Exile and Faithfulness—The Greatest Story

The Greatest Story? Are we currently living the greatest story? What do you see as the greatest story ever told? For me, the greatest story began with creation. Then when God made a covenant with us. There was exile. Then there was slavery and liberation. Then freedom for the Israelites from Egypt.

When we look at how the people lived in the promised land, we see that they decided that they needed judges and then kings to rule over them. Some kings were good and some were bad.

 We know that faithfulness is necessary. However, some had faith some didn’t; some were faithful and some weren’t. God sent prophets to them warning them if they weren’t faithful bad things would happen to them. Because there was no balance, the destroyers entered. And when the destroyers entered, people were enslaved just like the prophets told them would happen if they didn’t stay faithful.

Socialism: here’s how Merriam-Webster defines it: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods 2a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.

Sit with that for a moment: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property. Can you imagine being taken out of your homeland and taken to a foreign land? Or, can you imagine if all you had—all you’d worked for—was taken away from you? Can you imagine the disorientation and would you call out, “Where is God? Why isn’t He here helping us?”

How can we worship God if He’s going to abandon us in our time of need? If He’s MIA during our most trying times. Like now. COVID-19. Record-breaking snowstorms in my state of Texas. People dying by the masses. Where exactly is God in all of this?

As for the Israelites, the prophets gave them a way out. They helped them see how they came to be exiled. We wonder where we are when exiled and wonder where we go from there. Like now. I’ve felt a bit exiled here in my world. Away from family and friends at times. Not being able to travel over this past year. Feelings of confinement in my own home. But God is ever faithful even when we aren’t. During this time, I’ve been in prayer and each day I try so very hard to lean into God’s Word and God’s voice as He whispers in my ear, “I am with you always. Even until the end of the earth. I will never abandon you.”

 When we lose a loved one or lose a job or go through a divorce or suffer from an addiction, loss is all around us. It engulfs us. It becomes a matter of disorientation. Loss is huge in a person’s life.

I recently lost my dearest cousin. His name was Bobby Bell. His daddy was my mother’s brother. We were eight years apart in age. Although we didn’t live in the same state growing up, every summer I’d visit with my grandparents in North Carolina where Bobby lived also. So we basically grew up together. He was more like my brother than my cousin. He taught me how to drive a stick shift. He got me in all sorts of trouble when we were kids. He made me laugh with my entire face. He told some funny stories. He let me hang around with him even though I annoyed the heck out of him. He loved the Lord, his family, and his country. He was my best friend.

This is one of my favorite pictures of us as kids.

He served several years in the Navy. He was a great guy then and until he passed.

He had a brother, Albert, and a sister, Valen.

My cousins. I love them dearly.

We all go through these different stages of life that I mentioned. Loss of job, family, friends. If you’ve been through all or one of those things you can see how these people, the Israelites, felt. It changes your perception. You don’t think clearly. You wonder how you’re going to go on. You wonder who you are now and why you are here. How do we get home from out of this exile?

Isaiah uses these words:

Remember – who you are

Fear not – I have called you by name you are mine

You’re valued by God.

Have you ever thought of the awesomeness of God calling you by name? When we’re baptized, we are reminded by the water that we are children of God. He knows our name. But if you’re in exile you don’t remember you are a child of God.

Isaiah reminds people that God is with them. (vs. 2) – When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Amen?

The God of the new and old Testaments is the same. He is steadfast in His love. He will never let you go. If you know God is with you it will change your life. God will make a way for us to go from disorientation back to normalcy. God is faithful. There’s a Hebrew word “Hesed” that means God’s steadfastness or stickiness. You can’t shake Him. He’s not going to let you go. It’s His covenant with you. This is what I know to be true.

Remember who you are and whose you are. God does His best work when we find ourselves in exile. I know it’s hard to see that but He’s there. God leads us forward in a hope-filled life. God is for you never against you.

And that’s what I learned in Church……see ya next time!