The exile metaphor is a theme that runs through the entire Bible. The Hebrew Bible authors wrote Genesis believing that humanity has been exiled from the Garden of Eden and perfect unity with God. The Hebrews believed that their exile represented all humanity’s exile of heaven and earth being separated from each other. After humanity is banished from Eden, we embark on the first exile journey – settling in a world that is no longer home. When God calls Abraham to leave Babylon (Ur), he and Sarah lack a true home but Abraham has a promise from God that he will have a “promised land.”
00:00 You're listening to a live recording from Westside church in bend, Oregon. Thanks for joining us. Well, I have a brother who lives in Boise and so a few weeks ago we were with them, some dance recitals of my nieces. And so, after three days or so in Boise, we, we got on the road and we headed home on highway 20, heading west. And there's always this moment when we're coming back from Boise, where we crest over this hill and in front of us, if the skies are clear, you'll see our mountains. Has anybody seen that view on highway 20 as you coming and the mountains? you know, south sister, middle sister, north sister. I think bachelor's in there too. I mean, I know it's in there, but I think you can see it from there and it feels like home. I know I'm leaving Idaho behind and I'm almost home.
00:45 That's what it feels like when I see those mountains. And there's these moments in our lives. I think where we, we come face to face with the reality of how important a sense of home really is how important it is to feel safety and security, and to be around the people that you love home really matters a lot. Or as one young lady in Kansas once said famously, there's no place like home. Some of you are like, I don't look at the reference. So wizard of Oz folks, wizard of Oz's been around a little while. There's no place like home. There's no place like home. And so over the next few weeks, we're gonna look at this theme in the Bible and actually, it alluded to it in that video, but this idea of, of exile and, and being separated from home and the desire and the longing and the journey that takes us back towards home is actually what the whole Bible's about, whatever you thought the Bible was about.
01:40 You might be right, but a dominant theme. Really the theme that, that ties from the beginning in the garden of Eden all the way to the end, when the apostle John is exiled on the island of Patmos, and he's seen a vision called the revelation, all of it is tied together by this one theme, exile people being separated from that place called home home matters. And so, as we get into this over the next couple weeks, I'm excited to, maybe reframe how we read the Bible. You know, we always want to find out, ways to, to accurately contextualize what we read, how many know that that people have misread and misused the Bible over the centuries. We don't have to, to look far to find examples of abuse and, and the ways that the Bible has been used to hurt and to tear down and to, crush people.
02:31 But today we're looking at the ways that the Bible has been composed and put together by people who'd experience the loss of home and who are longing for a new one. And at the center of this theme of exile is this event in the history of the nation of Israel, which had actually split into two kingdoms at this point in history in 5 86 BC, there was the, the Southern kingdom of Israel and the Northern kingdom of Judah. And in 5 86, BC, the Babylonians come in and they conquer, the Northern kingdom and they burn the city of Samaria and they take captive all the best and brightest from the land of Judah into Babylon. And it's such an, important and devastating moment in the nation's history that it actually becomes the pivotal moment that all of their spiritual and scriptural writings would be filtered through.
03:22 Because up to this point, there were, writings from Moses. There were, stories that had been passed down orally through, stories around campfires and, and some had been written, some had been spoken, but it was in these days in exile and Babylon, when these young Jewish scholars would sit together and they began to compile the Hebrew Bible, even as we know it today. And so it's important to note that as we read our old Testament, much of that was framed and compose and edited with the mindset of exile or to say it this way. The majority of the Bible was composed by exiles, Wanderers and slaves. If you look at the, the scenario that Moses received, the 10 commandments in the law, it was as he was leading a group of escape slaves out of Egypt, out from under the thumb of Pharaoh and in Babylon, they begin to compile all these stories into cohesive books.
04:17 And then we get to the, the birth of Jesus. And there's a new empire, not Egypt, not Babylon, but Rome, right? Rome is on the scene when Jesus is born. And so we have, we have these interchangeable empires one after the other, and they're all bearing down and putting their thumb on this Jewish nation again and again. And so as the scriptures are being formed, they're being formed from a people who are not on the top of society, not calling the shots, but are underneath. And this is really important if we wanna read scripture properly and understand the themes and the stories that are woven throughout exiles, the environment in which the Bible was born. And so we'll have a hard time deciphering the story of God. If we don't understand the vantage point of the writers, the Bible comes alive. When we read it through the lens of exiles and slaves, an example of this, in the American south, during slavery, by the way, we're celebrating as a nation, a new federal holiday Juneteenth this coming week, celebrating the emancipation of all the slaves in the United States.
