Daniel 5 “Remember Death”

Introduction: American culture does not like to think about death

One of the things that people are most uncomfortable talking about is something that we all experience, death.

  1. People used to die at home and everyone in their family had to deal with it. Now people die out of sight in a hospital.
  2. Medicine makes us think that we will live forever.
  3. At funerals we dress people up and put on makeup so that they actually look like they are still alive.

When I officiate a funeral I always warn people to take the opportunity to really think about the temporal nature of their life. The tendency is to drink some alcohol or run back to work. Try to forget about death.

Thinking about death now will give you the opportunity to live life fully awake and for the glory of God.

Read passage: Daniel 5

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah. 14 I have heard of you that the spirit of the gods is in you, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom are found in you. 15 Now the wise men, the enchanters, have been brought in before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, but they could not show the interpretation of the matter. 16 But I have heard that you can give interpretations and solve problems. Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another. Nevertheless, I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation. 18 O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. 19 And because of the greatness that he gave him, all peoples, nations, and languages trembled and feared before him. Whom he would, he killed, and whom he would, he kept alive; whom he would, he raised up, and whom he would, he humbled. 20 But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit was hardened so that he dealt proudly, he was brought down from his kingly throne, and his glory was taken from him. 21 He was driven from among the children of mankind, and his mind was made like that of a beast, and his dwelling was with the wild donkeys. He was fed grass like an ox, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. 22 And you his son,6 Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, 23 but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.

24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. 25 And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. 26 This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL, you have been weighed8 in the balances and found wanting; 28 PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”9

29 Then Belshazzar gave the command, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put around his neck, and a proclamation was made about him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.

30 That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. 31 And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

We are all sinners

King Belshazzar was living it up. It was a lifestyle totally at odds with God. At this massive 1000 person party (some scholars think it was more like an orgy) Belshazzar was there getting drunk with his wives and his concubines. The king makes the terrible drunken decision to use the cups from the temple to drink his booze from. Instantly the hands appear and the writing goes up on the wall.

Get this. There is at this moment an army all round them. Yes, even while they are partying. This reminds us that our time just might be up at any time. Our days are short and they have been numbered.

Paul reminds us that we are all more like Belshazzar than we might want to admit. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” -Romans 3:23

Due to our sin there is judgment

God brought judgment against Belshazzar immediately. The writing on the wall was in Aramaic and the words were MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Daniel tell us what it means. Belshazzar’s days are over, he was weighed and he did not measure up, his kingdom was going to be taken from him that very night.

The Medo-Persian army killed him that very night and took over his Empire.

Reminds me of Matthew 24:36-39. The people in Noah’s day were partying and living it up. When their time was up, it was up. How about the people in your life? Do they know the infinite beauty and power of Jesus Christ? Have you forgotten that their days are numbered? Are you coasting spiritually when you need to be living with urgency because we don’t know our final day?

Use your few days wisely

Right before a battle Maximus said this to his soldiers, “What we do in life echoes for all eternity.” Whether you like Gladiator or not the quote is legit. How you live now matters for all of eternity. Does your life reflect this?

Think about Jim Elliott and his family. Went to Ecuador to bring the gospel to the people who lived there. Maybe you know what happened. The people he came to share the good news with murdered him. Did Jim waste his life? The answer is no.

Two years later his wife went back. Let that thought sink in for a moment. She went back to the same people that murdered her husband. This time the gospel was received and many people were saved.

We need to seek after Christ for our own well being with all of our might. Talk to him, know him, love with, walk with him. Is Jesus the burning center of your every day life?

Paul had some words for death, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through the Lord Jesus Christ. -1 Corinthians 15:56-57

Paul did not fear death. The reason is that he knew Jesus Christ had overcome death and sin through the cross. This is one of the main reasons Paul was so bold for the gospel. If death had been defeated what in the world do we have to be afraid of? There should be nothing that hinders us from sharing the good news with the lost of this world.

We need to work so that others know Jesus personally. Do you have a heart for the lost? I mean, seriously. Our hearts so quickly become cold and indifferent to the fact that there are people all around us headed for hell. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in us so that we care about the lost sons and daughters of God.

Daniel 1 (Part 2) Life In Exile

On January 24th I started preaching through the book of Daniel. HERE is the link to my outline and thoughts regarding the first sermon. Then yesterday I took some time to preach from Jeremiah 29. The reason I preached from Jeremiah 29 was because it contains clear instructions to the Jewish people who were living in Babylonian captivity.

