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Exile
by Bob Chochola
05/02/09
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“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are. Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager Hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager Hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this Hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to Hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness… And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
Romans 8:18-28

On September 11th, 2001 nearly three-thousand people were murdered in a despicable act of terrorism that destroyed the World Trade Center, severely damaged the United States Pentagon, and scarred forever a remote field in rural Pennsylvania with the blood of Americans whose heroic actions prevented further loss of life. Evidence to anyone who happened to turn on a television that morning that America was under attack. Our way of life was in the attackers’ crosshairs. Freedom was at stake. Excuse the expression, but “all hell” was breaking loose.

Over the course of a few more hours, the world watched commercial jets slam into buildings, people leaping to their death in order to escape fire and heat, panic in the streets, and total chaos. The greatest nation on Earth was under attack. The world’s strongest superpower was sitting powerless in the hands of terrorists. It seemed at the time like a horrible mistake or some sort of Hollywood special effects masterpiece. But this was no mistake; this was no work of fiction.

This was the worst terrorist attack in American history and it happened right before the eyes of billions of people; it happened on American soil with the network television cameras rolling.

But what about this tragedy that is now just a recorded event in our history that pits brother-against-brother, American-against-American, nation-against-nation long after the humanity and sacrifice of those who spent weeks, months, and in some cases years, helping find answers and closure for the victims? We are all victims in one way or another of that terrible day, yet back to business-as-usual politicians point accusing fingers on both sides of the ideological spectrum, some clergymen and university professors have come to the conclusion that America itself is to blame, preaching and teaching the philosophies of hate, and on the street a deafening silence is a reminder that “going on with your life” often means forgetting about imminent danger and ignoring the possibility that something like this may happen again.

It does happen – all the time. Maybe not in the form of religious extremist attacks and terror plots, but disaster happens all the time.

Famines, floods, and fires ravage cities the world over. Disease kills in a far-away land. A single disturbance at sea sends a tsunami to landfall where tens-of-thousands of lives are lost and countless families are torn-apart forever in a matter of seconds.

Some say “God did it!” and explain great tragedies as “God’s will” upon the world.

The real answer can be found in God’s mercy and promise. This world was condemned to “death and decay” long ago in the Garden when the adversary took control over the world and sin’s power reigned supreme. But God sent a warrior in the flesh form of His only begotten Son Jesus Christ to fight that battle on behalf of His children; He was born, He walked this Earth, He was crucified, buried, He defeated sin, and He has risen again from out of the grave for the glory of all mankind. He made righteous His people; he freed them from sin right then and there in order that they may continue His work now that He sits at the right hand of the Father. His children pick up where Christ left off with the knowledge that they too have a place with God – right now – as Jesus did when He was alive.

This knowledge, the Good News, transforms all the evil of this world into the knowledge that great tragedy is not simply a witness to God’s anger, but to His mercy. How quickly it gets forgotten the good that often follows a horrible disaster - the good works of mankind. This is the Holy Spirit alive and at work that delivers God’s people out of disasters like 9-11 to a place where no worldly force or tool of the adversary can defeat them. They are delivered from the enemy and can face the future with Hope and the confidence of knowing that they are God’s children and have a right to His promise - divine in that they were given these things through Jesus Christ.

But God, What Have You Done For Me Lately?

“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children… Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into Exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare… Do not let your prophets and fortune-tellers who are with you in the land of Babylon trick you. Do not listen to their dreams, because they are telling you Lies in my name… I will bring you home again. For I know the plans I have for you… They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a Hope… I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”
Jeremiah 29:5-14

A glance at today’s newspaper reveals a truth that, minus the Living Word, would cause even those strongest in faith to question God’s motives; they might wonder how God lets life spin out of control when He wields an almighty power.

A financial crisis that some call the worst in history, skyrocketing unemployment, trillions of dollars in the deficit and still trillions more borrowed from foreign powers for bailouts, an announcement that General Motors will shut-down twelve-hundred auto dealers, a convicted child molester awarded four-million-dollars after he was beaten into a state of permanent brain damage by fellow inmates while prison guards watched, the swine flu “pandemic” (read: a media-created word meaning a bunch of sick people), and a killer who stalked his victims online are the top stories of today. Tomorrow and every day the flow of bad news will go on.

It may be that in your life some of these issues have left you struggling with foreclosure, substance abuse, serious illness, loneliness, and depression; all of these can be more devastating to an individual than even a great tragedy like 9-11 (unless, of course, you were directly involved). To suffer a great personal tragedy often means to suffer alone – in exile.

It’s easy to question God’s motives at times like these. It’s tempting to ask, “Why, God, do you let things like this happen to me?”

It is even more tempting to turn to quick-fix solutions and those offering false hope, or to ignore God’s commands completely.

“What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance. The Lord looks down from Heaven and sees the whole human race. From His throne He observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so He understands everything they do. The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don’t count on your war-horse to give you victory – for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the Lord watches over those who fear Him, those who rely on His unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We put our Hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our Hope is in you alone.”
Psalm 33:12-22

He “rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine” – the Living Word of God tells us to “put our Hope in the Lord” and that is the ultimate response to fear, hopelessness, hard times, and even death. What comfort knowing His promise is valid through all worldly experiences – good and bad alike.

What Did Jeremiah Mean by Prophets and Fortune-Tellers?

The prophet Jeremiah’s ministry (627-586 B.C) was by any human measurement of success, a complete and utter failure. He was poor, unpopular, isolated, and persecuted. He lived for forty-years in Judah just before the people were exiled to Babylon. His prophecies were collected into the book that now bears his name.

Jeremiah’s message was a simple one: it is too late to avoid God’s discipline - accept it and turn from your sins. The people did not heed his warnings, however, and they locked him in stocks and threatened to kill him.

As a result, Jeremiah lived to see the invasions by the Babylonian armies, the deportations of his people, the slaughter of Jerusalem’s inhabitants, and the destruction of the Temple.

Jeremiah has been called “the weeping prophet” because of his troubles.*

The Lord speaks to Jeremiah (Jer 3:6-10) comparing “fickle Israel” to a wife that commits adultery; “[Israel] thought nothing of worshiping idols made of wood and stone. So, now… Judah… has only pretended to be sorry.”

God’s message in the book of Jeremiah is to accept the Living Word as proof that all debts to the Father have been paid in full by what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross. All you have to do is believe!

The Lord says of Israel (Jer 3:22), “My wayward children… come back to me, and I will heal your wayward hearts.” He says (Jer 3:19), “I looked forward to your calling me Father.”

Our relationship with God is not that of guilt and obligation. We are His children. Therefore it is vitally important to know the Living Word has power over all worldly disaster and pain; God is present now as He has always been to reassure His children of His promise in the face of all that they must endure. It is given!

“On Earth as it is in Heaven” does not speak in terms of disaster and death, but it is the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome the obstacles. It is to see beyond all hurdles, all mountains of human suffering, straight to the mercy of God. It is to walk as Christ did more than two-thousand years ago knowing where we are going at all times. It is to be confident in the fact that we are picking up where Christ left-off; we have the Holy Spirit living in us, walking with us, and living through us right now. That’s what enables us to see God’s Love among the most horrific circumstances.

“For I know the plans I have for you.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Trust in the Living Word of God!

* Holy Bible; New Living Translation (Second Edition), p. 446; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.


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