05:28 And so, during this time before the slaves were freed, slave owners in the south would use the Bible distributed to the slaves in order that they might read those scriptures and come to the same conclusion. The slave owners should come to that slavery was sanctioned by God. It was appropriate. And those slaves should be happy and feel like everything's right, as long as they behave well. And so they used scripture, the slave owners did to try to keep the slaves from rebelling and seeking out freedom. But here's what the slave owners didn't know that those slaves found out as they begin to read the scriptures is that the Bible was written by slaves and exiles and Wanderers. And so they would get to these stories, like the book of Exodus, where all of the Israelites are crying out underneath slavery of, of Pharaoh, and they're crying out for freedom.
06:25 And, and I love some of these things that, that if you're, if you're not on the underneath the society, you might miss it. But in the very first chapter of Exodus, the story opens up and Farrow. the king of Egypt has issued a decree that all the baby boys born to the Israelites should be killed because they're growing to numerous and he's afraid they're gonna, they're gonna, you know, get free. And so Farrow issues this order, and there's these two midwives Shipra and PAH say that Shipra and PAH, you didn't think you were gonna say that name today. Shipra and PAH these two slave midwives in the very first chapter of the book of exs, they are given names, you know, who is not given a name in the entire book of Exodus, the king of Egypt.
07:15 Well, he's the most important man in the world. He is a God among men. He is the son of raw. So the Egyptians thought and the writers of Exodus, and those who compiled the story later thought, you know, what not important, you know, who is important is these slave midwives who stood up in the face of power to save a little baby named Moses. You see, when you understand who was writing these stories, you start to see the thread of liberation woven throughout. And so these scriptures get out to the, these American slaves. And before too long, these stories from the Bible are turned into these songs that would be sung among the slaves. And I love, Frederick Douglas, a escaped slave later statesman friend of Abraham Lincoln, how he described the power of these biblical songs for the slaves. He said in song lyrics about the Exodus were a metaphor for freedom from slavery songs, like steal away to Jesus or swing low sweet chariot raised unexpectedly in a dusty field or sung softly in the dark night signaled that the coast was clear and the time to escape had come.
08:24 The river Jordan became the Ohio river or the Mississippi, or another body of water that had to be crossed on the journey to freedom. You see, encoded in the story of the Bible is hope for liberation, for those who are oppressed and in captivity, this is throughout the whole story. And so when we put this lens of understanding on that, the writers and the compilers and the storytellers of the Bible are looking at things maybe differently than I would. The Bible comes alive. Everything takes on new life when you realize who's writing it. And so we look at even the very first story in the Bible in Genesis chapter three is the story of Eden. And, in the story of Eden, Adam and Eve are placed in this garden and it is home and everything that they need is there and is beautiful.
09:19 And it's wonderful. And they have this rich relationship with God who would walk with them in the cool of the evening. But the story goes that the, the man and the woman, they sin and sin enters into their lives. And because of that sin, they're separated from God. And they're cast out as exiles out of the garden. It's the very first exile story in the whole Bible. And I, I read that story and I, I think of all the themes that are present there. And there's a lot of 'em, you know, God's creative power, the origins of humanity, the original design for how we should interact with God in a spiritual communion. It's a cautionary tale about sin and how it separates us from God, all. That's true. But then when I think about how exile writers, would've been editing this together and putting this in the book and that the first readers of these stories, reading on parchment in exile, they would've come at it from a different perspective than I have.
10:14 See, they would've heard the story about Adam and Eve in the garden, in, in perfect harmony with God in a, in a beautiful place. And they would've remembered what it felt like to be at home. They would've remembered before they were taken from their homes, what it felt like, and that would've create, created a longing in their souls. And then when God cast Adam and Eve out of the garden, they would've been remembering that feeling of being taken, by force and removed from their home and taken into Babylon. But here's, what's cool is they would hear the story about how after the exile from Eden, God, wasn't done yet with Adam and Eve and their descendants. And maybe these exiled people would hear that story and say, man, things have not gone well, but maybe just, maybe God's not done yet. You see everything takes on new meaning when you realize who is writing the story and who the story was originally intended to.
11:10 So you're like, Evan, that's great. I am not an exile. I'm not a slave. I'm not marginalized. I'm not, I'm not on the underside of society. Am I excluded from, from this experience? How, how the biblical writers intended? Well, here's the good news for all of us who don't fit the category of exile for all those who maybe you you've, maybe you've were born and raised right here. You've never felt away from home. I was, you know, Saint Charles bend Oregon class in 1985. And you say, Evan, hospitals don't have classes. That's weird. Well, they do now. So we've never been exiled. So how do we interact with the story of God? How do we interact with the gospel? Well, here's, what's so cool. It's because of Jesus. We are invited in to an exile way. It's an exile way of thinking. It's an exile way of living.
