Listening to the daily portion of the “Bible in a Year” podcast, I recently confronted the truth that, like the Jews of the Old Testament, Christians are living in exile.
Fr. Mike Schmitz, podcast reader and guide, illuminated this on Day 243, when both Jeremiah and Daniel reveal the plight and heart of the exile.
First comes Jeremiah, “the weeping prophet,” who’d been trying to warn the Jewish people of the length of exile they faced, while false prophets promised imminent peace. Since no one liked hearing they’d have to endure 70 years of exile, Jeremiah was forced to wear a wooden yoke around his neck.
Undaunted, Jeremiah cautions the people that because they’ve dismissed God’s warnings, their burdens will become heavier yet, from wood to iron. Likewise, Fr. Mike remarked, when we dismiss God’s commandments, our burdens increase.
In Chapter 29, Jeremiah writes to the exiles in Babylon, instructing them how to live in occupied territory. They can either rebel or capitulate, Fr. Mike says, rephrasing Jeremiah, or choose a third option: marry and have children, build homes and plant crops, and pray for their captors. Since it will be 70 years, they might as well make the most of it.
“Then, he hands them this promise, which, for some people, this is their life verse,” Fr. Mike says, referring to Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
“Jeremiah is writing these words to people who have experienced devastation,” Fr. Mike says. “This isn’t something on a T-shirt or a card in their Bible. They’ve been uprooted from home, and they’re in a place of great desolation—where it would be easy to be convinced that God has abandoned them.”
But God promises them a joy-filled future; something he offers to us modern captives, too.
Later, Daniel hears from an angel, who, in Chapter 11, gives him a prophecy so accurate, according to Fr. Mike, that modern skeptics conclude it had to have been written after the fact. The angel then tells Daniel that those who violate God’s covenant will be seduced with flattery, but offers a corollary consolation, saying, “but the people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.”
“There’s going to be devastation,” Fr. Mike says in a nod to Daniel 11:32. “But Daniel is able to see not just the political rising and falling—the visible things—but also the unseen reality, and how God is fighting for his people.”
This remains so now. While we continue to struggle through a world that is not our true home, we can bank on God’s assurance of a future full of hope.
Perhaps we must first acknowledge that we are in exile. Only then can we begin loving more deeply, trusting that our Lord remains with us, and holding fast to the promise that, in clinging to our good Father, he will lead us safely home.
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Sept. 11, 2021.]