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Exile Revisited

For a long time I've been struggling with the idea of exile – convinced that the corporate church in North America is in exile yet wondering if all genuine members of the people of God are also in exile. Can I possess the eschatological spirit and yet still be in exile? I thought of people like Joshua and Caleb who journeyed in the wilderness with a body of people rejected by God, I thought about Daniel, Shadrach and the gang, and wondered, is there a sense in which even the remnant is in exile?
There is a tragic moment in Ezekiel when the prophet watches the Shekinah depart from the temple. At that moment the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple is assured. Yet there is also the idea that God's Shekinah departs to go into exile with her people. So I wondered, is there a sense in which I am in exile yet God is suffering in exile with me? Is there a sense in which I can possess the Spirit of Jesus, interceding on my behalf as I am in exile?
I thought that the answer to those questions was yes. But now I'm coming to another conclusion.
If my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, if I do possess the spirit of the eschaton, if I am Jesus to the world that I live in, then I cannot be in exile. Rather I am the Shekinah of God that journeys with a people who are still in exile. Therefore, I am no more in exile than Jesus was. Jesus journeyed with a people in exile yet he never was in exile. Rather he embodied the in-breaking kingdom. Even if he suffered some of the consequences of the people in exile he was not in exile. Rather he suffered those consequences to bring the people out of exile. Therefore, I am not in exile with God suffering alongside of me. Rather I embody the Spirit of God who journeys with a people in exile, sharing in their sufferings in order to bring them out.

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  1. Sorry for my lack of edumication, but what does eschatological mean, and what is a Shekinah? Also, who drank all my beer and why do I have such a bad headache this morning?

  2. I guess I should clear of those terms. Starting with the second since it’s easier to explain.
    Shekinah is a Hebrew title for the glory of God that dwelt in the Temple in Jerusalem. Shekinah is the title given to the personification of God’s glory. God dwelt in the Temple, get he was not solely within the Temple, as if it could somehow contain him. Rather God sent his glory to dwell in the Temple, and this glory became personified in the Shekinah, sort of like God’s wisdom is sometimes personified in Proverbs.
    Well, eschatology means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Traditionally eschatology has been the doctrine related to the end times. In more recent years (since Schweitzer at least) scholars began to look at Jesus as an eschatological figure. That is to say, they started to see how Jesus’ mission and goals were tied in with the end-times beliefs of the prophets in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the old age passes away and the new age comes about when God comes to be the king of his people, when he takes away their suffering, when he forgives their sins and brings them out of exile. These were expressions of their eschatological hope. Jesus was claiming to fulfill these hopes but in a way that was unexpected. And so in the Gospels (and especially in Paul) you see an eschatology that has been reworked from a single event into a two-stage process. That is why we are now living in the now and not yet of the kingdom. So the eschatological Spirit is the Spirit that comes at Pentecost, that had been previously promised in “Joel” 2. It is the Spirit of the new age that is poured out on God’s people, as a sign that God has come to be their king, that they have been taken out of exile.
    Now like I said before a lot of people give different definitions to eschatology. I’ve been most influenced by N.T. Wright and Jurgen Moltmann in this regard… and definately disagree with the eschatology propossed by Schweitzer’s school of thought on one side, and Bultmann’s school of thought on the other.
    I hope that clears things up a little…

  3. hmmmm….interesting. Here’s a question for you, and maybe you can let me know if I’m getting it.
    You’re suggesting that we are the new ‘temple’ of God, in which God’s glory dwells. We are now the priesthood, we are now Jesus body operating in the world. Jesus brought people out of exile and reformed the people of Israel around himself, through the act of forgiveness…so, does that mean that if we are the ones bringing others out of exile, we now are the ones who offer forgiveness? And if so, are we then like Jesus in that though our offer is rejected, we no longer stop and go…oh well, you’re choice. But instead we pursue, to the point that we end up suffering and bearing the consequences of their sins? Is forgiveness now something that isn’t just “spoken”, but in fact it’s a tangible action, intertwined with that of love? It seems like there is a fundamental shift in this way of thinking. For so long I’ve viewed it as the others choice to respond…but now it seems like it’s more my (or rather our) responsibility. So that our task doesn’t end with their ‘rejection’ of our ‘evangelism tactics’…but we go further to the point of bearing their sins and laying our lives down? Jesus laid his life down, and on the cross spoke the words, ‘Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23.34) Is that case specific, or is it more? This starts to make more sense out of the language of ‘bearing our crosses’ and ‘those we forgive will be forgiven, and those we retain will be retained.’ It also makes a heck of a lot more sense than me handing out tracts and witnessing…and if they reject the message then I move on.

  4. Jesus talked of the kingdom being like yeast in bread, or like a mustard seed. In either case, it is something small that grows within its environment. If the kingdom of God is not a physical place, but rather a state of aknowledgement of God as king and the active process of understanding who He is and living in felowship with Him, then those who are not en exile are those in the kingdom, growing and spreading the message of the kingdom. I think what you’re saying, is exactly what Jesus was saying in his parables of what the kingdom is. As the few who are not in exile share in the sufferings of those around us, it is at that point that the yeast starts to work and the seed starts to grow!

  5. Brilliant.
    The mustard seed and yeast analogies were ones that always confused me until I realized Jesus was talking about his own ministry and telling his disciples that they were wrong to think the kingdom was coming all in one big bang.
    I’d never really thought about the yeast in our contemporary setting… I mean from Jesus you see how a small group of disciples turn into an international movement (the mustard seed turns into the largest tree in the woods with all the birds of the air nesting in its leaves). It makes sense to think we’re back at the mustard seed stage.
    Thanks Oli. That’s a lot of hope in this thought.