An Exile & the New Jerusalem

Posted in Uncategorized by Stephen Stonestreet on February 4, 2009

An exile, in the wilderness,
A waterless land, filled with hopelessness and abandonment,
A wasteland, in the desert,
A speechless deepness in the heart, a longing for hope,

A brokenness, a starting point,
A point brought to them by the Divine,
A place they were brought,
To find restoration and peace,
for the future,

It was in the desert, that they learned,
That exile is not the end of their lives,
But exile was a start of something to happen in the future,
A prophetic place where they will come to soon,

David, how you lost your hope,
David, how you are going to be restored,
Jesus, you are the second David,
Jesus, you are the restorer of hope and peace,
You are the beginning of the life to come,
You are the freedom from the exile of our hearts,
Jesus, You are the Love that we have been waiting for,
You have come to deliver us,
And you have come to rule.

 

 

I was reading a book today: Jesus wants to save Christians, by Rob Bell. He was speaking of the exile (chapter two) of the Israelites in Babylon, and how the cries of the oppressed was heard by God. He went on to talk about the future, how the prophets told the people of what was going to come: A second David, who was going to restore them from their exile, and bring all people, all nations, to the ends of the earth, to salvation… The prophets said that God was going to marry Israel once again…

 

If Sinai was supposed to have been a sort of marriage, and that marriage didn’t work out, then there would need to be some sort of new marriage between the divine and the human.

A new marriage, which would actually be a remarriage, because the first one fell so far short of what God has in mind.

The prophet Hosea understood all of this history, insisting that God was “going to allure her” and “lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.”

He’s telling the exiles that God is going to marry Israel again.

Isaiah puts it like this: “Your husband… the LORD will call you back.”

And then in another place, Isaiah says, “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

…Jeremiah insisted that the new marriage will be totally different: God will put the truth “in their minds and write it on their hearts.”

No more fear,

no more terror,

no more thunder.

That was the old way,

the former thing,

the first covenant.

That was all part of the first marriage that didn’t last.

But in the new exodus, the one in which everything will be different than it was before, the truth will be so deeply etched into people’s consciousness that they will naturally do the right thing.

New exodus people,

remarried to God,

leaving exile,

headed home.

Home to Jerusalem.

Which raised a few concerns for the prophets.

They understood the danger of returning and rebuilding Jerusalem just like it was before, a political nation-state with armies and palaces and slaves and a temple just like the previous regime. That wouldn’t be a “new thing.”

That’s always the danger, isn’t it?

That we’ll be broken,

our empires will collapse,

we’ll cry out for help,

and when that help comes,

when we get back on our feet,

when there’s money in our account again,

and things are back to how they were,

the danger is that once we get it back –

whatever “it” is –

we’ll forget what just happened.

And so the way, the prophets insisted, would lead back to some sort of new Jerusalem.

The prophet Zechariah said that God would “dwell in Jerusalem,” which “will be called the City of Truth.” Isaiah promised that “they will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will that train for war anymore.”

Truth, peace – a new kind of Jerusalem.

The old Jerusalem had been known for the temple that Solomon built there. This wasn’t lost on the prophets. They promised that even the temple would be transformed in this new reality.

Ezekiel wanted people to “consider its perfection.”

Isaiah described just what that “perfection” would be: “They will bring all your people, from all the nations, to my hold mountain in Jerusalem” and “the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.”

What does Isaiah say will happen in Jerusalem? There will be a temple big enough for the whole world to worship in.

A temple big enough for the whole world?

Are we reading Isaiah correctly?

How could a city, let alone a temple, ever be big enough?

Zechariah explains, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it.”

No bricks, no stone, no walls.

But the prophets didn’t stop here.

A new exodus,

a new way,

a new marriage with a new covenant,

a new city

with a new temple, one big enough for the whole world to worship together in –

what’s left for the prophets to promise?

What’s left is love…

…Isaiah keeps going, promising “salvation” that reaches “to the ends of the earth.”

And what will that salvation look like?

God “will create a new heavens and a new earth.”

Heavens and earth? That’s the language of Genesis.

God is going to do that again?

Bring order out of this chaos, the chaos that we know the world to be today?

A new heaven and a new earth?

Isaiah continues, “The wolf and the lamb will feed together.”

Generally, the wolf eats the lamb. That’s how nature works. The new reality that Isaiah imagines would somehow involve everything relating to everything else in a new way. Instead of one eating the other, they will rest together.

Isaiah’s predictions sound like a return to Eden, yet Eden itself has been transformed. Isaiah even uses the word, saying that God “will make her deserts like Eden.”