Introduction

How do we live in a post-Christian culture? When the political world seems to be spinning out of control. When values we have always believed in are no longer respected. In the book of Daniel we find many answers to this question about how we live today in a Babylonian culture.

Retell the story in Daniel 1

Judah, the Southern Kingdom has been invaded by the violent, wicked, Babylonian Empire. This has happened because God’s people are not seeking God with all of their heart.

Daniel and his friends taken into Babylonian captivity. Daniel came to Babylon as a teenager and stayed there into his late 80s. King Nebuchadnezzar attempted to change Daniel and his friends through the power of their culture (name change, language, food, education). Daniel is one of the few characters in Scripture that we don’t learn about him sinning or wrongdoing.

Read passage: Jeremiah 29:4-14

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 8 For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream,1 9 for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD.

10 “For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare2 and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the LORD, band I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

IMPORTANT: This passage must have been shocking to the Jewish people.

In Psalm 137:8-9 we learn that the Babylonians had dashed the Jewish babies upon rocks and raped the women. And yet God, through Jeremiah, is telling them to seek the welfare of Babylon. It’s hard to imagine a more shocking letter than they one the Jews received in Jeremiah 29.

How do the people of God live while they are in exile?

Define Babylonian culture: James Davison Hunter literally wrote the book regarding culture wars in 1991. Here is my personal take on what a culture war is all about. It is the spirit of the age, working against God and his purposes in the world. It is characterized by idolatry; man, not God, is at the center of the universe, sexual immorality is pervasive, the pursuit of pleasure, and attempting to remove God from our world. There seems to be a strong demonic force at work in the Babylonian culture. In Revelation 18:1-2 we read this:

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place for demons…”

There are three bad ways we can respond to our culture and one good way that is modeled to us by Jesus Christ

(ONE) Fight: We fight culture wars

In Jeremiah 29 God does not tell his people to fight against the Babylonians. We are not the moral majority but we keep acting like it. We keep acting like we are the ones with the power and on top of that we have grown accustomed to using the world’s tools to fight a spiritual battle. All of the problems we see in culture come from the wickedness of the human heart. Only the gospel has the power to change the heart.

There was a culture war going on in Jesus’ day. Zealots were fighting against Roman Empire. Did Jesus tap into the rage? No. Jesus pointed his disciples in a different direction.

The result of fighting a culture war is that the world misunderstands what the church and Jesus is all about. The world will think that Christians are angry, outraged people on the conservative side of the aisle. Instead, we should be known because of our love.

People have shrugged and seemed to say in a whisper, maybe politics will fix our problems. That is easier than getting involved and actually living like salt and light.


“A final irony has to do with the idea of political responsibility. Christians are urged to vote and become involved in politics as an expression of their civic duty and public responsibility. This is a credible argument and good advice up to a point. Yet in our day, given the size of the state and the expectations that people place on it to solve so many problems, politics can also be a way of saying, in effect, that the problems should be solved by others besides myself and by institutions other than the church. It is, after all, much easier to vote for a politician who champions child welfare than to adopt a baby born in poverty, to vote for a referendum that would expand health care benefits for seniors than to care for an elderly and infirmed parent, and to rally for racial harmony than to get to know someone of a different race than yours. True responsibility invariably costs. Political participation, then, can and often does amount to an avoidance of responsibility.” -James Davison Hunter, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World

Picture taken from Cruxnowdotcom

(TWO) Escape: We hide in our houses (and churches) and wait for the Second coming

Jeremiah 29 makes it clear that we are not to hide from our culture. We are to be a part of the culture, yet live such holy lives that others take note. If we choose to escape then we will have zero influence on the Babylonian culture around us.

Jesus is the better Daniel. Jesus left his safe neighborhood (heaven) and moved to a dangerous neighborhood all because he was on a rescue mission.

(THREE) Compromise: We end up looking more like the world than Jesus

Daniel could have very easily chosen this option. He was given the best food, the best wine, living in the royal court. He could have simply said that he was going to enjoy the good life all around him. Daniel, a teenager, resisted the temptations all around him and instead was used in a powerful way for God.

What are the ways in our life that we have begun to compromise our Christian values?

(FOUR) Engage: Live in culture as salt and light, love people, make disciples

In Jeremiah 29: 7 we learn that Christians are to love for the welfare for the people and the city around them. The Hebrew word for welfare is ‘shalom.’ Christians are to be looking to bring peace into their everyday life. What does that look like?

