Getting Kicked Out of Your Home

You are sitting in a worship service trying to shed the feeling of discomfort you have carried all week: a relationship gone wrong; a job you have grown to hate, some sense that this is not the life I want. I belong somewhere else.

3589329865_79936367f1You hear Scripture read. They are just words, words you have heard before without feeling anything. But today, in your sense of displacement, the ancient story or psalm resonates. Deep calls to deep and you feel as if the person who wrote those words more than 2,000 years ago had read your mind and your text messages.

If you have ever experienced that profound sense of connection with the Scripture during your own time of emotional turmoil, there is good reason. Almost all of Scripture emerged from the experience of a displaced people.

I will go so far as to say that without a clear understanding of the emotional and faith crisis that crashed down on the people of Israel with their exile to Babylon, we cannot understand the Bible at all. This brief 67 year period, from 605 B.C. to 538 B.C., generated the process of thinking, writing, gathering, and editing the lion’s share of the Old Testament. Almost every word of Jewish and Christian Scripture, Old Testament and New, tells its story on a stage with the exile in Babylon as a backdrop. Even the parts of the Bible that originated before the exile where shaped and edited during, or shortly after, the Babylonian exile.

The Babylonian exile permeates the text of the entire Old Testament. In Psalm 137, we find one of the explicit descriptions of the exile, or captivity in Babylon:

By the rivers of Babylon—
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
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’

This psalm reflects the emotional experience of Babylonian captivity, and in the next line  the psalmist poses an important theological question:

How could we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land? 

Keeping in mind the exile experience while reading the Old Testament helps us understand a struggle that may seem quite foreign to contemporary Christians. In the theology of the ancient world, different gods ruled over different lands. The nation of Israel tied itself to the land they believed God had promised them. While Israel grew into the confession that there is one God only, one Creator of everything, the more primitive view of specific gods for different plots of land still clings to the biblical text. Consider, for instance, the story of the healing of Naaman the Syrian (2 Kings 5). After the prophet Elisha makes it clear to Naaman that his healing of a skin disease has come from the God of Israel, Naaman says,

please let two mule-loads of earth be given to your servant; for your servant will no longer offer burnt-offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord.

Naaman has been converted, but he still does not quite get the concept of a God who can be worshiped without kneeling on the mule-load of earth he would transport everywhere he went in order to take God with him.

Questions:   In your own life, do you have an exile story, i.e., a story of displacement and restoration, whether geographic or emotional?  If so, in what way, if any, does the Bible inform your own exile experience?

Next post:  Exile, continued . . .

5 thoughts on “Getting Kicked Out of Your Home

  1. dmariecrossley says:

    The exile I feel now is, as a Christian, we are being exiled from our country, The United States of America, which was founded on Christian Principals. As an individual Christian, I can founder, pray, hurt, pray, search for answers and then make different choices and hopefully have some effect on my personal life. As an individual of the Christian Community, I am at a loss as to where to even start to try and correct the trajectory of our country…..

    • Neill Morgan says:

      Thanks for your comment, D. I have heard from others similar expressions of feeling that sense of exile in the U.S. I’m wondering if you can give us specific examples? Most of the time, as a white, Protestant, heterosexual man, I am in a position of considerable privilege. I am interested to hear of the experience of those who hold a different place in our culture.

  2. Alan says:

    While the considerable privilege you claim to experience may have existed a decade or two ago, the attributes you mention about yourself are the same attributes that now are openly discriminated against with no consequence or recourse. I agree with D that Christians are in danger of becoming exiles in in the US. Over-interpretation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment has caused an avalanche of anti-Christian policies in our public schools primarily fueled by school boards with limited budgets that are fearful of expensive litigation sponsored by the ACLU and various Atheist organizations. They have determined that they don’t want to risk the expense and press coverage, so opt to adopt very discriminatory policies to avoid lawsuits. My particular ISD has, so far, not gone down this path, and for that I’m grateful, but given the current trend, our time is coming.

  3. I have the privilege of working in an environment that allows me to be in contact with many people from different socioeconomic back rounds and to have had the optics of a span of over 25+ years. in the late 70’s and the very early 80’s. the people I came in contact with who had government assistance….there was an element of embarrassment…..not so today in the 2013-2014….people will say proudly..”my baby daddy…my baby momma” Our government doesn’t verbalize, much less act by, any compass of a set of standards or fiscal responsibility. It is appalling the decline the purchasing power of the dollar. The economic standards are easily measured….fortunately the USA government has not been able to change the definition of the standards of mathematics…although they have gotten away with the bastardization of other definitions of other words in the English language in spite of Websters Dictionary!!! More important though…the decline in the family unit and they place of church in the community. Perhaps, historically, the effects of the church in the community may have been due to other reasons than true honest belief of the residents in the teachings of the church, the effects (outcomes) of those beliefs were still manifested in a standard of moral right and wrong. I truly believe that the standard is now looked at as wrong rather than being morally right. As a result, our communities (children) are suffering the consequences.
    Going back to just the mathematics…..remember, numbers do NOT lie….just the fiscal policies of our country can be a subject for discussion….Our federal government is not being fiscally responsible with the monies they collect…or by the reports they report on. For example, the federal government reports for inflation do NOT include the cost of gas or food when they account for the annual rates of inflation!!!!!!! And guess what….these things are the tip of the ice burg…they do not begin to delve into topics where the lines are open to even more discussion as to where the line even is!!!!!
    As I said earlier…..the feelings of exile grow greater with every passing day…….I do not even know where to begin to try and address it….and I feel truly powerless and more than frustrated….not because it effects me…but because it effects my children and now my 5 grandchildren. And I am the oldest and supposedly the wisest……

  4. dmariecrossley says:

    now to take it back to the original discussion of exile…..for me personally….fortunately I was raised in the church and I cannot remember ever no knowing that there is a God and believing in God and his Son Jesus and the resurrection. Because of that true belief….all through the times of my life I have prayed and searched and if I didn’t have an answer, knew the problem was with me and not with God and that I needed to keep seeking.
    I don’t watch the news excessively, only about an hour a day, and I only read 1 newspaper. I have serious concerns for our nation with just that little bit of exposure and the feelings of exile as a Christian American Citizen are far more disturbing for me. I don’t even know what to pray for….so my prayer for our country is “God’s will be done.”

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