Exile and Expectation: Prophets, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther

The exile of Israel and their expectation of a coming Messiah may be one of the most historically and spiritually confusing sections of the Bible for many.  This section of the story covers a profuse amount of scripture only complicated by the diverse writing styles of roughly 20 authors.  When read faithfully, this section of God’s story of redemption is also very sweet, probably one of my favorites sections of the Old Testament.  In seminary, I took a Hebrew exegesis class on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  This class really helped me to grasp the timeline of this period in the Bible as well as develop in me a love for what God is revealing to us as the remnant of His people Israel walk through the defining moment of the exile.  In our currently preaching series on“The Story” of the Bible at Risen Life Church I preached through the Exile and Expectation of Israel.  I hope you will find my sermon helpful in putting together the big pieces of this dramatic ending to the Old Testament.

I think there is one main point that we can take away from Israel’s exile and expectation and that is that our salvation has always been dependent on God’s faithfulness in spite of our relentless unfaithfulness as the people of God.  God is carrying forward His plan to save us and create for Himself a people that will show forth His glory to the nations despite their sinful rebellious hearts.  God will get Israel’s attention by placing them in a God sized “time out” and then place within them a heart that desires to follow Him.  And you know the coolest thing about Israel's exile and expectation?  It was all prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 28:47-51, Deuteronomy 29:24-28, and Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 6, 9-10. 

Out of Israel’s exile and expectation I think there are two very good points of application for Christians.  The application includes: Israel’s example in repentance, and God’s instructions on how we should live while in exile.

Two of the greatest prayers of repentance in the Bible come out of Israel’s exile.  One is made by Daniel in Daniel 9:3-19 and the other is made by Ezra in Ezra 9:6-15.  In both these prayers there is a recognition of sin, an agreement with God’s punishment, a desire to walk in a new direction, an appeal to God’s character and promises, and a casting of all hope on the mercy and grace of God towards His people.  Christians should learn these prayers well for they pattern for us the exact same attitude we should take as we repent of our sins and cast all our hope on the mercy and grace of God found in the person of Christ.

If we really think about our position before God as humans, our whole life is one lived in exile from our dwelling with God.  Our exile began in the garden of Eden when Adam rebelled against God and tried to write his own story contrary to God’s story.  God cast us out of the garden putting us in a God sized “time out” where we live our lives out in exile from God.  God’s purpose in Christ is that a remnant of people would be saved out of this grand exile through repentance in Christ.  When we place our faith in Christ we then are living in expectation of an again returning Messiah that will take us back to our heavenly home, the new Jerusalem, just like the Israelites that were living in captivity.  Jeremiah’s words in Jeremiah 29:4-7 and Jeremiah 29:10-14 then give us very applicable instruction for how we should conduct life in the meantime while we wait for the return of our Savior.  Jeremiah tells the Israelites and us to settle down and build a life, pray for the welfare of our city, and seek the Lord with our whole heart.  1 Peter 1:1-2 and 1 Peter 1:3-21 pick up on this theme and similarly instruct us as believers to hope in the return of Jesus and the completion of our salvation, work hard at living a holy life, and to be ready for the return of Jesus at any moment.

The exile and expectation of Israel is a sweet time of repentance and restoration in the Biblical story, and we should let it drive us to our knees as well.  But the exile does not leave us there; it helps understand what it means to live in expectation of a returning Savior, Christ.  Let us rejoice and place our hopes in the coming king, Christ, just like Zephaniah we he wrote Zephaniah 3:14-20.  God will be faithful to His promises of salvation, will you cast yourself on His mercy and grace and hope in Him?

*The Maps referenced in the sermon came from www.mapsofwar.com.  The use of these maps in this sermon in no way reflects the opinions of www.mapsofwar.com.
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