ONE: Don’t be afraid of putting down roots where you live. I am hearing from people all around me that fear is taking deep roots in our lives. Fear is 100% not the way of a follower of Jesus Christ. In the middle of being taken into captivity, the world seemed like it was ending, Jeremiah does not tell the children of God to stop living. He does not tell them that fear is ever justified. We simply do not know when the Second Coming of Jesus will be so we live life with purpose and meaning every single day.

TWO: Focus on prayer. Jeremiah 29:12 we are told that the proper response, one way of seeking the welfare/shalom of the city, is to pray. My strong conviction is that as a church we must be pursuing corporate prayer on a more frequent basis. Corporately and personally. Are we seeking God in prayer? Are we getting on our knees and praying for the good of our city?

THREE: Repent of sin. Tim Keller writes this, “We must be far harder on ourselves in gracious, humble repentance, than we are on the unbelieving culture around us. This was a major lesson for the exiles and for us. Our first response should be repentance. We should be very understanding toward people who have failed to believe in Christ because the weakness of the church’s testimony. A lot of what is happening in our culture today may be more our fault than we are willing to admit.”

“The church is waiting for the world to become regenerate, while the world is waiting for the church to become repentant.” –Leonard Ravenhill

FOUR: Seek spiritual renewal. Do we desire spiritual renewal in our lives? Our church? Our city? Again, are we praying for it? This is one of my constant prayers these days. Lord, save the lost sons and daughters all around us. Wake up those who are spiritually asleep in the church.

FIVE: Make disciples. Imagine if Christians spent less time watching the news and talking about conspiracy theories and instead started building relationships and making disciples! What a powerful transformation this would have in our churches and in our culture.

SIX: Be people of hope! Stop giving into despair! The people all around us need to see that we trust that God is sovereign and that we are not ruled by fear.

Vision of our church: Our vision is to be “Deeply Rooted in Six Counties” all around us. We are to live for the welfare/shalom of the area in which God has strategically placed us.

We have to stop seeing the world as the enemy and instead see them as our mission field. We pursue people in our Babylonian culture with the same love that Jesus Christ has showered upon us.

12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. -Ephesians 6:12

Are you changing the world?

My study in the book of Daniel has led me to think deeply about how we live in the middle of a post-Christian, Babylonian culture. Some of our methods are good, some of them not so much.

About 15 years ago the missional conversation hit the church like a run-away train. I read everything I could get my hands on and it had a strong impact on me and the way that I think about the church. One of the passages in Scripture that was frequently mentioned was Jeremiah 29. Now that I am digging into Daniel I have an even greater appreciation for the message that Jeremiah was communicating to the Jewish exiles who were living in Babylon.

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. 6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

The Jews were living in captivity to a empire that was 100% at odds with their Jewish faith and way of life. Yet, God was telling them that they are to embrace everyday life, put down deep roots, pray for the people and the culture all around them. Daniel was not asked to fight a culture war. To use a phrase from the New Testament, Daniel was called to live as salt and light. As American Christians we don’t always choose the path that Daniel took. Perhaps more importantly, we don’t always seek to walk in the ways of Christ. Here is what I mean…

Changing The World Through A Culture War

  1. You watch the news too much
  2. You feel anxious, worried, and angry
  3. You are trying to treat the symptoms of the world’s problems
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle don’t sense that you care about them
  5. Your social media comes across as harsh
  6. You are focused on winning arguments
  7. You talk about politics more than Jesus
  8. You see the people in this world as your enemies
  9. You are not involved in the life of the church and you don’t think it is important when it comes to changing the world
  10. You don’t pray very much
  11. You are not discipling anyone

Changing The World By Following Jesus

  1. You immerse your heart and mind in the Word of God
  2. You feel hopeful because God is in control
  3. You know the key to change is the gospel impacting the human heart
  4. People on the other side of the political aisle sense that you love them
  5. Your social media comes across as kind and gracious
  6. You are more concerned about winning people than arguments
  7. You talk about Jesus more than politics
  8. You see the people in this world as your mission field
  9. You are actively involved in the life of the church for the good of the world
  10. Your life is filled with prayer and especially for the lost and hurting world
  11. You are discipling others

11 Beloved, I urge you has sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. -1 Peter 2:11-12

Daniel 1 (Part 1) Introduction

This past Sunday I began preaching through the amazing book of Daniel. I plan on preaching through every chapter and verse of the book. As I started thinking and praying about preaching from this book I was amazed at how timely for the world we live in today. About fifty years ago Richard Niebuhr famously wrote in his book, Christ and Culture, about the different ways that Christians should respond to the culture in which they live. Many others have written on this same topic with a variety of opinions. I am loving Daniel because we learn so much by watching how a godly man (actually he was a teenager in the opening chapters) responds to a quickly changing culture (from Judah to Babylon!)

