DEEPER DIVE: RE:orient - Living as Exiles

posted by Bethel Communications | Nov 1, 2020

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Dave Dawson:  Welcome to the Deeper Dive! Here we are again. Our same trio of Jason, Adam, and myself, Dave Dawson. The Deeper Dive is going deeper into the Scripture, the message of the week. We go into some historical context, or a theological context, or something that we couldn’t necessarily flesh out during the message. So that’s our goal.

So, I’ve got as pretty cool one today, but before I even mention what we’re going after today I’m going to ask a question of ourselves – our guys right here, okay? So, we make a big deal about reading the Bible. Alright guys, what is our regular reading plan? What do we do?

Adam Phillips:  For me it changes up depending on the season. I mean, there’s that conviction to be in the Word. Sometimes that’s, I’m going for quantity – reading through books chronologically. Then sometimes I slow it down and reread the same book multiple times or reread a section of that book. And each season is different. Or spending time in the Psalms for a month and then going somewhere else.

It really changes depending on what I’m preaching and where we’re reading as a church, and where the Lord is, what He’s putting on my heart at the time.
Dave Dawson:  Adam, do you actually have a time and a place that you actually read the Bible every day? Or does that vary?

Adam:  It varies. I try to do that in the mornings when I can get some time away by myself. But it also happens at night when everyone’s asleep and I have some quiet time to be able to do that.

Dave:  You do have twelve kids. Okay, not quite that many – he’s got four.

Jason Greene:  Yeah, Adam, I’m the same way. It definitely depends on the season. But you know, what’s interesting, Dave, as pastors we have the privilege of studying the Bible – not professionally, you know, in a sense that there’s some kind of professional study that’s out there – but we have this privilege of being sponsored and required by the church to study the Bible. So, for, I’m assuming the three of us, most of our study of Scripture is study in preparation for sermons – whether it’s that Sunday or it’s months down the road. We are constantly studying Scripture.

And then, in addition to that – and sometimes it’s difficult to separate and I don’t even know if you should, that personal and professional – they spill over into one another. So, I would say, Adam, I’m most like you. I’m typically studying through a book. I had a pastor that taught me many years ago, instead of reading the whole of Scripture and kind of just blasting through it, to kind of chew on and meditate on one book at a time and I’ve been in that habit probably for the last decade.

Dave:  That’s really good. Well, I’m probably on the other side of the coin. I’m a little more “traditional Bethel”. I do the one-year plan – which, by the way, I hasten to add, I have never read the Bible through in one year! I’ve never made it. Here I am confessing to our podcast, to our listening audience, but…
Adam:  This is your 20th try though. Maybe you’ll get it this year.

Dave:  It is, man, but yeah, I…by the way, I also read in the mornings. I don’t think there’s anything sacrosanct about that. Boy, I’ve just found it definitely starts my day well. By the way, Jason, you were saying, you were talking about we as pastors need to be real students of the Word. One of the things that we do as pastors, is we just constantly throw stuff back at each other – sending a link to each other, a “you need to read this article”, and other stuff – so I’ve just really enjoyed working with you guys, right? I just feel like it’s upped my game. Both for preaching and for Bible knowledge.

Jason:  Yeah, I mean Deeper Dive doesn’t just happen when we sit down in the studio, right? It’s kind of the theme, at least at this point, of our team, that we really are doing a deeper dive individually. And then we come together week in and week out and dive deep into the text and hopefully make each other better in the process.

Dave:  Exactly. A lot of people, probably everybody at some point, have thought, “You know reading the Bible is very difficult.” You know? Bible comprehension is this super complex activity. I’ve gotta say that there’s probably a thought out there that you just read the Bible to make your life better – so you can be more moral, or that sort of thing. But it’s so much deeper than that. The Bible is such an interplay of historical events, language, word, words, the context, the geography, the political situation…you know, you could go crazy just diving into those things. But why (or is it?) important to put in a little work to understand these things? (i.e.: historical events, language, words, etc.)

