The Return Of The Exiles

-The Life Of A Refugee!

We see the pictures on the nightly news or our online news sources; and, though pictures may be worth a thousand words, they can never adequately portray what it’s like to be exiled from your native land & to flee as a refugee to a foreign nation! The stories are horrific! The greatest fear, as a parent, is to be separated from your children in such a setting; although, in some cases, where the conditions are brutal enough, parents willingly hand off their children to someone else with the hope that they might survive & have a better life! Most of us, living in this country, simply have no point of reference or experience to draw on when it comes to living like an exile or a refugee!

-Israel’s Refugees From Babylon!

And, while some of the world’s current refugee crisis has similarities to the time of Israel’s exile— as recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles— there are many differences! The majority of exiles today are leaving war-torn nations by their own will, seeking refuge in a safe, neighboring country. Israel’s exile occurred against their own will when, the foreign nations of Assyria; and, then Babylon, swept in like a flood & plundered their homeland; and, then exiled them off to serve as slaves! For Israel, their exile was the more bitter because they had no one to blame but themselves.

-Israel Broke Covenant!

God had covenanted with them to bless them in the land—that He gave them—if they would obey Him & keep His commandments! But, He had also promised a curse if they broke covenant with Him; and, that’s exactly what they did! They abandoned Yahweh & chased after other gods; until, finally, Yahweh abandoned them! The 137th Psalm was written as a lament by those who endured the exile, the slavery & the human trafficking in that day:  “By the rivers of Babylon,” they cried, “there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing:  ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ they mocked.  “How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil?” That’s how the book of 2 Chronicles ends!

-Exiled To Babylon!

It reads that King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, “…deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled” 2 Chronicles 36:20-21.  So, Israel was exiled to Babylon for 70 years; and, God’s prophecy, through Jeremiah, was fulfilled. It was during those 70 years that the Medo-Persian empire overpowered Babylon!

-The Lord Put It In His Mind!

From there, the book of Ezra picks up the story of the exiles:  “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing” Ezra 1:1. That verse includes 2 significant details! First, that Jeremiah’s prophecy, of a 70-year exile, was completed in the first year of King Cyrus’ reign in Persia! And, second, that it was God who “…put it into the mind…” of Cyrus to issue a proclamation! I would encourage you to make a note in your Bible, right there, that says, “Here is an example of God’s Sovereignty over the world.”  Cyrus wasn’t in control! Persia wasn’t in control either! God was directing traffic here! He put it in Cyrus’ mind to issue the proclamation we’ll look at next week!

Even Leviticus!

-How To Live In God’s Presence!

From Genesis, the 1st book of the Bible, God began revealing, to us, the truth of His Gospel! He wants us to know the “Good News” that He, Himself, is making a way to restore the relationship, with Him, that our sin destroyed! Even Leviticus! Even the Bible’s 3rd book, Leviticus, which is not an easy read, instructs God’s people how to live in His presence. Leviticus calls attention to God’s condemnation of sin and uncleanness. That’s always where it begins! You can’t answer the question, about the condition of the world, without going back to the beginning of Creation!

-A Line In The Sand!

God drew a line in the sand— or, the dirt in the Garden of Eden— and, He said, “Do not eat from this tree.” He went on to say, that, “the moment you eat from that tree you’ll bring death and a curse on yourself & on the entire world.” But, earth’s 1st couple chose to believe the devil’s lie— that God was holding out on them! That they would be happier if they made their own rules & ignored God! So, how’s that working out for the people of planet Earth?  Not too well, is it? We’ve really messed up God’s planet; and, I’m talking about more than cutting down the rain forests; and, pollution; and, causing the extinction of a variety of animals God created.

-Sin’s Carnage & Destruction!