So my plan is to make a post here each week regarding every chapter of Daniel. Yes, I am even going to preach through the 70 weeks. Buckle up! Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas along the way.

INTRODUCTION

What in the world is going on in the USA?

We imagined 2021 might be a fresh start and things would get better. As Bono says, “nothing changes on New year’s Day.” Anger, polarization, cynicism are rampant. Sexual immorality has become status quo. There is gender confusion. We are post-Christian. Secularism feels like a growing religion. Moral absolutes seem old fashioned. What in the blazes is happening?

We are living in a BABYLONIAN CULTURE. How do we live as exiles, on a day-to-day basis, in a Babylonian culture?

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Author: Daniel, his name means “God is my judge”

Babylon: At the time of Daniel Babylon was the largest and most powerful city in the world. The Euphrates River ran through the city. Today the remains of the city of Babylon are in the city of Iraq. The primary god of the Babylonians was Marduk. To the honor of Marduk there was a 7 story ziggurat. A ziggurat is in the shape of a pyramid and this one went about 300 feet high.

The invasion of Judah by the Babylonians: Before the invasion of the Babylonians into Judah, in the year 722 BC, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded by the Assyrians. 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came in and conquered Jerusalem. Remember, after the rule of king Solomon the kingdom was divided into the north and south.

Why did the conquest of Jerusalem take place? In Isaiah 24:1-6 we read this:

1Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
3 The earth shall be utterly empty and utterly plundered;
for the Lord has spoken this word.

4 The earth mourns and withers;
the world languishes and withers;
the highest people of the earth languish.
5 The earth lies defiled
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed the laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.

6 Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched,
and few men are left.

Outline: Chapters 1-6 are amazing stories that many children know. Chapters 1-7 are filled with visions and prophecies that many scholars have a hard time understanding and interpreting.

Languages used: 2:4-7:28 is in Aramaic, the rest is in Hebrew

Main points of Daniel 1) God is sovereign over all 2) We are called to live a holy life as exiles in a Babylonian culture

EVEN IN THE DARKEST OF TIMES, GOD IS IN CONTROL

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 

Things had gotten really bad for Israel. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been invaded by Assyria in 722 BC. Now the southern kingdom had been invaded by Babylon. It is not possible for a nation to sink any lower. The very God who had raised them up and chose them now is the One who is judging them for their lifestyles of rebellion.

God is the One who gave Jehoiakim into the hands of the Babylonians. In Jeremiah 21:5 we read, “I (God) myself will fight against you, with outstretched hand and strong arm, and in fury and great wrath.”

The invasions by other super powers into Israel was by the very hands of God. Not luck. Not bad fortune. God was judging the sins of his people people they had broken his covenant.

We are tempted today to believe that God is out of control. We will start believing these lies will begin to experience worry, stress, and anxiety. The greatest antidote to anxiety is an understanding and belief in the sovereignty of God.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. -Matthew 10:29

GOD WILL PLACE US IN DIFFICULT SITUATIONS TO USE US FOR HIS PURPOSES

3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family1 and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. -Daniel 1:3-4

Judah invaded, temple of God has been looted. The vessels of God were placed in the house of a pagan god (Marduk). The Babylonians think that by bringing Daniel and the other exiles to their city that they are winning. But God is very strategic. Daniel and his friends are going to be used by God in some incredible ways.

God has placed you right where you are at for a strategic kingdom purpose. You might not like your job. You might not like your neighborhood or your city. But you are not there by accident. God wants to use you for his holy purposes. How can God use you at home, school, in the workplace?

WE MUST STRIVE TO NOT CONFORM TO OUR BABYLONIAN CULTURE

8 But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. -Daniel 1:8

The Babylonians wanted to assimilate the Jews through their culture. Daniel and his friends were given new names. Names that were connected to the Babylonian gods. Daniel stood firm when it came to the food he was going to eat? Why? Could be for several reasons. Perhaps the food had been offered to idols. Maybe the food broke their dietary laws. What we do know is that this was a compromise that Daniel knew that he could not make.

