Come Home

Psalm 137: 4

How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?

I encourage you to read this whole psalm. It is very Jewish, but I think when you ponder it you will appreciate how the Jews feel about Jerusalem and that might even inform our hearts about our own “homeland.” I read a novel in which the lead character is Jewish and visited Jerusalem as part of the storyline. The author conveyed a sense of homecoming in quoting this psalm and it changed my perspective.

This psalm is about the Jewish captivity in Babylon. Their captors wanted them to sing and dance but how could they rejoice when their hearts felt divorced from God. The separation was too keen. As I read this, I realized this sentiment is not so different from what we all routinely experience. How can we rejoice when we sense our separation from the Lord? Conversely, isn’t praise and jubilant worship easy in the presence of the Lord?

When we feel stressed, we often also feel estranged from God. There are other things which separate us from our confidence in His presence. Busyness certainly pulls us away from our intimacy with the Lord. I think sometimes this has more to do with the difficulty in getting our minds to relax enough to sense Jesus’ presence right next to us. It is though we are traipsing through the desert, isolated from Him though He is in the cloud right in front of us. We are the lost tribes, feeling like sojourners in a foreign land.

Here is my advice – come home! Come home beloved! “How do I,” you ask. You get alone in the quiet space. Give yourself enough time to quiet your physiology and then quiet your mind and spirit. If you are challenged in this, don’t worry, so was I. There were few moments in my existence where peace and quiet permeated any aspect of my being. I learned how to quiet myself and as I practiced, I got better and better. It is a process for many of us so don’t lose heart. Coming home means finding that space in your existence where you can connect with the Father. When you do connect, you will know you are home. When you connect you can easily sing the Lord’s song, and I hope you will.

What Love Requires

1 Chronicles 9: 1

So all Israel was enrolled by genealogies; and behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel. And Judah was carried away into exile to Babylon for their unfaithfulness.

People struggle over what they perceive as an angry God of the Old Testament. Admittedly, there is a different tone to some of the passages in the Old Testament but still, we know that God always loved His people. God is love and we know that God does not change (Malachi 3:6). So, if we know that God is love and that He has never changed then we must conclude that He was always a God of love. How, then, do we reconcile some of the harder passages of the Old Testament?

First, people did not understand about the devil in the old days. They thought there was only God. Besides the dialogue in Job there are only a few other mentions of Satan in the Old Testament. It is not until the New Testament that we really learn about the devil and his minions. Therefore, Old Testament writers did not know who to characterize as the source of their trouble. They wrote from what they knew and so they blamed God for their troubles. Read Job’s account for a clear example of this dynamic. So, one of the ways that we can reconcile the Old Testament accounts and a God who is love is from a New Testament perspective which recognizes Satan as the thief, killer, and destroyer. We now know who the enemy is.

Something else has been stirring in my spirit lately in regards to God’s love for us and the Old Testament. Every time recently that I have read anything about the Babylonian captivity a thought has surfaced. Why did a God of love allow His chosen people to go into captivity to pagans? I think the answer is because love required it. The people were out of control. They had given themselves over to pagan religions and such moral turpitude that they were destroying themselves. God needed a way to save them from themselves. They were on course to wipe themselves off of the face of the earth and from memory. So, allowing them to go Babylon, even though as captives might have been the way that God preserved the nation of His people. They were safer in Babylon than on their own. They were like children. If left to their own devices they would have destroyed themselves and their progeny. God hid them away and put them under an administrator who could and would control their erratic behaviors.  

Lastly, many times the source of evil tidings is the seed we have sown. When you look at the Old Testament you see, as you see today, that many times people are simply reaping what they have sown. God put a system of inviolable laws in place when He created the earth. Gravity is a good example. Another is that a seed always produces after its own kind. You can’t plant eggplant and reap cucumbers. It just is never going to happen. When the people sowed disobedience and violence those seeds just had to produce ill fortune. This is a principle of the laws of the earth. So, the enemy of the Old Testament sometimes was the people themselves.  

In conclusion, perhaps we can see the God of love through the captivity. Maybe the only way God could save His people was to allow someone else to moderate their behaviors. Otherwise, their seed would have continued to grow and would have eventually choked the life out of them. If you begin with the understanding that our Father is a God of love, then many things begin to make sense that were otherwise puzzling. Everything He does is out of love for us.