Watch / Biblical Themes / The Way of the Exile


Introduction [00:00-00:51]

Tim: In the year 587 B.C., the city of Jerusalem was attacked by the Babylonian empire. And a year later, the city and the temple were plundered and burned.1

Jon: Thousands of Israelites were taken from their homes and relocated all over ancient Babylon. They became exiles.2

Tim: And so now, they’re a minority surrounded by a new culture with new gods.

Jon: Now some Israelites chose to resist Babylon by revolting or withdrawing. Others gave in, adopting the Babylonian way of life and accepting these new gods as their own.3

Tim: And you might think those are your only two options, but the prophet Jeremiah told them to do something totally different and surprising: to settle in, build houses, plant gardens, grow families, and, most surprisingly, to “seek the well-being of Babylon and pray to the Lord on its behalf.”4

Daniel and the Third Way [00:51-02:55]

Jon: So this is like a third way.

Tim: Yeah, it’s not compromise or revolt.

Jon: What does it look like?

Tim: Well, there’s a whole book of the Bible that explores that question. It’s the story of Daniel.

Jon: Daniel was one of the Israelites taken into the Babylonian exile.5

Tim: And because Daniel had a royal heritage and education, he was recruited along with some friends to work in the high court of Babylon.6

Jon: Work for the enemy? That would be compromise. Or they could gain the king’s trust and take him down from the inside!

Tim: That’s what you might expect, but instead they take Jeremiah’s advice and choose the third way. They serve the king of Babylon, taking on Babylonian names and even clothing style.7

Jon: So they seek Babylon’s well-being. But in doing so, aren’t they just giving up their heritage?

Tim: It could seem that way, but actually they aren’t. As you read on, the story focuses on moments where they draw the line, and they choose faithfulness to their God and resist the influence of Babylon.8

Jon: So for example?

Tim: Well, like when they are commanded to bow down to the idol of Babylon and give allegiance to the king as if he’s a god.9

Jon: Ah, they won’t go that far.10

Tim: Right. This is where you see their true loyalty. It requires them to critique Babylon’s idolatry of power, its arrogance, its injustice. But they do it nonviolently by laying down their lives.11 And so God vindicates Daniel and his friends for their faithfulness.12

Jon: So they would serve Babylon, seek its well-being, but their loyalty was always to God.

Tim: Yeah. This is what Jeremiah was envisioning. The way of the exile is a combination of loyalty and also subversion.

Jon: So they’re still exiles, but don’t Daniel and his friends long to go home?13

Tim: Yes. In fact, Daniel believed that God was going to send a ruler to bring down Babylon and create a true kingdom of peace.14

Jon: Ah, when did he think this ruler would come?

Tim: Well, at first he thought within his lifetime. But then he had a dream where he found out that after Babylon would come another oppressive empire, then another, then another.15

Jesus: The King Daniel Hoped For [02:56-04:07]

Jon: And so Babylon did fall, and Israel did get to go back home. But now they’re ruled by Babylon’s successors.16

Tim: And so they maintained the mindset of an exile, waiting for their true home to come to them. And they continued the same practice of loyalty and subversion to any new versions of Babylon that came along. And this leads us to the time of Jesus.

Jon: The empire of his day was Rome, ruled by Caesar. Now, some Israelites wanted to resist, while others gave in and adopted Roman culture and its gods.

Tim: But watch Jesus carry on the subversive loyalty of Daniel. Like when he said it’s fine to pay taxes to Caesar––give him back his coins. But then he said don’t mistake Caesar for God. God is the one who deserves your total life and allegiance.17

Jon: So the way of Jesus is this same mix of loyalty and subversion.

Tim: Yeah. Like he taught his followers to love and even bless their enemies.18 But he also got arrested for speaking out against the corrupt leaders of Jerusalem and Rome.19 He critiqued their idolatry of power, and it cost him his life.20 But God vindicated him by raising him from the dead as the true King of the nations.21

Jon: The king that Daniel had hoped for.

Tim: Right! And Jesus promised that one day his Kingdom would prevail.22

Following Jesus in Exile [04:08-5:19]

Jon: And so until then, his followers are living in a type of exile.

Tim: Yeah. This is why the apostle Peter calls followers of Jesus foreigners and exiles. He told them to respect the authorities of whatever place you happen to live, to honor and love all people. But then he reminds them this isn’t their true home. They’re still living in Babylon.23

Jon: Well they’re not living in Babylon. Babylon doesn’t exist anymore.

Tim: Or does it? In the Bible, Babylon has become a symbol that describes any human institution that demands allegiance to its idolatrous redefinitions of good and evil.24

Jon: Oh okay. So we all live and work in Babylon. But how do I seek the well-being of Babylon while my allegiance is to someone greater?

Tim: Yes. Jesus’ followers are called to live in that tension between loyalty and subversion. That’s the way of the exile.

1. 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 52:12-30
2. Jeremiah 52:24-30
3. Daniel 3:7
4. Jeremiah 29:7
5. Daniel 1:1-6
6. Daniel 1:3-4
7. Daniel 1:5-7
8. e.g., Daniel 1:8; 3:8-12
9. Daniel 3:4-6
10. Daniel 3:8-12
11. Daniel 3:14-18
12. Daniel 3:24-25
13. Daniel 9:16-19
14. Daniel 2:44-45
15. Daniel 2:31-45; 7:17
16. Ezra 1:1-11
17. Matthew 22:21
18. Matthew 5:44
19. Matthew 26:3-4
20. Luke 23:44-46
21. Acts 2:22-36
22. e.g., Revelation 11:15
23. 1 Peter 2:11-17
24. e.g., Revelation 18:1-3
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