Jason:  I would just say, as you’re studying the Bible, I mean there’s two things that are taking place. And oftentimes, maybe even at the same time. I mean, we read Scripture I think for both Light and Heat. Light in the sense that we’re looking for things. We’re looking for things to learn about God, or to remember about Him – or learn about ourselves and the world that we live in. So, there’s this process of Light. But it can’t only be Light. If that’s all that we’re doing – looking for Light, looking for knowledge – then we’re not going to be struck by the Heat that comes on and be personally impacted.

So, we don’t just read for the sake of reading and being puffed up, as Paul would say. But to be actually built up; and that happens when you’re reading, and you hit the Heat. If that makes sense.

Dave:  So, is the heat getting into, like, emotional depth – going beyond the mind, right? That energy

Jason: Yeah. It’s that 18-inch gap, right? Between the head and the heart, that it has to actually hit you where you are. I mean, how many of us, we’ve read – I mean even as we’re reading through as a church family right now the gospels. Many of us have read through them before, but you’re reading something and, I find myself regularly saying, “Man – have I read this before?!” Or, was this in here before? And it’s not that it’s being revealed to me, it’s that, man, God’s starting a fire in me in some different and unique ways. 

Adam:  I think coming into Scripture always remembering that it’s an encounter with the Divine – and encounter with the God Who has spoken and is speaking and revealing Himself. There’s that personal interaction and when we do that, yeah, we let God bring Heat in all kinds of ways as He reveals Who He is and who we are and where He wants us to be. 

Dave:  Even the Scripture itself, it is divine in that its Author is God. And yet each one of those books – those 66 books – were written by human beings. So that, they didn’t dictate them. So, their emotional makeup – the author’s emotional makeup – their personality just comes out in these books. It’s just amazing.

Okay, so, with that little bit of introduction, here’s kind of where we’re going this morning. One of the major historical realities that inform the Scripture is that Israel, the people of God, were at several times in their history forcibly removed from their country, from the Promised Land, and they were taken to foreign countries. They were what the Bible calls exiles. So that’s what we’re going to chase down – this whole thing about being exiles. And by the way it relates to Jeremiah 29, the passage from this week. Let’s start off with that word. It’s a strange word, right? I mean, when was the last time you heard somebody say exile. Anyway, what is an exile?

Jason:  Well we don’t use the word exile, but we do use the words sojourner (you hear that from time to time), immigrant, there are political exiles. As a matter of fact, we even have people that are part of our church that have been exiled from their country – either forcibly or just on their own, running from something.

Dave:  Refugees

Jason:  Refugees, exactly. A good, helpful definition of exile is someone whose home is somewhere else. So, for an undefined amount of time they’re making their home, in a sense, in a new place. And so, like we talked about in Jeremiah 29 this week, an exile is supposed to invest in this new community that they find themselves in. Even though it’s not their true home, their investing in this community, they’re forming new relationships, they’re learning about its culture. But even in that sense, even as they put down roots and are working for the good of the new place that they find themselves in, they’re always longing for their home.

Dave:  That’s really good. So, Jason, that’s what an exile is. Where does the concept of exile show up most prominently in the Bible?

Adam:  Well, Jason pointed out when we were meeting on Monday, he had read this summary, exile starts right in the beginning of the Bible, in the Garden, when Adam and Eve are put outside of their home, and then blocking the way in to the Garden is cherubim and flaming swords, and they ached to get back in that place. And I think that idea of exile forms the backdrop for redemption – the story of the Bible – that God is coming to redeem us and take us back to Himself. From exile into His presence. So, you see that in Genesis. You see that in Israel’s life, which I think we’re going to talk about here in a little bit. But in the New Testament, that doesn’t go anywhere. The Apostles talk about our existence in this world as exiles, resident aliens, strangers, sojourners (whatever that is – Peter talks about that). Hebrews applies the life of Abraham as an exile to our life here. James addresses those in exile. It’s a concept that I think just spans all of Scripture and is getting at this idea that we are being brought back into God’s presence. Maybe the question is, where is it NOT in the Scripture?!
Dave:  Even the prophets, right? They’re either looking toward, you know, some kind of exile, or looking back on it. Or speaking to it as it’s happening. Like, I think of it in the Psalms. A Psalm we were talking about the other day, Psalm 37, where you know the people, their captors are telling them, “Hey, we wanna hear some of your songs from your homeland.” Right? And it’s hard for them to sing a joyful song in a land that is not theirs. 

