Jesse Tree: Day 17 Exile (II Kings 17:7-23 & 25:1-26)
The exile was devastating for the people of God (Lamentations). Imprisoned and enslaved they made the long journey back to the Chaldees from where God had called Abraham all those years ago, to become a part of nations they had longed to be like. God is slow to anger, and desired to redeem them (Hos.7:13-14). He restrained his anger as long as justice allowed. Even the event of removing the people from the land was staggered, giving them further opportunities to repent, so that the horrific events could be brought to a standstill. But Israel refused, clinging instead to political alliances and military rebellions, trusting false gods and false prophets who said ‘Peace! Peace’, when there was no peace… who told them God would never come in judgment (Jer.6:14; 14:13-16 etc.).
But He did come - in judgement, but also into judgement. Ezekiel’s inaugural vision ‘in the land of the Babylonians’ (1:3) shows the throne of God… on wheels! Like the Ark of the Covenant, it could be ‘carried’ by the ‘living creatures’ (Ezek.1:19). God suffered exile with them, bearing His own punishment, and working through them still to foreshadow the life and ministry of Christ. Some of the most famous stories of spiritual steadfastness come from this period of the Church’s history (Dan.1-6); some of the most profound visions of Christ (Dan.7:13-14); some of the greatest moments of deliverance (Dan.6:21-23).
But neither Babylon nor Egypt (Jer.41-42) was ever to be the final resting place of the Church. The promise was always that God would be found by His people, and that He would bring them back from exile (e.g. Lev.26:40-45; I Kings 8:46-51; Jer.29:11-14; 30:1-3; Ezek.36:33-36 etc.). Everything hinges on the people’s repentance, and as soon as that is in place, the promise of restoration comes into play. One of the most powerful visions of the restoration of God’s people from exile is Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones (Ezek.37:1-14). It is a place of uncleanness and death; without hope. This is exile (v.11). How will the Lord respond to the plight of His Church? Ezekiel plays his part (‘the Son of Man’ 37:3), responding - as He always does - to the repentance of His people with grace: He breathes His Spirit into the valley (v.9 & 14), raising and restoring His people.
Once, when the true Son of Man Himself was being accused by the religious leaders of His day, Jesus cited Ezekiel’s vision to verify His claims (John 5:28, see Ezek.37:12-13). Ezekiel’s hope was not just for a return from exile, or even some sort of merely spiritual revival. Ultimately his vision was of the Church led by Christ into her New Creation future, to the fulfilling of the New Covenant and to dwelling in the presence of the living God. That has always been the fullest hope of the Church - whether in exile or out of it.
… they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep (Jer.11:8).
Ideas for Family Devotions:
Older children might find the Torchlighter story of Richard Wurmbrand a powerful insight into the reality of the Church living in a hostile environment. (about 36 mins): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SYpIXkPr9mg&t=1370s
(parents might want to watch it first - although it is an animation, it is a very moving account of life in Communist Romania)
Why not write a letter to an imprisoned Christian? You can do this through Open Doors: https://www.opendoorsuk.org/act/letter/ - or - write to our MP, inviting them to attend the launch of the World Watch Map on 18th January: http://advocacy.oduk.org/page/15310/action/1