A Future and a Hope in Exile

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

It’s Wednesday, and the end of week five since schools closed. That’s how I measure time now: How long it’s been since schools closed and how long since my husband began working from home and my eldest returned from college.

Five weeks on the former and four and half weeks on the latter two. That’s how time is measured in the Bible as relative to some event; I finally get it. 

During the season of Lent, I had a difficult time getting into the appropriate Bible readings, which are generally the teachings of Jesus. Being a disciple out walking around with Jesus in crowds of people, learning what it means to love my neighbor didn’t seem particularly relevant this year.

Most of the Bible doesn’t seem very relevant to our daily lives. For a long time we’ve pulled out stories here and there and tried to glean wisdom from them, but our challenge has been: it wasn’t written for us.

It was written for everyone in all circumstances, of course, but the stories were designed to give hope to an oppressed, exiled band of refugees who later became an oppressed band of occupied peasants.

Even at our lowest points in life, most of us have only briefly been able to identify with the struggle of the biblical people and the hope that God was promising for some future time.

That was our BC, we were the Pharisees, the chief priests, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Babylonians. It’s not that we’re bad people. We were just privileged. We were privileged with freedom and stability and security.

(Again, not everyday of our lives, but generally speaking, most of us have not lived our entire lives in this state of uncertainty, and when we did, we weren’t also completely surrounded by it.)

Then it came. 

The day we got sent home with no clear idea as to when we’ll go back. 

The day we ripped up our calendars and tossed out our plans.

The day we entered the space of uncertainty.

The day our hopes were dashed, our cathedrals shuttered and our roads emptied.

The day we became refugees in our own homes and exiles in our own towns.

The day that all those promises that God made to his people, thousands of years of ago, became our promises for a hope and future.

This is the beginning of a journey through those promises.

Today’s reading tells of the day the world ended for the Jews, in 586 BC and is found in 2 Kings 25:1-21. Below is the Angela ultra-paraphrased version:

Almost 600 years before the time of Jesus, the ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem. Zedekiah was the king of Judah at the time.

The city was under siege for a year and a half and the people were trapped with no food for months.

At one point, the Jewish army found a way out with the king, but the Babylonians caught up to them near Jericho.

They took Zedekiah to Nebuchadnezzar who tried and sentenced him immediately. Zedekiah’s sons were executed in front of him, then they blinded him, restrained him and took him to Babylon.

Then, the Babylonians went into Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, the Palace and the city walls – burning them to the ground. They rounded everyone else up and took them to Babylon, leaving only a few poor dirt farmers behind to tend the vineyards and what was left of the fields.

The Babylonians took everything that decorated the temple and the palace – the gold and bronze elements for worship.

Then they took the chief priests and others to Babylon and executed them.

Judah went into exile, orphaned from her land.

It was to those people that God declared: For I know the plans I have for you; plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

And to us.

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