“No one escapes the wilderness on the way to the promised land.” - Annie Dillard
Exiles in the wilderness. This is a theme that runs throughout the entire Bible. The worst penalty imagined in the Old Testament was to be exiled, separated from home, under enemy rule, and alienated from God. Over and over again in the Scriptures, we hear the voices of the exiles.
Adam and Eve, cast from the Garden because of their transgression to a life east of Eden.
Cain, sentenced to wander the earth after failing to be his brother’s keeper.
Joseph, sold by his brothers into slavery and exiled in the land of Egypt.
Jacob’s entire family, forced to resettle in Egypt, where eventually they become slaves to Pharaoh.
The children of Israel, wandering in the wilderness until a generation dies off because of unbelief.
Widows like Naomi, who left the land in time of famine and lost her husband and sons.
David, God’s chosen king but also an exiled king, as he dwelt in caves while fleeing King Saul.
Elijah the prophet, who hid in the wilderness from Ahab and Jezebel, and was fed by ravens.
The northern kingdom of Israel conquered and scattered by the Assyrians.
The southern kingdom of Judea and the great city of Jerusalem destroyed by the Babylonians.
The people taken into captivity, transported into exile in Babylon, longing for their homeland.
The captives who returned to Jerusalem with joy after the edict of Cyrus the Great.
Joy is mixed with sorrow, however, for other nations would soon come in to rule over the land. Though they had returned from exile, they remained captives in their own land under enemy rule.
We pray for an end to the exile - O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice, Israel will be glad!
This is what we do during the Advent season as we journey through the wilderness.
We recognize our own captivity and exile. We cry out for redemption and restoration.
And we wait for the Lord until He comes again.