Wednesday, 6 January 2010

captive in a foreign land?

An excerpt from a teaching by Ashlee Wiest-Laird

Scriptures: Psalm 126; Isaiah 61:1-11; John 1:6-8, 19-28

When the word of the Lord came to the prophet Isaiah the people of Israel were in exile. Having lost a war to the Babylonians, the brightest and the best of Israel’s people were taken hostage and carried off to a land far away from anything they never known. In that place, the people of God lamented their losses. “By the Rivers of Babylon,” says Psalm 137, “there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps, for there our captors ask us for songs, and our tormentors ask us for mirth, saying, sing us one of the songs of Zion! How could we sing the lord song in a foreign land?”

In their strange new home the people of Israel were despised and rejected, forlorn and depressed. So you can imagine the hope that must have filled them as they heard the words of prophet, saying: the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to provide for those who mourn in Zion—to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planning of the Lord, to display his glory.

Yes, they were in exile. Yes, those left in their homeland had lost friends and family. Yes, they were depressed, angry and sad. But the good news was that this was not how God longed for them to be. According to Isaiah, God’s wish for the people was that they build up the ancient ruins raise up what was formerly destroyed. God’s hope was that the people would know everlasting joy.

Again we are reading through the book of the prophet Daniel. One of several young Israelites taken captive by Kind Nebuchadnezzar and brought back to Babylon, Daniel remained faithful to God, although every effort was made to brainwash him and force him to worship the false gods of the Babylonians. What God did in Daniel's life is a testament of His awesome Love and faithfulness.

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