No, I’m talking about murdering people; and, stealing from people! I’m talking about sleeping with anyone you’re not married to; and, lying to one another; and, wars; and, violence like slavery and human trafficking; and, more! We don’t have time or space to cover all the carnage & destruction mankind’s sin has brought on this planet! I hear people, from time to time, complain that the 10 Commandments & God’s laws are so hard, unreasonable & intrusive! Really? God’s like saying, “Hey, let me give you some pointers on getting along with each other down there on planet Earth! Can you just NOT steal from each other? Can you just NOT murder each other? Can you just NOT sleep with your neighbor’s wife?” God is really just helping us & the planet thrive by demanding that we keep His commandments! Because, when we break His law, we really ruin planet Earth for everyone! Just think of all the pain & suffering that comes to a family when someone’s murdered—both the family of the perpetrator, of the crime; and, the family of the victim!

-God Is For Our Happiness!

Just think of all the pain and suffering that comes to a family when someone commits adultery— again, to both families involved! God’s not trying to kill our fun! He’s given us His commandments to keep us from unnecessary pain! God really is all about our happiness! But, He knows what makes us happy! We really don’t know what makes us happy! We think we do; but, sin has blinded our eyes! Consider this:  “How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night” Psalm 1:1-2.   Who’s happy? The one who doesn’t follow the world’s advice! The one who avoids the path of mockers— “You’re waiting till marriage to have sex? You’re missing out!” That’s the world’s advice; and, it doesn’t work! That counsel is ruining lives & marriages! Trust God! Our heavenly Father knows best!

 

God’s Plan Is Relentless!

-His Program For Restoration!

Genesis is the book of beginnings or origins; and, that’s an appropriate title because it unpacks the “genesis” of Creation and life! It also reveals mankind’s first sin and how it messed up the perfect world God created. Thankfully, we’re also introduced to the “genesis” of God’s divine program to restore His broken world & our broken lives, to the greatest fullness possible, through Jesus.  Genesis announces God’s relentless plan to restore fellowship with humanity & fulfill His purpose for Creation.

-Objections To God!

One of the most frequent objections— to God— that I hear, is in regard to all the pain & suffering that goes on in the world. “If God is capable of doing something about it,” the argument goes, “Then, why doesn’t He?” And, my answer is that He DID respond & He CONTINUES to respond; and, I can understand your anger over all the injustice & inhumane activity in the world! But, if you’re directing that anger @ God, then it’s misguided! You need to look in a mirror! WE ALL DO! Because, WE are the reason for all the evil, the suffering, the injustices, the wars, the slavery & human trafficking.

-He Is Relentless To Forgive!

It’s the book of Genesis that reveals where it all went wrong! Genesis also reveals God’s anger over all the perversity in the world; and, He’s devised a flawless plan— in eternity “past”— to restore His fellowship with us & His purpose for His Creation.  And, that’s the thread that runs throughout the entire Biblical narrative. From Genesis— the BEGINNING— to the last book of the Bible— the Revelation of the END— God is relentless in His commitment to love every man, woman, boy & girl who’s ever walked this earth; or, ever will walk it! He’s relentless to forgive the sin of every man, woman, boy & girl who will humble themselves before Him! He saves everyone who confesses their sin & unworthiness; and, accepts His plan for their lives!

-An Assumption That God Exists!

The very first verse, of the Bible, says:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” So, the Bible begins with the assumption that God exists. It doesn’t try & prove it. It just says, “THERE IS A GOD!” The New Testament book, of Hebrews, says, “Now without faith, it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.

-Pleasing God!

According to the author, of Hebrews, the 1st step, in pleasing God, is believing He exists. In the beginning, there was God! There was nothing else. He existed before the universe! He TRANSCENDS the heavens & the earth. He’s OUTSIDE of it! That means He created time & space. He created all the physical laws of the universe; so, He’s not subject to them! Rather, the laws, of the universe, are subject to HIM! That’s what we mean when we say that God TRANSCENDS creation. The 1st verse, in the Bible, also makes it clear that God is the main character in the Bible! That may crush our little human egos; but, we’re NOT the center of the universe! GOD is at the center of it all; and, His infinite worth & value is the ultimate value in all the universe!