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Egypt, Wilderness, Babylon, Canaan part 2

January 17, 2010

In about 720 BC the northern tribes were exiled to Assyria. These people never returned to Israel as a group. The two southern tribes Judah and Benjamin were exiled to Babylon in about 600 BC.

Jeremiah 29:1-14

It seemed the Jews lived in Babylon with a fair amount of freedom to build houses, get married, and live independent lives. From other historical records we find that as time passed Jewish names began to appear in Babylonian business records.

So after 70 years many Jews were well established in Babylon. In Ezra 1when the decree came allowing the Jews to return, only a very small percentage of the people actually returned. Some records suggest less than 5%. Nevertheless there were some Jews who understood the significance of the land of Canaan. They knew Jerusalem was where God wanted his temple. We read their thoughts in Psalm 137.

How can we sing the songs of the Lord if we are not living where God wants us to live? If we are not living how God wants us to live? How can we worship God in Babylon?

They hung up their harps. Harps were normally played in the temple area when worshipers came to Jerusalem. The harp was an instrument of joy and celebration. People played the harp because they had reason to praise God. But here in Babylon they hang up their harps.

However the majority of Jews had become comfortable with life in Babylon. So when the call came to return, they stayed exactly where they were. They were living in a place where they weren’t suppose to be. Joseph had understood that God had given Canaan to his people. He wanted his bones in Canaan but not these people. God had chosen Jerusalem as the place where he wanted his temple built. It was the place where he wanted his people. But most of these Jews chose to stay in Babylon. They were more interested in their comfort than God’s purposes.

The most prominent emotion of living in Babylon is actually boredom. It’s feeling comfortable with where I am in my Christian walk but bored because I am not where I should be.

How do we leave Babylon?
Firstly we express our sorrow over being in Babylon. We sit by the river and weep. We cry out to God and say, how can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?

Secondly we remember that God said, You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. So we seek God. We ask God where we should be? Where should we be in our home life, in our career, in our geographical location? Where should we be in our spiritual lives? Where does God wanted me to be? What does God want me to do?

God always has something more. He doesn’t want us getting bored. He always has something more for us as individuals. He always has something more for us as a church. If are bored we need to ask God what else He has for us. We ask God what his plans are for our life. We ask him for guidance and direction and then we follow. We make Jesus Lord of our life.

Lastly Canaan, our real home. A picture of the Christian who is moving forward in their Christian life, possessing the land, building God’s kingdom.

Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

However that is only half the story. If righteousness, peace and joy were the only emotions we experienced everyone would be living in Canaan. The other feeling is being scared. We have to trust the invisible and believe the impossible.

Noah built an ark in the middle of dry land. Abraham left everything even though he did not know where he was going. Moses left Egypt and chose to be mistreated along with the people of God. Rahab hid the spies. Peter walked on water. It’s scary stuff.

Where are we today:
Are you in Egypt making bricks, but never able to make enough?

Are you in the wilderness, waiting for the next lot of manna to drop from the sky?

Are you in Babylon bored out of your mind with the Christian life?

Or are you in Canaan but wondering why you feel so scared?

Living in Canaan is peace and joy but until we get to that place where we really trust God, really believe that no matter what happens God is all good God who loves us and has our best intentions at heart. Until we get to that place we are going to be afraid. That’s why all through the Bible God’s message to his people is so often, do not be afraid.

Where are we today Egypt, the wilderness, Babylon or Canaan? God will often bring people, circumstances and situations into our life that are designed to get us out of Egypt, to get us out of the wilderness, to get us out of Babylon. However the decision is ours.

Today you can be in Canaan. Today you can commit to God and be about his purposes. Today you can leave Egypt, leave the wilderness, leave Babylon and head for home.

by Susan Barnes
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Susan Barnes

~ writer of insightful posts about God and faith