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Monday, August 8, 2011

Thoughts on the Prophets: Survival Strategies

Recently, I've been reading Jeremiah, Lamentations, and Ezekiel. Jeremiah wrote just prior to Judah's exile to Babylon; Lamentations, a collection of five Hebrew acrostic poems, is said to be Jeremiah's lament over destroyed Jerusalem; Ezekiel's prophecies deal with both the fall of Jerusalem and exile.

Ezekiel notes the glory of the LORD leaving the temple by the east gate (10:19), symbolic of God's going into exile with his people. Jeremiah instructs the exiles to carry on with their lives and seek the peace of their cities of exile (Jer. 29:4-7).

These are important lessons for Christians following our loss of influence over the wider culture of the West. Yes, we must confront and criticize, and recognize that the apostate, morally obtuse, and willfully ignorant culture surrounding us is itself heading for judgment, and must inevitably pass away. But, in the meantime, we are to go on living as Christians, remembering the saving acts of God, and presenting our witness.

The Old Testament exiles doubtlessly thought that they had lost everything, that God had somehow let them down, that they were without hope. Yet from the perspective of 2500 years, we can see that the exile also gave something very positive to both Jews and Christians. As Ezekiel's visions show, it taught the Jews of old that God is not limited to a specific place. It taught them as well that they could survive even if it was difficult to "sing the LORD's song in a strange land" (Ps. 137:4). It also created a Jewish presence across much of the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean worlds; and from the New Testament, we learn that these communities were the seedbed from whence the proclamation of Messiah's name went out to the nations.

Perhaps, as the wider culture grows more hostile to Christ and to Christians, it is time to remember to survive, spread, and prepare for the next stage of God's plan of the ages to unfold.

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