Sunday, December 16, 2007

Exodus vs. Exile

Have you ever spent some time thinking about the nation of Israel and their Exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land? In this story we see God’s concern for the injustice that Israel suffered. Israel oppressed and they call out to God for deliverance and He answers them by calling Moses to be the agent of their deliverance (Exodus 3:7-12). This paradigm is familiar throughout the New Testament. The theme of captivity, bondage and exodus is expressed in a number of passages but it can be seen especially in Hebrews 3:1-6.

This theme of deliverance was especially impactful throughout Church history. Perhaps achieving its pinnacle in the American church, where it became a way of life. Think about the early pilgrims who founded the Plymouth and Massachusetts colonies. They were fleeing from oppression and hoped to find the Promise Land for themselves and their progeny. With the passing of years the desire to flee and move further and further west in their pursuit of spiritual and religious freedom became an overarching idea throughout the church in America. This pursuit of exodus was often linked with a belief in our rightness and the blessing of God upon our endeavors. We saw in our westward movement a sense of God’s intervention in our behalf and a divine destiny. In the past Americans have equated our national interest with God’s interest. This exodus mentality has provided us with a sense of destiny and that has affected our understanding of Christianity, or at least American white middle class Christianity. We rarely read Scripture through any other lens then our own.

We see the Exodus event as an escape rather then as a deliverance to serve. (Take another look at Exodus 3:7-12). We have often used this paradigm as an excuse for a lifestyle that promotes consumerism and a lack of interest in true worship and its results, true justice (Isaiah 1:10-17)

We are addicted to consumerism partly because of this Promise Land mentality. We believe that our acquiring of things will satisfy our hunger. Hunger is equated to still being on the journey to the Promised Land where hunger will be alleviated. Unfortunately, after succumbing to the advertising and marketing of these things that promise to assuage our hunger, we find we are soon restless and our appetite is unsatisfied and unfulfilled. This is because we have not learned to find our rest and satisfaction in the Lord.

Now in the exile paradigm which is also found in the Old Testament, God is concerned because of the injustice that Israel has perpetuated. Israel causes its own subjugation by its continued disobedience to live a life of deliverance in the Promised Land.

God promises Abraham that he and his progeny are blessed to be a blessing. This promise is now to be lived out in exile in Babylon. Israel’s call is to work out what it means to dwell as a stranger in a foreign land and yet to live as those who belong to Yahweh. God places His people in a position where they are expected to stay under their tribulation and live as exiles. This means there is no escape from their problem only perseverance (James 1) and to of all things, seek the welfare of their captors.

“Also, seek the peace [shalom] and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers [in shalom], you too will prosper [in shalom].” Jeremiah 29:7 (NIV)

Think of Daniel and then think of his modern day equivalents. The best and brightest men and women of their nations, who have chosen to stay and help their people and their nations by using their skills in difficult situations instead of journeying to the Promise Land (USA) where life is easy compared to their situation. We need to pray for their safety and ask God to bless their efforts to expand the Kingdom.

In the New Testament the church is called to exile as well as exodus.

“While we are highly attuned to avoid a faithful peculiarity that might offend, we also avoid a faithful peculiarity that might redeem. While we run from what might cause cultural or personal offence, we opt for benign acceptance of so many things that grieve our Lord Jesus Christ” (The Dangerous Act of Worship – Mark Labberton p.143)

Our unwillingness to live as exiles, faithful to our King, explains our willingness to let culture transform our lives instead of our transformation of culture. It also explains our willingness to fight meaningless worship wars instead of fighting the spiritual war of the Kingdom. We fight for our personal preferences instead of fighting to introduce people to the King.

It’s harder to live in exile then to live in exodus. We are forced to put down roots and live a life that interacts with the culture, to engage our culture and to speak to the issues of the day from a true Kingdom mindset.

“If we think we live in exodus, life is about getting to the promised land we think we deserve and desire. On the other hand, if we think we live in exile, then life’s agenda is all about living distinctly where we are and determining whether our home in God or in ‘Babylon’ will influence us most.” (Labberton, p.144)

Where we live is determined by how we live.

Worship in exodus is expressed in gratitude for our release form captivity to serve our God. While in the exile dimension, worship is the practice of our peculiar identity in a culture that is familiar yet foreign to us.

We are called to both exodus and exile living as New Testament believers. As Kingdom citizens we have often perverted the former while ignoring the latter. Today let’s not forget our profound gratitude for our deliverance while also not ignoring our responsibility to represent our King as his ambassadors until He returns!

Until He Returns

Dr Val

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