Exile is the in-betweens. When life is in transition. When you have come from a good place, are in a bad place, and are waiting to reach an even better place. Exile is a place of both certainty and uncertainty. Certain that the future will be better because of hope, and uncertain because you do not know exactly how long the exile will last. So you wait anyway, because ‘anyone who is among the living has hope- even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!’ (Ecclesiastes 9:4). While in the waiting, many remain stagnant and only wait for the blessed future- like Israel of old who were exiled for 70 years in Babylon. While in exile, their hope was God’s promise that, ‘I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future’ (Jeremiah 29:10-11). In exile, this promise seems far-reaching, but God commands beforehand for the exiles to;
Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters.
Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’
This command seemed to be juxtaposing, because while in exile normal life has ceased. But because God does not stop working, He expects His children to press on and move forward in life regardless of their circumstances. The Israelites were exiled because of their unfaithfulness and rebellion to God. So God ‘repaid them according to their deeds and the work of their hands’ (25:v14) and so their sin was always before them. Like King David, they could lament, ‘For my iniquities have overwhelmed me; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me’ (Psalm 38:4). While in exile and away from God because of our sins, the weight of our guilt and sin can overwhelm us so much that we cannot pray, praise or see any possibility of redemption. However, in such spiritual exile, God intends for us to continue to ‘seek Him while He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6). Hosea urges, ‘Let us acknowledge the Lord, let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth’ (Hosea 6:3). Jude says, ‘I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints’ (Jude 1:3).
When the first man, Adam sinned, ‘God banished him from the Garden of Eden’ (Genesis 3:23). Even while in exile because of sin, Adam was still to ‘work the ground from which he had been taken from’ (v23), he still multiplied to fill the earth so that his wife Eve said, ‘With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man’ (4:v1). When their son Cain sinned by killing his brother, God banished him from his presence saying, ‘You will be a restless wanderer on earth’ (v12). Cain responds to God, ‘My punishment is more than I can bear . . . I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on earth, and whoever finds me will kill me’ (v13,14). Cain thought his life was over just because he was exiled, but God responds, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over’ (v15). Cain proceeded to building a family and a city (v17) even while exiled.
In some way or the other, all of humanity is exiled because of the sin of our first father, Adam. We are exiled on earth temporarily, though it seems like a long time. Like the Israelites who were in exile for 70 years, it is no surprise that ‘The length of our days is 70 years- or 80 if we have the strength’ (Psalm 90:10). Like to the Israelites, God says of our exile, ‘It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce’ (Jeremiah 29:28). While many have built lavish houses and settled down, Jesus clarifies that a wise man builds ‘his house on the rock’ (Matthew 7:24). He proceeds to say that, ‘Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand’ (v26). Many have also planted gardens and eaten their produce in this lifetime, but Jesus reminds us that, ‘If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).
In as much as many have become successful during their time in exile, here on earth, they forget to prepare for where they are going. They forget that they are ‘aliens and strangers on earth’ (Hebrews 11:13). They forget that their true ‘citizenship is in heaven’ (Philippians 3:20). Daniel, while exiled in Babylon knew that he would return to a better place and so, ‘resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine’ (Daniel 1:8). In as much as he was also ‘made ruler over the entire province of Babylon’ (2:v48), ‘three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God’ (6:v10). Like Daniel, we ought to realize that though we are in the world, we are not of the world. Even when we prosper in exile, we should not forsake our God, nor ‘conform any longer to the pattern of this world’ (Romans 12:2).
Even when our sin is always before us here in the world, we are to ‘keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life’ (Jude 1:21). We are to ‘keep pressing on’ (Philippians 3:14) because ‘we are not those who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul’ (Hebrews 10:39). When we continue pursuing God’s agenda even while in exile, we will hear Jesus say to us like He did to Daniel; ‘Daniel, you who are highly esteemed. . . Since the first day you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard and I have come in response to the them’ (Daniel 10:11,12).
‘May you prosper greatly!’ ~ Daniel 4:1