Adam:  Singing the song of Zion, but they can’t do it without weeping because their missing home.

Dave:  Exactly. Exactly. In fact, in that very Psalm it says, “If I forget Jerusalem, may my right hand, its cunning lose.” Like, may I lose control of my most important hand. 

Adam:  Daniel and Esther – those books are two different periods of exile, but they’re windows into what it was like to live as an exile inside Babylon. Those are good places to get that background history of exile.

Dave:  You speak about Daniel, and we’re all familiar with Daniel and the lion’s den and the furnace, that sort of thing. But yeah, that whole historical context is that they were in Babylon, right? Under a foreign king and trying to live out their lives there.

Jason:  Not just trying to – they did! If people that are listening to this heard the sermon on Jeremiah 29 on their campus, I would encourage you to read through, spend some time this next week in the book of Daniel and see what Jeremiah wrote to the people living out amongst these…remember they were young leaders. It was pretty powerful, the way in which they took Jeremiah’s words to heart and lived it out and set an example for us because, like you guys have alluded to, Biblical history is, one of the threads throughout the entire thing is exile and redemption. We’re not going to do it today but we could probably even tease out church history, couldn’t we? Church history, probably over the last 2,000 years has been a lot of exile and redemption.

Dave:  I think one of the hard things for us Bible readers is trying to put dates to certain things. So, there are probably a couple of key dates that maybe all Christians should know about in particular about this whole thing about being exiles. So, I’ll make a stab at a couple of big ones. Here are some of the ones that I actually remember and then try to build around (and you guys can jump in and correct me, right?): one is in the 8th century, the effective year 722, by the way, that’s 722 years before Christ came – that was when the Assyrian empire invaded the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and took a number of the people into exile. It was a very traumatic event. So that was one big one – you’ll find that mentioned in the books of Kings, 2nd Kings mostly in chapter 17. So that’s a big one, 722, the Assyrian invasion of Israel.

Jason:  And by the way, Dave, as a result of that, that is where the Samaritan race comes from. It is this intermingling of blood between both the Jews and the Assyrians. So, if you think about how contentious that relationship is between Samaritans and Jews in Jesus’s day. When a true-blooded Jewish individual would see a Samaritan – look at the color of their skin, look at the color of their eyes – they were reminded of exile.

Dave:  Yeah. Yeah. So, there are all kinds of ripple effects from this thing about being exiles.

Jason:  700 years later.

Dave:  Yeah. Okay. So that’s 722. Here’s the second one – 605 – and that was the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. And if I recall correctly, that’s where a number of the leaders were taken out? I think Daniel falls into that category, right? 
And then, not to be outdone, they came back again. There are actually three sieges of Jerusalem, and the final one was, like, around 587. I know there’s a little bit of dispute on that, but that is when the rest of the people were taken to Babylon and just the poorest of the land were the ones who remained in the land of Israel.

So, I think it really helps to keep a couple of those key dates. 722, Assyrian. 605, the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon. And then in 587, the removal of the vast majority of people from Israel to Babylon. By the way, does anybody know just how far it is actually from Jerusalem to Babylon? 

Adam:  It’s a long way.

Jason:  Exactly.

Adam:  So, let’s see. I don’t know the exact miles, but it was, it was some distance – even in a car.

Dave:  Isn’t it between 6-700 miles?

