Captivity. It isn’t a word that sounds like it would be fun to experience. Israel and Judah both are now the victims of captivity. They were uprooted from their homes, and transplanted to a foreign land in a foreign culture. Stripped of identity, home, their beloved temple and all that was similar they are forced to make a new lives in a new place. This new experience would shape their future. Trials have a unique way of defining us in ways we couldn’t anticipate.
Some of the Israelites capitulated to the prevailing pagan culture. That had been their norm by and large since coming into the Promised Land. All the pagan gods and practices Yahweh warned them about, seemed to draw them in and they just couldn’t shake their idolatrous leanings. Over time, Israel rejected Yahweh. The One who had created them, brought them up out of Egypt, provided for them, and protected them was replaced for handmade deities. Other Israelites hunkered down, and began sniffing out the work of their God in the midst of despair. They recognized their own sin, and renewed themselves to wills and wishes of Yahweh. Without a temple, they created meeting places called synagogues that would of served like a community center and a school. Their gatherings were aimed at preserving a people distinct in the world, called to be a kingdom of priests. Their gatherings were also aimed at preserving instruction in the Torah. Knowing how God worked in the past and what he said would benefit them in the now. God’s promises and His presence weren’t limited by geography or exile in a foreign land. To a people in captivity, God continued to send his messengers to call them back to his ways. The goodnews of captivity is that God hadn’t forgotten them nor would he abandon them. He had sent them into captivity because they didn’t listen, but he never stopped loving them. He brought them out of Egypt. He would bring them out of Bablyon. God built a nation in Egypt. God is rebuilding a faithful remnant in Babylon. God intervened in Egpyt and he would do so again in Babylon.
God’s mission for the world still involves these captive people. While we may not be a conquered people we do battle with oppressive forces. God still has a message of rescue and hope for his people. God still uses the voices of his prophets in His Word to point us to God’s plan and remind us that God can use what we believe to be an end can actually be a new beginning. God was looking for hearts that were willing to trust him no matter what, will we be those people?