry out the Lord’s promise spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord moved Persia’s King Cyrus to issue the following proclamation throughout his kingdom, along with a written decree:
23 This is what Persia’s King Cyrus says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the earth’s kingdoms and has instructed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you belong to God’s people, let them go up, and may the Lord their God be with them!
O (Observation): The same God who let the Hebrew people of Judah be taken over by the Babylonian king is the same one who brings them back. This exile lasted about 70 years (or about 2 generations).
God’s people were doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and openly mocking the prophets (who were trying to give guidance to God’s people).
This exile allowed God’s people to see the err of their ways, but how were they to get back to the land promised to them?
This is the tricky part of the understanding of how God works. Nothing that God’s people have done gets them back into God’s good graces. God initiates the return of God’s people by affecting change in King Cyrus, the king of Persia. Cyrus does as God wishes: he commands God’s people to go and to take their stuff with them.
In those days invading a land meant breeding the people out by intermarrying and making the captives adopt your customs. Well, God’s people were kept intact and got to take most of their stiff back with them. And with the support of the foreign king!
So back they go…well, most of them…
A (Application): We all have our exiles. Death of a loved one. Surgery awaiting. A relationship gone bad. No money in the bank account.
We are lost. Some thing or someone has taken over your life. Some desire to be something you’re not drives you to succeed, but all you feel is emptiness inside.
What are we yearning for? Wholeness? We won’t get it on our own.
Are we striving for justice or peace? Is the pursuit rooted in empathy for neighbor or wanting to be known as a “good Christian”?
What does God speak to us in our baptism? “You are my daughter / son, you are my beloved! You are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit!” And God makes a promise to us, to set us free to love and serve God and neighbor and to bring us back in when we push ourselves to the point of exile.
We try to cover our brokenness by fitting in or making believe all is well or getting people to like us.
Maybe it’s okay…maybe it’s better if we just admit that “it” is not all well. That we do not have it all together. Then, in the midst of our emptiness and the sharing of our emptiness, we might find a community based on our common element: we are broken.
As such, brings us back, reminding us that it is not our own action, but Jesus’ saving action on the cross that brings us back to God. That grace alone saves us, because our efforts fall woefully short.
In a community in which we are being healed…we can serve others out of a sense of compassion and empathy towards the brokenness of others.
And together, with God’s guidance, we at just find the hope we need.
May your exiles turn into freedom.
P (Prayer): Lord, you save me. Help me to see my own brokenness. Heal me. Amen.