“The Lord says, “Come away! Flee from Babylon in the land of the north, for I have scattered you to the four winds. Come away, people of Zion, you who are exiled in Babylon!”” Zephaniah 2:6-7
The people of Judah were exiled for 70 years to Babylon because of their stiff neck and willful disobedience to the God who had delivered them many centuries before.
Reading this anew I felt that this describes the life of Christian discipleship. We, like all people cling to our rebel behavior. We don’t recognize it because it looks different from those “terrible sinners” out there. But like the people of God of old we too are exiled away from the New Jerusalem, We too are exiled from that land for the duration of our years on the earth (about 70!). It is God’s desire for us to use our time here to live within the culture and among the people we are exiled, learn their “language”, be among them so that some of them too may become people of God.
“The Lord says, ‘Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you.'” The time will come when we live where the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the bottom of the sea”. That time has not come yet.
Let us live out our years of exile being God’s people, following God’s ways among those who are foreigners to God’s ways as we wait patiently for the SECOND coming of Jesus when we return from exile to our true home!
This morning, promptly at 6:24 am the ISS (International Space Station) reached its highest point in the night sky and I watched as it sped silently along its path over 200 miles overhead. Over the decades since its inception there has been much in the news about the billions of dollars and countless hours spent to build, populate and maintain this modern wonder.
But as I watched it speed across that star draped backdrop the thought came to my mind that the wallpaper behind the ISS was immeasurably more wonderful! Each point in the sky represented a star, quasar or galaxy more expansive, distant and energetic than the most brilliant human mind can comprehend.
Standing there I was lost in wonder alongside the psalmist who wrote, “What is humanity that You are mindful of them?” Yet wonder of ALL wonders, the ONE who created all this has come to us, redeemed us and promised us an eternal home far above and beyond the ISS or even the most distant star!
“They have become like us, knowing both evil and good. What if they reach out and take from the tree of life and live forever?”
These words from Genesis 3:22 tell us that to be made in the image of God is to be able to choose between good and evil. So why did God withdraw His offer to eat freely from the tree of life? God put a guard to the garden of Eden to keep us from it.
We demonstrated in that choice to eat from the forbidden tree that given the choice between good and evil we will choose evil. God did not remake us so we could only choose good. Or did He?
Yes! In saving us and remaking us in the image of Jesus the Son we are given, as Jeremiah put it, “a heart of flesh”. May we yield to the Spirit of God and let ourselves be remade, day by day, into someone who when given the choice, does what is right no matter what.
How is it that God made light on the first day but on the fourth day created the sun, moon and stars? How is it that God created plants on the third day before the sun existed?
Could it be that God does not understand the way things work? From a scientific perspective, the way creation is recorded in the first chapter of Genesis makes no sense at all. Then why is it recorded this way?
Several years ago I found myself in a place of great financial need. I needed close to $2,000 per month to make ends meet and I had no idea where it would come from. My first response was to worry! But then, after taking time to pray I said to God, “All my life I have had a steady income from work. I now see that you have given me an opportunity to experience you as my provider, not an employer or even a person. I will trust you and I thank you in advance for your love and care. Amen.”
I wish I could say that day was the end of my worrying but it was not. That year was a year of struggles and ups and downs. I began looking for God’s provision in a dumpster and saw some of it there. It saw a time when someone I trusted cheated me out of over $2,000! I had to forgive that man and to this day this man, a professing Christian, has not honored his debt. But at the end of that year when I added up all that had come in it was even more than I had needed each month. To be sure I did not sit in my chair and wait for it to fall like manna from the sky. I worked and searched and prayed and struggled.
Now this brings me back to Genesis 1. It seems to be that in recording the order of creation the way it is we are meant to understand that it is not the sun, or even light or the earth itself that is our source of sustinence but the God OF creation.
This should give us great hope in a time when the earth as our source of life is being threatened by our own sinfulness!