I’m sure you’ve noticed that I refer quite often to my childhood experiences. It just seems to bring light to the current situations we discuss in these articles. So, with that topic in mind, I am reminded of a rainy day in early September growing up as a child. I was the middle of three kids and the oldest boy. I remember that it was Labor Day because the Jerry Lewis telethon was on TV. Because of the rain, we were forced inside to be creative. I engaged in an elaborate building program in the living room floor. Plenty of scotch tape and school paper made it possible to build and construct an airport out of paper. It was fairly grand in scale, with planes, hangars, airstrips, and a radio tower. I was deep into the next phase of construction to build the terminals when my little brother decided to join in. As he touched each part, the argument and fighting became louder and louder. What we neglected to notice was my mother socializing with the neighbor in the other room. As our volume and conflict increased, I’m sure their communication ability diminished until that moment when she had had enough. She stormed into the living room, belt in hand. I couldn’t tell whether I was being whipped or dodging swings, but what happened next destroyed the best laid plans. She whipped us both and threw the entire project in the trash - planes, tower, and all. From that day on I searched for an opportunity to assassinate my brother. The truth is that we both were at fault no matter who started it, and, when the hammer came down, it came down on us both. I felt I was drawn into a punishment I didn’t deserve.
We have begun a preaching series at church titled “Surviving Babylon.” In the Old Testament, we find that much of the content is about the exile of Israel. So how did they get there, and how did they survive in a system many of them didn’t ask for or deserve? I’m sure many of them were totally disconnected from the great sin that brought this on. They lived righteously, treated others well, and obeyed the commandments of God, yet, they were carried away just like the evil ones were.
The underlying cause for such a punishment from God was their devotion to sin rather than their love for God. It all started years earlier when Moses led the entire nation out of Egyptian bondage. They saw powerful displays of God’s hand upon them through Egypt’s destruction, parting of the Red Sea and water from a rock, yet, they continued to complain and doubt God. They grumbled against their leader and their situation on a regular basis. Moses led them to the edge of their promise and then he sent 12 representatives into the land to check things out and bring back a report. They were finally at the doorstep of their long-awaited promise, and 10 of these guys came back in fear. Ten out of the 12 that were sent into the land turned the favor of God into the fear of man. They had just made a finite decision concerning the promises from an infinite God, and they chose fear over faith. They were cast into the desert to wander for 40 years without the promise, all because of the actions and influence of 10 fear-based men.
The number that Moses led out of Egypt was 600,000 men. When you include women and children that number increases to more than 2 million. Over 2 million people had been thrust into a situation they didn’t ask for. They had come within inches of their promise, yet, they were forced to drift in the wilderness instead until the entire disobedient generation died. I’m sure the bulk of them were faithful people. Maybe they said things like, “How did we end up here?” I’m sure they said to themselves, “I never asked for this; why should we have to suffer the same fate as the unrighteous?” The good and the bad were punished the same. They both walked the same distance every day, they both ate the same manna, and they both waited the same amount of time on the promise.
Here is the greatness of the situation - never did they go hungry. God supplied for them and their clothes never wore out. They were never not God’s children, and the promise never moved; it was always the promise. God never gave their promised land to another nor forfeited their inheritance to someone else, and he never failed to be their God.
We live in a very divided nation today. Many think they’ve been thrust into situations they didn’t ask for. At the end of each election cycle,, one group will always be happy and the other upset. We are seeing the fulfillment of prophesy play out before our eyes. Nation is rising against nation, and Israel once again is under attack. Paul speaks in Galatians 3:28 that “there is neither Jew nor gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” We are not disqualified from salvation because of our nationality or skin color. We are one in Christ, and where one goes we all go. We may be thrust into Babylonian captivity against our will, and we may feel unjustly sentenced, but allow me to encourage you. Israel served God in Babylon. They prayed toward Jerusalem, even though they were hundreds of miles away. Their passion for righteousness grew stronger with every day’s absence. And, when God said it was time, they returned home to serve God there.
Your current situation does not dictate your value in Christ nor does it extinguish your son and daughter status as children of the King. You may be upset because your paper airport has been destroyed, but it was never permanent. It was always temporary. We need to evaluate how we got here no matter what the situation, whether it be failed marriage, drug addiction, out-of-control spending, or apostasy. The truth remains that we are here, and how do we survive the exile? Daniel did more than survive in his Babylon; he thrived. And, he did it by opening his window, three times each day, facing himself toward the temple in Jerusalem and praying to a God who is always there. Daniel served under four Babylonian kings and was promoted to second in command by them all. We may not be where we want to be but we may just find ourselves where God intends us to be. Daniel had the ears of each king he served under. He had favor with them all, and he never failed to serve God, even though his king didn’t. Your kingdom around you may look more like Babylon than home, but, rest assured God is still on the throne, and he can still be found. We just have to point our faces toward him, despite the despair.
Join us for this most important sermon series, and allow me to personally invite you to spend some time with us on the square, in Sparta, this Sunday, at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. We are Christpoint Church, and we’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.