Jason:  Yeah, I think it’s about 700 miles. Which it’s interesting, guys. Once again, I’m just thinking as we’re talking about this. That was their exile. Abraham’s journey was from Babylon to the Promised Land, you know. So, man, I mean this theme, even the theme of Babylon – which we’re not going to get into today – it carries back to Babel, right? And then it carries through to Revelation – where the great Babylon, who still exists, right, as an ideology, not necessarily a city, still exists and is being thrown down.

Dave:  So, I think, if we go back to your Light and Heat thing. As we read the Bible and just try to understand it just a little better, right? There’s some Light that we need to pick up – and part of that can be dates, historical dates, a couple things, and get it down. And then the Heat, you think about the pain that comes from being in exile. Living out your life in a place that is not your own, desperately wanting to go back, your mind filled with it all the time, and then needing that Heat to be able to live and to live well like Daniel and the three guys did. 

So, it just causes me to think, wow, if these things were so horrific, and such a big part of the Bible…like, why did God allow these horrible things to happen? Particularly being sent away as exiles. Why did He do it?

Jason:  I mean, it’s clear. We unpacked it this week in our text, that it was not Nebuchadnezzar who carried the people off into exile. He was the human agency that saw that through, but it was by God’s design, it was by His hand. It was, again, not by human agency. It was not by accident. It was by appointment, by assignment by the Lord. And again, not to rehash the message, but it is a direct result of the disobedience of God’s people. That is spilled out all over the pages leading up to that. But we can’t miss the fact that God is in complete control. Babylon is not in control. Nebuchadnezzar, this pagan king, he’s not in control. God is in control, and the reason that His people are led into exile is ultimately, as crazy as it is to try to wrap our minds around, it is ultimately for their good and for God’s glory.

Dave:  Yeah, their disobedience led God to allow the curse of the Law on them. But even at that, we know His long-term game is to bring peace and prosperity, to bring blessing to His people.

Adam:  Yeah, I mean He talked about exile all the way back in Deuteronomy 28, as He’s establishing this relationship with Israel and says, “Hey, I’m bringing you into this relationship so we can have a relationship, where I love you, you love Me and we’re faithful to each other. If you turn to other gods, to idols, this is what’s going to happen.” 

So, it’s not like God came in 722 and said, “Okay, now you’re going to Assyria. Now you’re going to Babylon.” He warned them. It was always though, like you guys are saying, for Israel’s good. It’s almost as if they went into exile for their idolatry. And the Lord was just saying, “I’m going to send you into a place where you’re going to taste what it looks like to live under these false gods.” And the endgame is so that they can come back with a renewed love for God. So, they experienced, yeah, what we can call Biblically, I think, “discipline”. But God disciplines those He loves. That’s what He says in Proverbs and Hebrews. I think it’s cultivating a new faithfulness and love for God.

Dave:  You know, as hard as it sounds, as we look at how God dealt with His people, in sending them off as exiles at times, for their ultimate good – you know, it just makes me wonder about the rest of us in the world. When we see horrific events in the world, mass migrations of people, for as hard as that is, we need to pull back and ask, “What is God doing here? How is He going to bring blessing upon this thing that appears so horrific, so terrible? How can He bring good out of it?”

Jason:  So, I don’t know if you guys talked about it in your messages this weekend, but we unpacked a bit of Acts 17, where Paul here is addressing the folks gathered on Mars Hill in Athens. And he talks about this Unknown God – He’s the God of all peoples. He’s the God that creates the time in which they lived and the space, the boundaries in which He moved people. Dave, you and I were there, right? On Mars Hill thinking about that – thinking about reading the plaque on Mars Hill – that incredible text. But thinking about how Paul stood there and the reason that Paul stood there – the reason that Paul even announced to those people the good God that had come that they did not know, is because…My summary of Acts 17 is that God moves people so that He can meet people. He is moving people to particular places so that He can meet with them. 
And that’s what we see happening in the exile. God moves His people to Babylon so that His people might be able to meet Him in some ways that they’ve forgotten, or some ways that they’ve dismissed. But also, keep in mind what we unpacked in Jeremiah 29: God has moved His people there. He knows that they’re going to be desperate for Him, but He’s also moved them there so that the Babylonians can meet this God as well. 

