Read: Genesis 3
What does it mean to live in exile? Are we in exile now? When we think about exiles in scripture, we might think of Daniel or the Babylonians (as we have been studying on Wednesdays for the past month). However, the very first exiles in the Bible are Adam and Eve.
In the passage we read from Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are exiled from the presence of God. They are sent out of the garden. As a consequence of their sin, their relationship with God is broken. Before, they lived in perfection, in right relationship with God, creation, and each other. Now, everything has changed. They are in exile.
We are all like Adam and Eve. We are all exiles from the garden, hoping to find our way back there. Hoping to find our way back to right relationships, to peace, to wholeness. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection give us a roadmap back to Eden. But, even though we are citizens of heaven, and even though this is not our ultimate home, we live here now.
So, we live as exiles. Tomorrow we will look at a passage from Jeremiah that gives insights on what we should do and how we should live while in exile.
Reflect: Is it strange to think of yourself as a foreigner, as an exile? How does that make you feel?
Pray: God, help me to think of myself as an exile. It feels a little strange and uncomfortable sometimes. Help me to navigate the world with this in mind. Amen.
Read: Jeremiah 29:1-7
When we think of exile, we often think of the Babylonian exile. When Jerusalem fell, the people were taken into exile in Babylon. In the passage that you read for today, the prophet Jeremiah is writing to the people in exile. Notice verse 4. God says that he “carried” the people into exile. What a strange thing to say! This verse reminds us that God is sovereign over all, even exile!
In the letter, Jeremiah tells the people to settle in because they are going to be there for a while. He tells them to build houses and plant gardens. If you have ever spent time building a house or planting a garden, you know that these are not short-term projects. They would have taken a great deal of time. The people are going to be there for a while.
He also encourages them to marry and find wives. So, they are to continue having families. They are to look after the next generation. He also encourages them to “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” How would you have felt to be one of the exiles reading those words? Seek the peace and prosperity of Babylon?! Why?
As exiles, their peace and prosperity, their flourishing and wholeness, was wrapped up with the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Like it or not, Babylon was now their home. Similarly, we seek the peace and prosperity of York, of Pennsylvania, and of America because this is our home now. It’s certainly not our ultimate home, but where we live, where we have families, where we build houses and have jobs and make friends.
Reflect: How do you think the exiles felt when they read this passage? How does it make you feel as you live in our current exile?
Pray: God, help me to seek the peace and prosperity of the world around me. Help me to not want to escape the world, but to make it better. Show me what I should be doing, right where I am now. Amen.
Read: 1 Peter 1
We have spent two days considering what it meant to be exiled from the garden and what it meant to be exiled in Babylon. But what about us today, as followers of Jesus? What is our exile like? What is our Babylon? Babylon was a literal place in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, it is a sort of symbol of being away from your true home, of living in exile.
For the next few days, we will focus on 1 Peter.
Peter wrote this letter to followers of Jesus scattered about Asia. And what word does Peter use to describe them (and us)? Exiles. What makes us exiles today? D. A. Carson writes that Christians are “spiritual exiles in this world because their new life as God’s children is shaped by principles and values that earthly societies do not necessarily share.”
Because of the new life we have in Christ, we are called to be different. We are called to be holy because the God that we serve is holy. In verse 17, we are told that we should live here as foreigners, with reverent fear. This simply means that we have respect for God and his ways. Our character should reflect God. And that means that we will be different from others. We will stick out a little bit. We will have different priorities and values and behaviors. And Peter tells us that this is good. This is expected. This is what is means to live as exiles.
Reflect: Do I care if my character reflects God? Am I comfortable being different from those around me?
Pray: God, help me to live a life that reflects you. Sometimes I want to blend it. Sometimes I want to be just like the people around me. But you have called me to be holy. Help me to have the courage to be like you. Amen.
Read: 1 Peter 2
Yesterday, we considered what it means to be holy, set apart. In chapter 2 of 1 Peter, Peter gives another analogy of how we should live in the world: We are stones! We are being built into a beautiful, living house, with Jesus as our cornerstone.
Pay extra attention to verses 9 and 10. We Christians are a chosen people, called out of darkness into light. God is building us into something special. But, as the rest of the chapter emphasizes, that means we are called to be different.
Once again, Peter calls us foreigners and exiles. While we live in exile, we should show the proper respect for our ruling authorities. We should live good lives. We should respect leaders, even if they are unjust. (Peter may have been writing this when Nero was emperor. Nero was known for torturing Christians, and yet Peter still writes that followers of Jesus should endure suffering.)
Jesus is our example of how to live a righteous life while in exile. We are different than the people around us. God is shaping us to represent him in the world. This is a high calling. It can be difficult. But Christ’s model and resurrection power gives us strength to endure.
Reflect: Peter gives instructions in verses 11-18 about how to live. Spend some time reflecting on how well you are doing at following his instructions.
Pray: God, help me to live a life that represents you well. Help me to live a good life while in exile. Amen.
Read: 1 Peter 3:8-17
We, too, are in exile. We live among people who are different than us. We have different values, different priorities. We represent something different. We love our neighbors and seek their good, but we might face resistance. We might experience suffering.
We shouldn’t be surprised if people don’t understand us. They certainly didn’t understand Jesus! We might look silly or different or weird, but that’s okay. Peter reminds us that we just keep on doing good. We keep loving our neighbors. We keep forgiving people who hurt us. We seek peace. And, when people wonder why we are different, wonder why we are loving, wonder why we have different priorities, we point them to Christ.
We are always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have. Colossians 4:6 reminds us to “let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Living in exile means that we make the most of every opportunity to represent Christ well.
Reflect: Has anyone ever asked you why you are different? How did you respond?
Pray: God, help me to always be ready to give an answer when people think I am different. Help me to represent you well. Amen.
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