2 Kings 25:21. And the king of Babylon struck [the priests] down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.
Israel was given everything it needed to be a glorious kingdom holy unto the Lord. They had God’s law, God’s prophets, and even God’s presence. But over the course of time, beginning with Solomon, the heart of the king, and the heart of the people with it, was drawn away from God. Solomon’s cruelty would split his once peaceful kingdom into two nations: Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Twenty kings later, the nation of Israel will be conquered by the Assyrian empire and absorbed into history. And twenty kings later the nation of Judah would be conquered by the Babylonians and taken into exile.
Exile is an important motif in scripture. Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden. Joseph was exiled to Egypt. And now the nation of Judah is exiled from the promised land, and sent across the desert to a foreign country. For 70 years they will live in Babylon as outsiders.
The people of Judah must have felt like they were not only losing their land but also their God. The Temple has been burned by King Nebuchadnezzar. The priests have been executed. Surely God has abandoned them.
Do you ever feel like this? Like you’re living in exile? Like you’ve been carried off into a foreign land without connection, without hope, maybe even without God?
But the exile of Judah to Babylon teaches us a very important lesson – God is not confined to any earthly temple. He is not limited to any land. His presence is not restricted to the priests. God will go with Judah into their exile. He will never leave them or forsake them. He will never give up on them. And he will restore them. He will keep all his promises to their father David: A house forever. A throne forever. A kingdom forever. And he will keep all his promises to their father Abraham: Land forever. Blessing for all nations. And an offspring who will rescue them.
Matthew 1:17. So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.
Matthew’s gospel starts by presenting Jesus as the end of Judah’s exile. But did Jesus destroy Babylon? Did he conquer any of Israel’s oppressors? Did he rebuild a physical temple? Did he sit on a throne in Jerusalem? No. So then what is Matthew trying to show us by connecting Christ to exile?
Jesus left his throne and was sent into exile for us. Christ allowed himself to be carried off outside of Jerusalem, into the slavery of the cross. The true Temple of God was destroyed in death. The true Priest of God was murdered by his captors.
But far worse, Jesus entered into an exile that even the Jews did not. In his humanity, Jesus WAS separated from God. He was forsaken. He was abandoned. He felt the full wrath of God’s love and holiness.
Christ was exiled from God so that we would never have to be. By his resurrection, his death became his coronation. His cross became his throne. His defeat became his victory. And ours!
Do you feel like you’re in exile today? It’s for good reason. In a very real sense we, the church, are in a physical exile. We aren’t “home” yet. We are strangers in a strange land. Wanderers in the wilderness. Longing to see our Savior face to face. Suffering as we wait for his glorious appearing.
But “to live is Christ” means all who are in Christ have been brought out of the exile of death and into the promised land of his eternal life. Now, in Christ, we never have to feel disconnected from God again, even in our earthly exile, for Christ has joined his life to ours. He has made his home in our hearts. He has defeated our captors, sin and death. He has restored our community. He has planted us in the land of his love and indwelt us as his holy Temple. Now, in Christ, we are never alone. Never disconnected. Never forsaken. Never separated from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Do you ever feel exiled from God?
You in Christ
We are physically exiled in the world but never spiritually exiled from Christ. How does this truth help to give you a balanced view of life today?
Christ in you
How can you display the hope of Christ today in your exile?
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