Adam:  That reminds me of Joseph’s time in Egypt, where he’s working not only for his own good but for the flourishing of Egypt. And even Daniel’s story, as he’s interacting with Nebuchadnezzar, this king who thinks he’s god. Daniel comes in and interprets his dream. And you see the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar. We don’t know exactly to what end that led, but there is a humbling that comes because of the ministry of Daniel speaking truth and living out his relationship with God in the midst of Babylon. I think that’s the heart of Jeremiah 29, like, we got at. We’re here for the sake of the place God has put us.

Dave:  Okay! Well, this has all been really interesting. You know we delved into some of the historical events that took place in the People of God’s lives throughout the Bible. How about – so how is this whole teaching on exiles supposed to affect our lives today as followers of Christ? I mean, a good number of our people may have been born and lived their entire lives right here in the Tri-Cities. This is home. You don’t really feel the pain of having been forcibly removed or having to leave your country, or something like that. So how is this teaching on exiles supposed to affect us today as followers of Christ?

Jason:  So, I was reading a little bit of Tim Keller, which I highly recommend to everyone every day, but he said there are three basic dispositions that people have toward this world. He uses the terms: immigrant, tourist, exile. As I’ve been thinking about this, Dave, to your question – how many of us live as exiles rather than living as immigrants? So, an immigrant is someone who seeks to make this new country their permanent home – so they become completely integrated into that society. God hasn’t called us to be immigrants. He’s called us to be here and yet not be here, as exiles. The other side of that is what Keller calls living as a tourist – which is basically the opposite of an immigrant, right. 
A tourist might love that country, but they do not plan to live there. They’re visiting, they’re not putting down roots; therefore, they’re only looking for people who speak their language. Like when we’re tourists and we go to another country. We’re looking for western hotels, we’re looking for western toilets, we’re looking for Starbucks, we’re looking for all those things. Unfortunately, some Christians live as tourists in this world, as well. Isolating themselves, hanging out with people who speak their language and have the same amenities that they have. But God has called us to, no joke, live as exiles – not making this our permanent home, longing for that home, but being thoroughly invested in that place that God has placed us.

Dave:  It’s really good. I think of Hebrews, you know, the people of faith were commended. Scripture says they were looking for a better home. Looking for a city that has foundations, an eternal city that will never pass away. I think deep, deep, deep within all of us there’s this desire for a home – a great place. I think it’s part of the human condition.

Adam:  Yeah, I agree. As you were talking about that Tim Keller idea, I was listening to him as well, and he just focused on that term, resident alien, and really living into that. I think it gets at what you said, we’re residents because we’re actually supposed to be in this place. But we’re also at the same time aliens, where we’re not actually fully in this place, but we belong to another place. And we fall into being either one of those. We’re either fully here as residents or we’re fully not here as aliens. But it’s living in that tension of both. We just have to remember as we live in this world. Here in the Tri-Cities – this is our home and God wants us to live here for a purpose. But He also wants us to know our true home is not in the Tri-Cities, it’s Canaan – and living in that tension.

Jason: I heard a pastor this week, he was talking about kind of a litmus test for whether you’re an exile or not, and he said when you go into an airport there are little shops that you can go into and they have necessities in those shops at exorbitant prices. But you go in there and the reason you go into those shops is either because you forgot something – you have an urgent necessity, or you’re just bored out of your mind, whatever it is. But you never walk into those shops in an airport and see shopping carts. You’re not shopping so you can pack up a bag and take it some place. You don’t live in an airport. You pass through an airport. And that’s why they only have essentials, necessities, that are there for you.

That’s kind of the posture that we are supposed to have as Christians in this world. We may pick up some necessities on the way, but choose the necessities over the shopping carts in this life.

Dave:  Okay. All right, guys. Well hopefully we’ve opened up a little bit of the Word, the Scripture to you listeners out there – especially around this concept of being an exile. Thank you, guys – it was fun talking with you.  


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