Contentment In Exile and When Rebuilding

“Rebuilding the Temple” by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Verlag von Georg Wigand (1908)

Israel found value in being God’s chosen people, their kingdom in which they were promised that the line of David would never end, and their Temple which attracted people from all over the world. They had a crisis of faith when the nation split into two over a debate over who should succeed King Solomon and then again when the northern kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians.

Miraculously, the nation of Judah overcame the Assyrians as prophesied by Isaiah. Then the Assyrians were destroyed by the Babylonians at about the same time Judah was experiencing spiritual awakening under the leadership of King Josiah. All faith was restored! They could never lose!

“Elevated by theological optimism, the nation marched toward tragedy confident that the God who frustrated

Sennacherib would frustrate Nebuchadnezzar also.” – John Bright in History of Israel

Unfortunately, circumstances changed dramatically.

When Things Go Wrong

The people of Israel saw their homeland destroyed by the Babylonians and many of their best and brightest were taken captive and brought to Babylon – exiled from their home.

It is hard to experience peace and contentment under these circumstances, but Jeremiah the prophet said these words of encouragement in Jeremiah 29:4-7:

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

Jeremiah is saying: “you can be satisfied and content even in exile!” Jeremiah continues:

10 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

God Gave Them A Promise

God would open the door for them to go home – maybe not as soon as they would like, but God made them a promise.

Some of us give up on God far too soon. The people of Israel were promised something that God would fulfill in 70 years! Some of us have given up on God’s promise after just 7 weeks or even 70 minutes!

Decades later the King of all of Persia decreed that the people of Israel should go back to their homeland and rebuild their city. Now that is a promise fulfilled! God moved in the heart of the King of Persia! God did what no Israelite could do!

Unfortunately, some of the people had started falling away. They were no longer proactive towards God’s better future for them.

As a result, a prophet named Haggai reminded them of their part to play in all of this:

Haggai 1:5-7

5 Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6 You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.” 7 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.

They sound quite American, huh? Did you know that the average American household carries $7,000 in credit card debt? That means most of us are spending more than we make – no matter how much we make! We were in debt when we made very little in our 20s and we tend to stay in debt even as we make more in our 30s and 40s!

God’s Part and Our Part

So the people needed to realign their actions with God’s ways. God did His part: the King of Persia gave them permission to return, but they still had to pack up and move and then do the work of rebuilding.

Another prophet named Zechariah reminded them of the proper relationship between our satisfaction and making progress – trusting God AND doing our part.

In Zechariah 4:6 (NIV), he reminds us that God does His part in a message to the Governor named Zerubbabel:

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

The Message version ofZechariah 4:6 puts it this way:‘You can’t force these things. They only come about through my Spirit.’

In Zechariah 4:8-9, he reminds us that we have to do our part:

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.

In other words, Zerubbabel you could not have ever opened the doors to do what God is now doing, but now that the doors are open you have to walk through it and do the work with your own hands.

In our lives, there are things only God can do for us, and there are things that only we can do. No matter where we are in that journey, we can live with a sense of peace and satisfaction.

All throughout the Scriptures we see that God works, and we respond.

God moves, and we act.

We can be content or discontent whether we have a lot or a little. With God’s help, we can experience peace in our hearts whether we are in exile, or home, or somewhere in between

For more, check out one of the following:

“The Exchange – From Striving to Satisfied”

“If I Only Knew Then… Dating” (God’s promise requires our patience and proactivity.)

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