We’ve been reading the bible since January 1st and we finally reach the fall of Jerusalem. The kingdom Saul established and David grew collapses under an assault by the Babylonians. Babylon, located 60 miles southwest of Baghdad in Iraq, grew an immense empire that ruled much of the Middle East for 70 years. As they grew powerful, they attacked Jerusalem many times, looting God’s Temple and sending the rich and powerful into exile. The leaders in Jerusalem try one final rebellion against Babylon but are defeated. As we hear in our text today, the city is taken, the king captured, and a large fire consumes Jerusalem. Only the very poor are allowed to remain. Everyone is taken and led to live in the capital of Babylon.
This movement of people from Jerusalem to Babylon is what we call the Exile. The followers of God are taken from the promised land and forced to live in the capital of their enemy. They watched as their homes were burn, their army defeated, and the house they built for God (the Temple) is destroyed. I imagine the survivors of this ordeal felt an incredible sadness. Everything they knew was gone. It appeared as if Babylon, with their own gods, somehow defeated the God of the universe. The book of Lamentations was probably written in response to this tragedy. In the face of despair, the only thing the people could do was cry tears.
But we know that the story of God’s Chosen people does not end at Babylon. Even while located in the heart of the enemy capital, the Jewish people retain their identity and relationship with God. They connect with each other, continue to teach the faith to their children, and even start to standardize the biblical text as we have it today. Even though they were exiled from their homeland, they were never Exiled from their God. God is present in the hardship – and is still making things new.
Each week, I write a reflection on one of our scripture readings for the week. This is from Christ Lutheran Church’s Worship Bulletin for 6th Sunday of Easter on 5/01/2016.