The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent prophets again and again to warn his people, because he had pity on them and on his Temple. But they made fun of God's prophets and hated God's messages. They refused to listen to the prophets until, finally, the Lord became so angry with his people he could not be stopped.
So God brought the king of Babylon to attack them. The king killed the young men even when they were in the Temple. He had no mercy on the young men or women, the old men or those who were sick. God handled all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon all the things from the Temple of God, both large and small, and all the treasures from the Temple of the Lord and from the king and his officers. Nebuchadnezzar and his army set fire to God's Temple and broke down Jerusalem's wall and burned all the palaces. They took or destroyed every valuable thing in Jerusalem.
Nebuchadnezzar took captive to Babylon the people who were left alive, and he forced them to be slaves for him and his descendants. They remained slaves until the Persian kingdom defeated Babylon And so what the Lord had told Israel through the prophet Jeremiah happened: The country was an empty wasteland for seventy years to make up for the years of Sabbath rest that the people had not kept (2 Chronicles 36:15-19).
SITUATION The final four evil kings of Judah reigned and fell into sin. Babylon conquered Jerusalem, looted, and burned the Temple. They carried God's people into exile. But in the end, Judah returned from exiled in Babylon, ready to rebuild.
OBSERVATION God used the exile to cause the people to repent, and he used a pagan king to rebuild Jerusalem's Temple.
INSPIRATION The exile was the "crucible of Israel's faith." They were pushed to the edge of existence where they thought they were hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and they found that in fact they have been pushed to the center, where God was. They experienced not bare survival but abundant life. Now they saw their previous life as subsistence living, a marginal existence absorbed in consumption and fashion, empty ritual and insensitive exploitation. Exile pushed them from the margins of life to the vortex where all the issues of life and death, love and meaning , purpose and value formed the dynamic everyday, participation-demanding realities of God's future with them.
It keeps on happening. Exile is the worst that reveals the best. "It's hard believing," says Faulkner, "but disaster seems to be good for people." When the superfluous is stripped away we find the essential--and the essential is God...
All of us are given moments, days, months, years of exile. What will we do with them? Wish we were someplace else? Complain? Escape into fantasies? Drug ourselves into oblivion? Or build and plant and marry and seek the shalom of the place we inhabit and the people we are with? Exile reveals what really matters, which is the seek the Lord with all our hearts. (From Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson)
APPLICATION Do you feel as if you are exiled? Let disaster develop your character. Do not spend all your time seeking relief but reflect on what God wants to teach you. Ask him to show you what really is important.
EXPLORATION -- Restoration -- 2 Chronicles 7:13-14; Psalm 23:3; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Galatians 6:1-2The Devotional Bible - Experiencing the Heart of Jesus; Max Lucado General Editor, pgs 533-534, New Century Version, Thomas Nelson Bibles