Exiles in Babylon

I was doing some reading and came across an interesting sentence in a blog post by Kevin DeYoung, the pastor of the University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. His post consisted of a listing of the strengths and weaknesses of “two kingdom theology v. neo-Kuyperianism.” (For the context of Pastor DeYoung’s statement, look here.)The sentence that caught my eye simply said:

It seems to me we are more like the Israelites in exile in Babylon than we are the Israelites in the promised land.

I would agree wholeheartedly with the pastor’s assessment. Too often, Christians in America view our nation as a 21st century Israel, but we must understand that God has not had a theocracy on earth since Old Testament Israel. The United States is not now, and never has been, God’s Chosen People. God’s chosen people are the “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,” that Christ has made “a kingdom and priests to our God.” (Revelation 5:9-10) Now, don’t misunderstand me, I agree with Abraham Kuyper that “in the total expanse of human life there is not a single square inch of which the Christ, who alone is sovereign, does not declare, ‘That is mine!’” Christ is truly Lord over all, but we as the people of God (His church), are living between the “already” and the “not yet.” The day will come when we will be a part of the “new heavens and the new earth,” but that day has not yet arrived.

For now, we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” who are looking for a better country whose “builder and maker is God.” Our hope is not to rest in “get out the vote campaigns,” or “tea parties,” or “town halls,” (although there is not anything necessarily wrong about any of those things, and much that is right about them), but our hope is to rest in God, and the grace that He has poured out upon us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

So what should we do until that day of the Lord arrives? First of all, as Christians, we should pray for “kings and all who are in high positions [even Barack Obama], that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2)

Secondly, we should follow the direction that Jeremiah gave to the captives in Babylon:

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon:  5 Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce.  6 Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  7 But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (Jeremiah 29:4-7)

In other words, we should live our lives to the glory of God, and do what we can do to improve the world in which we live by being involved in politics, culture, and our communities.

However, in the Church, we are to focus on the ministry to which God has called us which is “only ministerial and declarative.” (from the PCA Book of Church Order) Our responsibility has been described for us in the Westminster Confession of Faith:

Unto this catholic and visible Church, Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints, in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by his own presence and Spirit, according to his promise, make them effectual thereunto. (XXV.iii)

The Church’s ministry is to call a people to Christ, to grow a people in Christ, and to do it all through the faithful preaching of the Law and Gospel, and through the right administration of God’s sacraments. It may not be “cutting edge,” or “culturally hip,” but it is an effective ministry whose fruit will last for an eternity.

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3 Comments

  1. August 21, 2009 at 3:43 PM

    I think we are more like the Patriarchs than the Exiles. The former were anticipating the fulfillment of God’s promises, while experiencing a taste of their fulfillment. The latter were under the judgment of God, awaiting their restoration. Since the NT casts the post-exilic return in terms of Christ’s accomplished work, which is behind us> But hey. 🙂

    • cliftonr said,

      August 21, 2009 at 4:35 PM

      Good point, and I agree, however, the crux of DeYoung’s statement was that the present day Church’s relationship to the state is more akin to the exiles’ relationship to Babylon than the church/state theocracy of Israel.

  2. August 21, 2009 at 6:32 PM

    Relation to the state. Yes, I see. I was reading too quickly. The exiles were commanded to build homes, have families, and pray for the peace of the lands to which they were driven, so I can definitely see the parallels.


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