12:08 It's an exile way of existing in the place that God has planted us. We long for a home, not a home that we once experienced long ago that we want to get back to, but a home that has been promised by God, we're invited into an exile way. And we get a glimpse of this in Hebrews chapter 11, and Hebrews 11 tells the story of so many biblical heroes and all the, the suffering and the trouble. They went through to stay true to their faith in God and how they did so. Not because it was, it was fun or easy or, or all that bearable. No, but because they had hope in something that was far off, it says in Hebrews 11, 13 after tell all these stories of the heroes of faith, it says these all died in faith, not having received the things promise, but having seen them and greeted them from afar and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
13:01 And once again, we say, that's great for them. What about me? I don't relate to that. Hebrews chapter 12, just a few verses later, the writer says, therefore, since we're surrounded by so great a cloud of these witnesses, these exiles, these slaves, these Wanderers, let us also lay aside every weight, the sin, which clings to us so closely. And let us run with endurance. The race that is set before us looking into Jesus, the founder and the Perfector of our faith in this new covenant, this new Testament, we are invited in to live in the way of exiles, where we are longing for a home that is promised. We stand shoulder to shoulder with marginalized people. We stand shoulder to shoulder with those on the underside of society, knowing that they are gonna naturally understand the scripture as it was written better than I will.
13:57 That doesn't make me feel bad. That just makes me understand that the logic of Babylon is always gonna make more sense to me than the faith of the exiles. I'm not gonna beat myself up about that. I'm gonna enter into the faith of the exiles. Do you hear me okay? We gotta, we gotta take on this, new identity as those who are waiting for something that is far off, following Christ means joining the ranks of these exiles, accepting that we will never truly belong to this place or have control over the world. We inhabit. Do you guys remember? so several years ago, and there was the war on Christmas. Do you remember this Starbucks? I think it was, had changed their holiday cup. They were Christmas cops before, and they became holiday cops. And that unleashed Christian Facebook
14:54 The, the, the big bad corporation of Starbucks was coming to take Christmas away from us. And I was, I was remembering that and that feeling I had of like, what are we doing when as Christians we've become so comfortable in this place that we forget that we're strangers and exiles that we have come to the conclusion that somehow that Babylon is here to cater to us. They say, well, we're not Babylon we're in America. Listen, empires, do what empires do. That is not a commentary on the evils of America. That is the commentary on the nature of empires. Empires will always be at odds with the kingdom of God. And when we decide that we're gonna try to project the kingdom of God onto a worldly empire, we are setting ourselves up for a lot of frustration. When we expect Babylon to bend to the will of, of our beliefs in God, we are actually stepping outside of the model we're given, because if we look in the story of exci, we find guys like Daniel, meek, a bed to go, all these guys who were taken out of Judah and taken into Babylon. And we watched the way that they existed in Babylon. And there's this moment. I believe it's in Daniel chapter six, where Daniel is praying every day to God and other people in the kingdom. They don't like him. They don't want him to succeed. And so they set him up to fail and they get the king to agree, to set up this decree, that anyone who prays anybody except the king should be thrown in a din of lions. You might have heard of this story.
16:32 And so Daniel continues to pray because he's not beholden to the ways of the empire. And Daniel gets into this place where the king has to confront him and he's buddies with the king. And so the king wants to help him. And it says that Darius stayed up all night and he's trying to figure out a way to not have to put Daniel in the den of lions, by the way, he's the king. He probably could've just made it happen, but it would've cost him something. So he, the king can't come to any con any solution to help save Daniel. And so he just says these simple words in Daniel, chapter six, he says, Daniel made the God whom you worship protect you. Cool, thanks king. As the King's guards, throw him, you know, into the dinner of lions. And I'm thinking about Daniel's response is not, one of protest is not one of, of anger.
17:27 You know, he doesn't, he doesn't get on social media.
18:43 And so we stand in this place face where we have to lay some things down in order to take up the way of the exile to take up this posture of trust in God alone. And so what are the hallmarks of the exile? Well, if we're not, if we're not fighting for our faith to be accepted in the, the world at large, if that's not, we're supposed to do then what, what makes an exile, an exile? An exile's an exile because they long for home. Exile's long for home. I wanna read a, a quote from CS Lewis out of his book called the weight of glory. It's a little bit long, but it talks about this longing as we kind of cruise towards our clothes today, Lewis says, I'm trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you, the secret, which hurts so much that you take revenge on it by calling it names like nostalgia, romanticism, or adolescence, the secret also, which pierces with such sweetness, that when in very intimate conversations, the mention of it becomes imminent.
19:55 We grow awkward in effect to laugh at ourselves, the secret, which we cannot hide and cannot tell though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is lovers of the mention of a name. Our communist expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that has settled the matter. But all this is a cheat, the books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us. If we trust to them, it was not in them. It only came through them. And what came through them was longing these things, the beauty, the memory of our own past they're good images of what we real, they're mistaken for the thing itself, catch this. If they're mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. How often have we turned to something that is beautiful and wonderful and turned it into an idol that then breaks our hearts for, they are not the thing itself. They are only the scent of a flower, which we have not found the echo of attune. We have not heard and news from a country. We have never yet visited.
