Thursday, October 1, 2020

Out of Exile

By Steve Higginbotham

     In 586 B.C., God's people were carried off into Babylon to spend the next 70 years as exiles. This captivity was an act of discipline by God upon his people to wake them up out of their sin...and it worked. Seventy years later, when they came out of exile and returned to their homeland, they were a changed people and had learned at least the following three points:
    The Importance of the Assembly. When Solomon's temple was destroyed, and they no longer had a place to assemble and worship together, they apparently missed these assemblies. The synagogue that we read so much about in the New Testament was born during the exile. These people realized that they needed to assemble, study together, encourage each other, and be a community, thus they built synagogues. The command to assemble isn't an arbitrary hoop to jump through, but something that has genuine value, and that value was more greatly appreciated when it was taken away from them.
    The Importance of God's Word. Imagine what it must have been like for up to three generations of people who had never worshiped as God commanded. Many being ignorant of what his commandments were. So, when they came out of exile, notice what they did.  1) They asked for the Book of the Law to be read; 2) They stood in respect when the book was opened; 3) They listened from the morning light till mid-day as the book was read; 4) They listened attentively (Nehemiah 8:1-5). Their hunger for God's word is apparent by what they did.
    The Importance of Discipline. The Bible informs us that this captivity was the work of God. He was disciplining his children, and they seemed to have learned their lesson. When they came out of exile, the first thing they did was erect an altar to the Lord and worshiped day and night (Ezra 3). Troubles and hardships seem to reprioritize our life's focus.
     When I consider these three lessons learned during Judah's exile, I can't help but think of our momentary "exile" due to this pandemic. Have we been discomforted enough to realize the importance of the assembly, and that meeting together is not just an arbitrary hoop to jump through, but a vital part of our walk with God? Have we realized how important God's word is and sought out ways to hear it?  And while none can authoritatively say that this pandemic is a discipline from God, can we not still learn from it?  Have the hardships driven you to reprioritize your life?
     If so, good! As bad as this time has been, maybe the end result will make us better people. Give it some thought.
- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at Copyright © 2019 MercEmail

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