Compare the first exile in Genesis 3:9-24 with the next in Genesis 4:6-16, when Cain was exiled east toward Babylon. Take note of repeated ideas and words. Why do you think the land suffered in each situation? Why were the humans driven from their homeland?
Babylon is the place where people chase power to make a name for themselves (Genesis 11:4). But Abram is invited to leave Babylon when God tells him to move to a land he would show him. Read Genesis 12:1-3. What does God promise to do for and through Abram?
Centuries later, Abraham’s family became the people of Israel. They entered the homeland God promised, but they failed to trust God and were exiled. But even in their exile, God made a way for them to return home (see Deuteronomy 30:1-6). What does this say about God’s character and the nature of his promises?
Jesus is the way back home for all humanity. Jesus invites us back into God’s presence and the Eden ideal. Read John 14:1-6 and 14:16-23. Based on this passage, how does Jesus make a way for us to be at home in God while we live on Earth? How does Jesus make a way for God to be at home within us?
Take time to discuss other themes, questions, or key takeaways from what you learned together.
Ezekiel 12:3Numbers 11:6Deuteronomy 6:4-6Genesis 46:15Numbers 31:191 Samuel 20:1Psalms 35John 14:61 Peter 1:1-2
Jon: There’s something about being home where everything’s just right. We’re surrounded by people we love and trust. There is a feeling of stability and safety.
Tim: And while some people get to experience this kind of home, many do not. Others might even be forced to leave their home and go live in a foreign land. We call this going into exile.
Jon: Yeah. In exile everything is disorienting. You are in the unknown.
Tim: And in the story of the Bible, this is where the ancient Israelites found themselves, conquered by Babylon, living in exile, far from their homeland.
Jon: And so they had to ask themselves: How did we end up here? And is there any hope of going home?
Tim: And the whole story of the Bible is designed to address those very questions.
Jon: The whole story? Really?
Humanity’s Exile [00:52-01:44]
Tim: Yeah. Go back to the first pages of the Bible. Where does humanity live?
Jon: Okay. They live in this really sweet garden––their home.1
Tim: And they’re there on one condition: that they trust and follow God’s one command. And they don’t. And so the consequence is banishment from the garden.2
Jon: Ah, they’re sent into exile.
Tim: Exactly. And so this story’s been designed to set you up for Israel’s story, how they were given the gift of the promised land and were able to stay there on one condition: that they be faithful to the terms of their covenant relationship with God.
Jon: They didn’t, and they were sent into exile.
Tim: And if you still don’t see the parallel between exile from the garden and exile from Israel, think about this. In Genesis, humanity’s exile led up to the story about the building of what city?3
Jon: Oh yeah! Babylon! The same place the Israelites are sent.
Longing for Home [01:45-03:03]
Tim: But that’s not the end of either story. In the first Babylon, God called Abraham to leave and travel to the promised land.4 And that story was designed to give hope to Israelites currently living in the later Babylon.5
Jon: Now eventually they do get to leave and travel back to their promised land.6
Tim: And when they did, it wasn’t “home sweet home.” Oppressive empires were still ruling over them, and the people kept acting in the same corrupt ways as their ancestors. And so the biblical prophets said that exile wasn’t actually over.7
Jon: How could they think they were still in exile when they’re at home?
Tim: Yeah. This is really important. In the Hebrew scriptures, Israel’s Babylonian exile became an image of something more universal. It's that feeling of alienation and longing for something more, no matter where you live.
Jon: Yeah. I can relate to this. I have a great home, but it’s situated in a world scarred with pain and broken relationships, death, and tragedy done by others but also done by me.
Tim: And so in the Bible, exile is the human condition. We all keep repeating this pattern of human corruption leading to a Babylon that we can’t escape. And it doesn't matter where you live, we are all longing for a better home.
Jesus’ Heart for the Exiles [03:04-04:08]
Jon: Now Israel’s Scriptures held out hope that one day God would send a king, who would rescue the world from all of the Babylons we’ve created.8
Tim: And after many generations pass, we meet this Israelite named Jesus of Nazareth. He wandered about with no home, announcing the great restoration, that reality of home that Israel and all humanity has been looking for.9
Jon: Yeah. Jesus really cared about people who didn’t have homes. He welcomed in the stranger. He said God’s love is shown when you invite in the outcast and throw parties for people who don’t have a place to belong.
Tim: Jesus also claimed that Israel and all humanity had lost its way, that our self-centeredness drives us to create false homes based on status and power. And these inevitably exclude others. We live in an exile of our own making.
But Jesus said the true way home is one of weakness, of service, and of forgiveness. And then Jesus went into exile alongside us to show us the true way home.
Jon: Which is?
Jesus Is the Way Home [04:09-04:50]
Tim: Well, Jesus said he is the way. His life and self-giving love proved more powerful than humanity’s failure. He opened up a pathway to our real home.
And as Jesus’ followers committed themselves to him, they discovered this new way of being human. They believed that the real return from exile had begun, and so they would call themselves sojourners or wanderers.10
Jon: Oh right. They would say things like “the world isn’t our home” and “we’re citizens of Heaven.”
Tim: And so Jesus’ followers remain exiles as they wait for that day when Jesus returns to transform this world into a true home.