“The world is changing!” “Every day it is something else.” “Will we ever go back to normal?” “How did we come to this?” Almost every day I hear some form of those statements or questions. Most certainly, the world is changing, and more is on the way. To quote the overused line from the movie Wizard of Oz , “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
As to returning to normal, that may not be in the near future, if at all. We may have to come to grips with the fact that we are now living in a different world, a world of exile. The real questions now are, “Why are we in exile?” and “How should we live in exile?”
The answers may be found in a different time and place from a people who faced similar circumstances: the people of Judah who were taken into the Babylonian exile. God had repeatedly warned them through his prophets to repent from following false idols and return to him. They even watched their brothers and sisters to the north, the kingdom of Israel, being taken away into the Assyrian exile in 722 B.C. because of their disobedience. Unfortunately, the kings of Judah repeatedly led the people astray. One named Manasseh even “seduced them to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel” (2 Kings 21:9). At times, they had godly kings like Josiah who wholly followed God, but, sadly, the damage was already done.
As warned by God, Babylon became the new superpower in 605 B.C., and King Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem in 597 B.C. He stole all the treasures from the palace and the temple, put a puppet king named Zedekiah on the throne of Judah and began deporting “all the captains and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and smiths. None remained except the poorest people of the land” (2 Kings 24:14). This was the time when the future leaders like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were dragged into exile, never to return. Ten years later, when Zedekiah refused to follow Jeremiah’s warning and rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar returned and burned Jerusalem, the temple, the palace, the city walls and all the mansions. He dragged more people of Judah into exile. The old world was now completely gone and their lives were in chaos.
What do you think was the state of mind of those people in exile? They sat down by the rivers of Babylon and began lamenting over their situation. They lost all motivation to work or worship. As Susan Langer (one time Professor at Columbia, New York University) wrote in her book “Philosophy in a New Key,” “Man can adapt himself somehow to anything his imagination can cope with; but he cannot deal with Chaos. Because his characteristic function and highest asset is conception, his greatest fright is to meet what he cannot construe, the ‘uncanny,’ as it is popularly called.”
This is where America is headed if we’re not careful. We will have to learn from those people in exile if we are to survive. God’s word to us is the same as he told the Judeans through Jeremiah, “For thus says the LORD: After 70 years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:10-11). In the meantime, they were to build houses and plant gardens, take wives and have children, grow in numbers and seek the peace of the city where they were living. As promised, God raised Cyrus the Great of Persia in 539 B.C. to free the Jewish people to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
God has a future and a hope for America. Until he is ready, we are to repent of our sins, refrain from following the culture, reject a victim mentality, return to normal life and reach the world for Christ. In God’s timing, he will heal our land and bring us back from exile. In fact, our exile may turn out to be God’s blessing in disguise.