Here is another paper I wrote a couple of years ago, in July 2013. It was a stretch for me, as I really did not know much about the exile. Doing the research was prophetable . . .
The purpose of this paper is to present a lesson to the Israelites near the end of their exile in Babylon to remind, motivate, and challenge them as they prepare to re-enter the land.
By the end of this lesson, believers will be able to:
- Understand Yahweh’s reasons for the exile
- Remember Yahweh’s faithfulness to His established covenants
- Humble themselves and consistently repent from sin
- Anticipate the day when a new covenant will be established
- Pursue knowing Yahweh and learn His ways
- Participate in Yahweh’s plan for the nations
II. Cognitive Objectives (To Know)
A. Understand Yahweh’s Reasons for the Exile
As we are about to head back to our homeland, it is important for all of us to totally comprehend why we had to go through this terrible time of captivity. We were disobedient and rebellious towards Yahweh; we did this to ourselves (Jer. 3:12, 5:17). Why should we complain when we were punished for our sins (Lam. 3:39)? The whole house of Israel was stubborn and hard-hearted (Eze. 3:7). We defiled the land by what we did, so Yahweh took it away from us (Eze. 36:17-19). Our offenses against Him were great; we did not treat our fellow man as He had said: we oppressed the righteous, took bribes, and deprived the poor of justice (Amos 5:12). We disobeyed the simplest of commandments; we cursed, lied, murdered, stole, and committed adultery (Hos. 4:2). We had forgotten Yahweh (Eze. 22:12). More importantly, we did not acknowledge that it was Yahweh who gave us grain, new wine, oil, silver, and gold, which we then gave to worthless idols (Hos. 2:8). In wickedness, we have forsaken Yahweh and worshipped what our own hands made (Jer. 1:16).
Yahweh was only being faithful to the covenantal cursings (Dt. 28). “Its basic message is that when Israel breaks the covenant she will suffer sanctions for falling away from Yahweh” (Dumbrell 2002, 67). We had a choice; we chose death. We must now accept that Yahweh did what He had planned for us and fulfilled His word that He said years ago (Lam. 2:17).
B. Remember Yahweh’s Faithfulness to His Covenants
Despite the anger that Yahweh displayed toward us (which we deserved based on what we did and failed to do), His mercy, lovingkindness, and covenant faithfulness (which we did not deserve) has always continued towards His people (Jer. 3:12, 31:3). How can we forget how Yahweh brought us up out of Egypt and led us through the wilderness (Amos 2:10; Hos. 12:9; Jer. 2:6, Eze. 20:10)? We must always remember our journey so that we may know of Yahweh’s righteous acts on our behalf (Mic. 6:5). Despite our long exile, Yahweh still has a hopeful word of comfort for us; because we are His people, He has plans to prosper us, to give us a future (Jer. 29:11) (Longman and Dillard 2006, 338). He longs to be gracious to us; His unfailing love for us will remain solid (Isa. 30:18, 54:10). It is because of His unfailing love that we are not totally destroyed; His compassion never fails and His faithfulness is ever true (Lam. 3:22-23).
III. Affective Objectives (To Be)
A. Humble Yourselves and Repent Consistently
Now is the time to humble ourselves before Yahweh as a nation and as individuals. Yahweh has shown us what He requires, to walk humbly with Him (Mic. 6:8). Although He has punished us, He will heal, revive, and restore us that we may live in His presence (Hos. 6:1-2). Acknowledging Yahweh is a continuous process; we must press on to acknowledge Him from here on out (Hos. 6:3). Yahweh values those who are contrite in spirit (Isa. 66:2). We must repent in sincerity, with our hearts, not just go through the motions (Joel 2:12-13). Yahweh has had enough of meaningless sacrifices (Isa. 1:11, 13). He wants mercy from us, not just our sacrifices; He wants us to acknowledge him, not just offer burnt offerings (Hos. 6:6).
B. Anticipate the New Covenant
There will come a time when Yahweh will make a new everlasting covenant with us. “The new covenant is a fulfillment of the Sinaitic covenant . . . In the past, God graciously delivered his people from Egypt and, through the covenant, took them as his own people. Now, in a parallel situation, he again promises deliverance, restoration and a new relationship based upon a new, eternal covenant” (Routledge 2008, 269). He will put His law in our minds and hearts; all will know Him, and He will no longer remember our sins (Jer. 31:31-34). This internal law will bring the inner transformation that makes obedience possible (Routledge 2008, 270). Plus, this renewed heart will be accompanied by the very Spirit of God, who will guide us to carefully follow His laws (Eze. 36:26-28) and will be poured out on all of the servants of Yahweh (Joel 2:28-29). “Under the new covenant, everyone will have direct access to God, and may enjoy personal, intimate fellowship with him.” (Routledge 2008, 271).
IV. Behavioral Objectives (To Do)
A. Pursue Knowing Yahweh and Learn His Ways
In the past, we were destroyed because of lack of knowledge; we rejected it (Hos. 4:6). We must seek Yahweh and call on Him; He is near (Isa. 55:6). Yahweh said that He will give us shepherds after His heart who would lead us with knowledge and understanding (Jer. 3:15) and would give us a heart to know Him so that we would be His people and that He would be our God (Jer. 24:7). When we seek Yahweh with all our heart, we will find Him (Jer. 29:13-14). As individuals and as a nation, we must go up to Yahweh’s “mountain” and to His “house”, where He will teach us His ways (Isa. 2:3-4; Mic. 4:2). In contrast with the grass and flowers which fade, His word will stand forever (Isa. 40:8); it will accomplish what He desires (Isa. 55:11).
B. Participate in Yahweh’s Plan for the Nations
In the past, we had forgotten Yahweh’s purpose for us with respect to the nations. Abraham was told by Yahweh that He would bless all people on earth through us (Gen. 12:3). Instead of being a blessing to the nations that surrounded us, we stubbornly wished that we were like them (1 Sam. 8:19-20) and we worshipped their foreign gods which were not gods at all (Eze. 20:32). We too easily entered into foreign alliances to solve our problems (Hos. 5:13), rather than trusting in Yahweh who promised to protect us (Longman and Dillard 2006, 407). Our mission was to be a light to the Gentile nations (Isa. 42:7, 51:4), but instead, our unrighteousness profaned the name of Yahweh among the nations (Jer. 34:16; Eze. 36:20-23).
“Israel has been brought into a relationship with God and been guided and blessed through her history, in order to draw others into that same relationship so that they too may submit themselves to God’s authority and share the blessings of his kingdom . . . This was God’s intention from the start, and is to be achieved through the witness of a restored and renewed Israel” (Routledge 2008, 325-6). Now, we are to bring Him honor before the nations when they hear all the good things He has done for us (Isa. 61:9; Jer. 33:9). They will know that Yahweh has made us holy with His presence among us (Eze. 37:28, 39:7). Even though Yahweh is indeed the God of Israel, He is also King over all the nations (Longman and Dillard 2006, 336). The whole earth will eventually be full of the knowledge of Yahweh (Isa. 11:9), and his plans will stand (Isa. 14:24). His house “will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:7).
Dumbrell, William J. The Faith of Israel: A Theological Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002.
Longman III, Tremper, and Dillard, Raymond B. An Introduction to the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Routledge, Robin. Old Testament Theology. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 38 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.