Exile and Redemption.
Strong and Courageous
There is a theme that t is presented in the Old Testament that is relevant for us today. That is the story of Israel taken into bondage in Babylon, then returning and being restored to their land.
The story is both full of tragedy and joy. The history of this event is proceeded by prophetic warning for the Jewish people to repent and return to God, otherwise, captivity will follow. Jerimiah, known as the weeping prophet foretells the destruction to come. The book of Daniel reveals the story about how Israel rebelled and ended up in bondage for 70 years in Babylon. Then we see a returning to the land in Ezra and Nehemiah that brings forth a hope for restoration and a rebuilding of the temple.
All of the imagery found in these stories set the stage for what we will see come to pass in the life and ministry of Jesus. Particularly how came to earth to establish the Kingdom of God. There is an aspect of mystery of what this Kingdom really means. A clue to understanding this is found in the symbolism of exile and return. N.T. Wright in his work titled The Challenge of Jesus states “Jesus embarked on a public career of kingdom-initiation. He was not just a teacher and healer; He was a prophet of the Kingdom to come. He explained it and enacted it.” The concept of return from exile is woven into the fabric of the redemption and restoration of His ministry to all of the nations, not just Israel alone.
A good example is found in the parable that Jesus teaches about the prodigal son. We find this gospel story in Luke 15 about how a scoundrel young son goes off and squanders his inheritance, realizes that he is in a desperate situation, returns home and is astonishingly welcomed back. Wright describes it as another “story of exile and restoration. Jesus told the story to make the point that the return from exile was happening in and through his own work. The parable was not a general illustration of the timeless truth of God’ forgiveness for the sinner, it was a sharp-edged, context –specific message about what was happening In Jesus’ ministry. More specifically, it was about what was happening through Jesus’ welcome of outcasts, his eating with sinners.”
This aspect of redemption fills us with hope and joyous expectation for this Kingdom to come to fulfillment. In essence, we are all prodigals to some degree or another. Scandal insidiously chases all of humanity. Restoration is ultimately fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Wright sums it up like this, “The Kingdom of God, the return from exile, the great climax of all of human history, is here. Jesus is saying, though it does not look like you may have thought it would, the parable itself is a parable about parables and their effect: this is the only way that the spectacular truth can be told. In addition, it is bound to have the effect that some people will look and never see, while others will find the mystery suddenly unveiled, and they see what God is doing. In this parable and in dozens of other ways, Jesus was announcing, cryptically, that the long-awaited moment had arrived. This was the good news, the gospel.”
This theme of captivity and exile oppression changing to restoration and redemption is a large part of what the Kingdom of God is all about. I find it fascinating to see this theme woven throughout of the history of the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the New.