This assimilation makes me think of modern day universities. Professors with degrees promoting philosophies that run contrary to the Word of God. All too often our young people are being assimilated into our Babylonian culture to the colleges that we pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to.

In Scripture Babylon came to represent all culture that works against the will and design of God. In 1 Peter 5:13 we find, “She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings, and so does Mark, my son.”

When Peter wrote this letter he was not anywhere near Babylon. What in the world does he mean? Peter was using Babylon as a metaphor for any culture that is totally at odds with the kingdom of God.

The world’s strategy is to reprogram you through a Babylonian culture.

Entertainment: Screens, the internet, social media is impacting us far more than we are aware of.

Wealth: Persecution does not seem to work against Christians. In fact, persecution seems to fan the flames of Christianity. Wealth, now that is a different story. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” -1 Timothy 6:16

Politics: We will be talking about this on a number of occasions throughout this series. Politics is making people angry, volatile, depressed, and at times so mad that they are literally willing to kill people because of their political beliefs. We are being discipled by the nightly news. The result is that we are bringing contempt upon Christianity by the watching world.

Sexual immorality: The only thing that is new about this is that sexual immorality is becoming more main stream. We allow things into our minds and homes that 20 years ago we never would have dreamed of.

How does this chapter point us to Jesus Christ?

I am of the strong opinion that every book of the Bible points us to Jesus Christ. In Luke 24 we read this, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Daniel was a prophet and his words, prophecies, and visions point us to Jesus Christ.

Think of the missionary likenesses between Daniel and Jesus. Left the safety of home, entered into am incredibly dangerous culture, all for the sake of God’s redemptive purposes.

We will stay in chapter 1 this coming Sunday. We will be looking specifically at some really bad ways Christians respond to culture, and some biblical ways as well.

Thoughts? Ideas? Love to hear from you!

Jeremiah 29:7. Does this apply to the church today?

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. -Jeremiah 29:7

How many times have you seen this verse quoted in such a way to encourage Christians to serve and love the city in which they reside? Let’s just say “a lot.”

The question must be asked, “do the words spoken by the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish exiles in 600 B.C. really apply to the church today? And if so, how?” 

exileSo why should we apply the exhortations of Jeremiah 29 to the church today? In the Bible, we see the people of God living in three configurations. From Abraham’s day onward, God’s people existed as an extended biological family. From the days of Moses, they exited as a nation-state, with laws and a king and an army to enforce those laws by civil sanctions. During the exile, however, God’s people existed as a dispersed fellowship of congregations (synagogues) living in many different nation-states. God’s law did not take a civil form during that period-the disobedient were expelled from the congregation, but they were not executed.

After the exile, the Jews went back to being a nation-state. Yet the New Testament does not envision the Christian church in this way. Instead, it shows that the church continues to exist as a dispersion of people from every nation under heaven (Acts 2), just as Israel did in the exile (see Jas 1:1, Peter 1:1). Therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that the church should continue to the human cities of our time, not as the people of God did under Abraham, Moses, or David, but as they did during the time of the exiles.” P.147-148, Center Church

Peter clearly tells us that as the church today we are called to live as exiles (1 Peter 2:11-12). One of the problems I see today is that many Christians are not taking the tone or posture of an exile, rather they are living as if they are in a position of power. Perhaps the post-Christian culture that we are living in today is going to force us to let go of the facade of being in a position of power and instead embrace the reality that God has called us to live as exiles for the good of the city/suburbs in which we reside. 

What does it look like when we live as if we are in a position of power?

  • We seek to impose our “rules” on society.
  • We come across as arrogant and angry.
  • We are shocked and outraged when others do not submit to our “rules”.
  • We end up putting too much hope and faith in politicians for the transformation of society.
  • Unfortunately we stop looking and sounding like Jesus

What does it look like when we live as exiles?

  • We listen to and serve people in our culture because we realize that we are not in a position of power.
  • We don’t assume that culture will play by our rules. Instead, we show them an alternative way to live. The way of Love.
  • Our tone and posture is less militant and more sacrificial and compassionate. Quoting John piper, “This is my main point: being exiles does not mean being cynical. It does not mean being indifferent or uninvolved. The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. Where it can’t, it weeps. And the light of the world does not withdraw, saying “good riddance” to godless darkness. It labors to illuminate. But not dominate.”
  • We don’t hate culture, we see our role as salt (redemption) and light within culture.
  • We walk in the ways of Jesus (Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 20:28) and truly reflect the gospel to the world around us.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? -Psalm 137:4

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. –1 Peter 2:11-12