Are you losing hope?
The year was 587BC, a date seared in the collective Jewish conscience. Having begun his attack on Jerusalem some ten years earlier, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar completed his military conquest, destroying city, temple and exporting people more than 1,000km eastward to Babylon.
This period – the Babylonian captivity – lasted 70 years, after which the Jewish people were allowed to return to their homeland.
During the pandemic of 2020 I wonder if you have felt yourself in unfamiliar surroundings with new customs, rules, and an uncertain future? I wonder if you’ve asked, “how long will this last?” I wonder if you’ve found yourself losing hope some days? I can answer “yes” to all of those, and I’ll bet the exiles of that day could too.
Fellow citizen in the land of exile, there are hidden gems of wisdom to be gained from the Babylonian captivity.
- It will be longer than you expect. There were voices that said the Babylonian captivity would last two years. It was the prophet Jeremiah who had the uncomfortable, but correct word that it would last seventy years. As we’re waking up to the fact that pandemic 2020 is lasting longer than any of us thought, don’t let yourself be rattled by the many voices and endless predictions around us today.
- Worship is difficult. Psalm 137 drips with the anguish of those in captivity. Their refrain, “how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” echoes for us in 2020 while we grapple with pandemic restrictions on worship. And just like those exiles learned to worship in new ways, so will we.
- God initiates the return. Through Jeremiah the word came again – “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you… to bring you back…” That speaks to me of God’s unending love for, and commitment to us. We don’t know the time frame, but we can count on God’s love and care for us now, and in the future.
- Build, settle down, plant, eat, marry, increase, seek, pray. These were the commands of God to the exiles while in exile, and they remind me that exile is a time to be active. This isn’t the time to just “wait it out.” When the exiles returned seventy years later, some accounts suggest the population had doubled in that time. What kind of “increase” might happen for us during this pandemic time?
- Creativity, inspiration, and depth come while in captivity. Some of the bible’s most powerful visions and written accounts emerged during captivity. I wonder if the exiles thought that conditions in Babylon would limit what they could do, much as we see pandemic restrictions limiting us? What insights, what depth, what creativity might God want to inspire in us during this time?
Lakeside, see you next Sunday, Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll be singing a powerful new song, “Do it Again” that echoes some of these thoughts, and we’ll be continuing our series Vaccine with Pastor Marc Gagnon.
Executive Pastor, Lakeside Church