21:19 The story of faith in Jesus is a story of longing and allowing that deep place in your soul that maybe feels unsettled or discontent in those quiet moments of self-reflection. The story of the gospel is not to numb away or quiet that longing in our souls and not to find it in lesser things, but to place our hope in that day in Christ, the longing of our heart will be met. And it's so tempting to, to make this home. I mean, this place is great.
22:19 I love my wife. I love my kids, but I don't wanna put on them the pressure to hold up against the weight of belonging in my soul. I moved by, by times in worship and, and in community in this church. And I love it when new families will come up to, to us pastors. And they'll say, man, it just felt like home right away. When we got to west side, I think that's awesome. But please don't expect this to be the end all because it's just a shadow. It's just a glimpse of, what's been promised the most beauty we can take in the most wonderful, close community that we can experience. It's a, it's a preview, it's a taste, it's a teaser of what's to come.
23:02 And so we stand in these moments and we experience the good life, but we never make it home. We never settle for this as all. There is. Our hope is an eternity with Christ. You know, I, I spoke a couple weeks ago and we were talking about spiritual development and the health of our souls. And I, I walked away from that message like I do sometimes feeling like that was fine. Not maybe not great. And we're not immune any of us who stand on the stage from, you know, thinking that we're missed something. But, but last, last time I spoke two weeks ago. I thought, man, I, I feel like I didn't, I didn't say everything I needed to say, or, and then last week after I, I talked about, you know, monitoring our souls and, and, and looking for the warning signs of our souls and really paying attention to, to make sure we have healthy souls and all that was great masterfully delivered.
25:49 There's this writer. I love his work. He died a few years back, four years before his death. He wrote this book called the furious longing of God. And he said, this Brennan Manning said, I face a momentous decision shivering in the rags of my 74 years. I have two choices. I can escape below into skepticism and intellectualism hanging on for dear life or with radical amazement. I can stay on the deck and boldly stand in surrendered faith to the truth of my belovedness caught up in the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God. I've done plenty to try to get in good. God's good graces. And I've screwed up. I try to make up for that. I try to do the right things and say the right things and think the right things and be the right kind of guy. And then I read this and I think my God, it wasn't about what I've done. It's about him. When I stand on the deck with nothing else to prove and nothing else to lose. And I experience the longing of God for me, enveloping me deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls, all your waves and your billows have crashed over me.
27:06 How long for you, God, this is, this is the longing that is stirred up. When we, when we follow after Jesus, it'll take you there. So I guess I wanna say, we need to stop monitoring so much and start longing more longing for him, longing for his love, like a Tempest, like a storm. We were driving out to re yesterday and, and the rain was like, it felt like a, not a central Oregon rainstorm. You know what I'm saying? This week? Like, like where's all this water coming from, but windshield wipers, couldn't keep up with it. Just water, water, water, water. And I thought today, Mike, God,
27:59 I hope I get to a place where I just can't keep up with the love of God. For me. I hope you get to the place where all those things that, that keep him at bay, because you don't wanna feel that long. And you don't wanna feel the ache in your soul. You don't want to feel like there's more that you haven't experienced yet. You don't want to feel that long. And I hope your windshield wipers of your soul can't keep up. And the love of God just keeps coming and coming and wave after wave and deep calls to deep. And you begin to enter into this place of holy Discontentment, where we realize we're strangers and exiles in this place. But our hopes not in this place, our hope is in heaven. Last story I'll tell there.
29:07 The army, the head of the army and Josephine Josephine was his first wife in the last moments of Napoleon, the greats life. Once the greatest and most feared man on the planet, he's there dying. And the cry of his heart and his longing is for a lost empire and lost love. And I thought about my life. And I thought about all the, the days, the weeks that I have between now and my last breath. And I don't want those to be filled with the longing for an empire. I don't want those days to be filled with, with regret and, and longing for things that, that, that, that I lost. I, I, I hope that those days, and those longings are filled with the cry of my heart, that I would say for Christ, for his kingdom. And for those that I love that our hearts would be stirred again. So Jesus, I, I pray, even in these moments, I don't even know if anything I said makes sense, but Lord, I, I trust, your holy spirit today that that maybe there will be a, a, a stirring up and awakening of that longing pray for those that, that have, have successfully numbed those feelings of longing
30:32 For those, those of us, maybe who don't dare to open up that door in our souls, because we, we feel like there's there's risk. There there's herd. There there's potential for disappointment there today. Jesus, would we stand on the deck and we would allow the raging furious longing of God to wash over us. And then our hearts would burn,
31:02 The hope we have for that day. And for you, Jesus.