Summary: Don’t we all know the feeling of being in a complicated and difficult environment that feels sometimes as though we are in a foreign land? We find ourselves being forced into an unpleasant situation we would never choose for ourselves, and it looks as tho
What To Do When You Are In Exile
by S. M. Henriques
Folks, I have been so eager to bring you this message of hope and good news this morning. I am truly excited about what God wants to say to you and me today.
Suppose that this afternoon, a group of soldiers was to storm into your home, and at gunpoint, force you to leave everything you own—all your possessions and accumulations. Suppose that you were taken to another country, where you were told you had to live there the rest of your life. Suppose that you didn’t know where all the other members of your family had been taken. And all you had was what you were able to carry on your back. That would be called an “exile.”
None of us here is in a literal exile, of course. But we all know what it feels like. Don’t we all know the feeling of being in a complicated and difficult environment that feels sometimes as though we are in a foreign land? We find ourselves being forced into an unpleasant situation we would never choose for ourselves, and it looks as though it will never end. Some of the Jewish people found themselves in a situation like that. The 29th chapter of Jeremiah tells part of their very interesting story. It actually contains a letter that Jeremiah wrote to the Jewish exiles that had been deported by the Babylonians some time before. When they were deported, they did not travel in a caravan of moving vans—they took with them only what they could carry. They had been taken forcefully from their homes, losing everything they had. To make matters worse, they had been separated from many of their family members and friends.
Back in Jerusalem, Jeremiah learned that they had been given some false information, and because of that, he realized that they really needed someone to step up with a word of encouragement from God. He gave them some very practical ideas as to what they could do while they were in exile. We find that these are the very things we can apply to our lives for those times when we feel that life has forced unpleasant, uncomfortable and even painful circumstances upon us. What can we do while we are in exile?
1. Face reality
There’s a humorous story about Judge John Lowell of Boston. One morning the judge was at breakfast, his face hidden behind the morning paper. A frightened maid tiptoed into the room and whispered something to Mrs. Lowell’s ear. The lady paled slightly, then squared her shoulders resolutely and said, "John, the cook has burned the oatmeal, and there is no more in the house. I am afraid that this morning, for the first time in seventeen years, you will have to go without your oatmeal."
The judge, without putting down his paper, answered, "It’s all right, my dear. Frankly, I never cared much for it anyhow." (Bits & Pieces, March 4, 1993, p. 23.)
The perception Mrs. Lowell had was that the Judge had to have his oatmeal every morning, and so for 17 years she had seen to it that he got it. But the reality was that he didn’t like it anyway. Jeremiah 29 opens with a letter that the prophet Jeremiah wrote to the exiles, particularly to the elders and priests who were among them. He was trying to get them to face reality. He wanted them to know a few things about the situation they were in. The gist of what he told them is that even though you don’t want it to be this way, and even though you would wish it to be entirely different, the reality of it is that you’re in a situation that is not going to be resolved overnight.
We’ll talk about this again later, but there was at least one false prophet who was telling the people not to worry, because they wouldn’t be there long. A message like that might give hope, but it is only a false hope. It is empty, void of meaning and life. We like to think we can bear anything as long as we know there will be an end soon. And that probably is what kept the people going. So what’s wrong with that? It was a false hope. Once a period of time had gone by, and the people saw that nothing had changed or was likely to change in the immediate future, the bottom would fall out of their hope and morale.
One husband arrived home very early in the morning, after being out all night, drinking and brawling. He sneaked up the stairs quietly, doing his best not to awaken his wife. He looked in the bathroom mirror and bandaged the bumps and bruises he’d received in one of his fights that night. He then proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he’d pulled one over on his wife. But when morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his wife. "You were drunk last night weren’t you!" "No, honey."