The End of Exile

This week our Living in Exile series comes to a close. The end of the series has me thinking about the end of exile. Israel may have marked that by returning to Jerusalem, rebuilding the wall or rebuilding the temple. But did they feel for the generations to come like the exile was really over? Biblical scholar, N.T. Wright, has a shared a theory that even in the time of Jesus, the Jewish people had many of the same struggles with Rome that their ancestors had with the time in exile. Exile had come to them. As we have mentioned during the series, sometimes we might feel as if exile has come to us. In the book, Exile: A Conversation With N.T. Wright, several scholars interact with Wright’s concept of exile during the New Testament. Scot McKnight writes about what would signify the end of exile.
“The southern tribe, Judah, was sent by God into exile to Babylon as discipline for unfaithfulness. In Babylon the ideas of ending their exile and returning to the land converged into a story of hope. Some seventy years later the exiles returned, but not all of the promises were fulfilled when they returned. So Wright argues that even though the children of Israel were back in the land, the exile had not yet completely ended. The question then is this: When would it end? When God once again sat on the throne and ruled the land. The exile will only truly end when God rules, when the glowing words of Isaiah 40–66 are more than glimpsed in the realities in the land, when—in other words—the damage of 1 Samuel 8 is undone and redeemed. Until Jerusalem is ruled by God and God alone, the exile is still on.”
We have been reminded several times this summer that God was sovereign through the entire exile and return, and He is still sovereign today. But since Israel first demanded a human king in 1 Samuel 8, people have sought someone else to be in charge. As God warned them in verse 18, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.” They would cry out because of their own king and the kings who would make their exile so difficult.
The exile ends when God rules. Applying that idea to the walk of Christians in 2023, until we are “ruled by God and God alone, the exile is still on.” Like Israel, we must remember that God is our king, and there can be no substitute. He gives us life, freedom and hope.

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