The former things didn’t work. But the new thing? The new thing will be different. Bigger, wider, ultimate.

God is going to lead all of creation out of the Egypts of death and decay and violence?

Everything?

For the prophets in exile, no vision was too large, no dream to big, no hope too beyond what would happen in the new exodus.

A movement bigger than any one nation, bigger than any one ethic group, bigger than any on religion – all of which raises the question, Who will lead it?

The first exodus was led by Moses, who spoke to them about their present but also spoke to them about their future. He told them they wouldn’t always journey in the wilderness, but someday they would arrive in the Promised Land, they would become powerful and then they would forget God, they would lose the plot and suffer the curse of consequences, and eventually they would find themselves in exile, and after that exile, after the price had been paid, then Moses promised them that “the LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you.”

Another leader, like Moses.

But the prophets didn’t stop there. As they continued to reflect on their history, they realized that their real need wasn’t for another Moses; the leader they needed would have something to do with Solomon.

Because he’s where it all went wrong. That son of David did not use his power properly. Instead of using it to bless and empower the poor and oppressed, he used his power to coerce people into forced labor to build his empire even bigger.

And so central to the vision of the future, and the identity of the needed leader of the new exodus, was that this leader would be a son of David, but a new son of David who used power purely and properly.

No violence.

No arms dealing.

No palace-bulding with slaves.

Isaiah calls him a “Prince of Peace” and predicts that he’ll “reign on David’s throne… upholding it with justice and righteousness… forever.”

Isaiah connects this coming savior with the failed empire of Solomon. The queen of Sheba had used these exact words, “justice and righteousness,” in her explanation of why Solomon had been given so much wealth and power.

It is out of this expectation, about a leader who would use power purely, that a particular word arose to describe this coming one. Isaiah called him a “servant.”

This was a radical premise. A powerful leader and ruler who would be a “servant”?

Isaiah said that he’d have to Spirit of God on him and would “proclaim good news to the poor.”

 

Our founders, for the nation of America, founded this nation not just on Christian Principles, but on the way Israel was set up as a nation-state, a political power. It’s not that we looked in the wrong place, because that way of ruling was coming to an end when the new son of David was coming, to rule with peace and love, for the poor.

Our nation was founded on the ways that will only work for this world, but will end shortly. This nation will never last forever, and we know that. This nation has said that it is the hope of the world, but only this world, not the one to come.

The things that President Obama is saying are the same things. I am not against the person, I am not against this nation, I am under this nation, this government, in submission to whatever they decide to do. I am ultimately under God though, who is over government, and places rulers and authorities, and takes them away. I will obey God over government.

President Obama is speaking of hope, of peace with the world, with all nations, and speaking of “A New Jerusalem” and a nation who helps the poor.

I made a blog post (the one before this one), thanking President Obama for supporting the stop of World Hunger, and pledged to come along side them, and help them, which is nice.

But then, think about it. Isn’t this “New Jerusalem” supposed to be in the world to come, yet we are saying it is for this world, for this nation to help the world come to. We are saying, Washington D.C. is a city on a hill? What?

These are all things that are happening in the end times, as God had said it would be, through all the prophets, and through His Son Jesus, the Christ.

So, I just want to say this: These things we are hearing in this nation, and from other nations, is the beginning of the lie of the “New Jerusalem” coming to this world. We should not stand in approval of this, but instead preach the “good news of great joy” to the whole world, that Jesus is coming back, that He is returning to restore the “New Jerusalem” for the purpose to lift the needy and the poor from affliction, just like he lifted the Israelites out of Egypt some thousands of years ago.

It is our time to preach the good news to the poor, in order to win them over to the new nation, the new world, the new heaven and new earth that will be established by Jehovah after the end of this world, NOT BEFORE!!! It is close!

 

Oh Lord, how I have learned,
The new world is to come, we are still waiting,
Patiently I await your coming,
But in the meantime, let me preach Your good news to the poor,

Lift up the poor, the oppressed, hear their cry,
Hear my cry, of unsatisfation, with this world,
Listen to the cry of the dying, the hurting,
Lift them out of their suffering, bring them to a new place,

I know you will come,
I know you have designed,
I place of peace for them,
A place of love to dwell,
You know all and rule all,
And now you are giving us hope,
For a new world is coming,
A new world is at hand,
Don’t let us fall away,
Don’t let us believe the lies,
That this world is offering,
Let us truly follow You,
Preach the good news,
To the poor and the needy,
Preach to them,

a new world is coming.

The old is passing away.

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