Homemaking as Exiles

We, who have given our allegiance to the Lord, are exiles.

Homemaking as Exiles

Despite the fact that this world, this earth, is the only home we have ever known, there is a persistent, nagging feeling that we are just passing through to our real and permanent dwelling. We know deep within that we live in a foreign land under foreign rule. We bide our time establishing outposts of heaven on earth. This life we find ourselves living is something we are doing “in the meantime”, while we wait in hopeful expectancy for the realization of the promise of salvation God has given us. One day, God will bring us to our heavenly home. We will feel an absolute correspondence to it as we are clothed by Him for the occasion, and His rule is the order of the day. Much as we look forward to this prospect, the reality remains that we are here, and we may be here for quite some time. We are living with a transitory feeling. So what should we do while we wait in hope for our real home? How should people in exile live?

Jeremiah 29 records an interesting message from the Lord to the Israelites who had been taken into exile in Babylon. It is a word of direction for “meantime” living. God is assuring them that they are right where He wants them, that their situation is indeed temporary, it won’t last forever, but that while they are there, they should dig in and flourish and make themselves at home for the benefit of themselves and the world they find themselves a part of. Here are a few extracts:

“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: ‘Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper’”.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’”.

“This is what the Lord says about the king who sits on David’s throne and all the people who remain in this city, your fellow citizens who did not go with you into exile – yes, this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will send the sword, famine, and plague against them and I will make them like figs that are so bad they cannot be eaten’” (vv.4-7, 10-14, 16-17 NIV).

We can take comfort and direction from this passage. God would have us here. We are meant to live as exiles right now. But what should we do while we live in this transitory fashion in this temporary world? We should flourish where we find ourselves, for God’s glory and the benefit of those around us. We should establish homes that are beacons of light, otherworldly even while in this world. We should seek the benefit of the rule here, while submitting to the rule of the One who is overall and will bring us to our real home. Even while settling, we must remember that we have the promise of a homecoming, and while we do what we can where God has placed us, our situation will not last forever . . . we are homeward bound.

It could seem that planting a garden that will not be yours in 70 years is futile. It could appear that settling while in transition is contradictory. But in the course of those 70 years, God knew that these activities would strengthen the souls of those involved in them and benefit the foreigners that surrounded them, and would not be a waste as they reaped the results “along the way”. We too, may dismiss activity that is temporary as being utterly futile and not worth the effort. Similarly, though, we must trust that God knows and sees what we often can’t. The effort we expend in our “meantime” living is accomplishing for us and others what we may underestimate or overlook. The results that go beyond the temporal and present may be hidden from our perception, but God knows how He will use them for His glory, and we only need to exert a little faith as we trust and obey His directives.

So how are we exiles living in this world? Are we simply killing time until we reach our true home? Or are we working hard to till and plant the plot of land we find ourselves on? Are we establishing lighthouses in the neighbourhoods of earth that make our neighbours aware that they too have an underlying longing for a heavenly home? Are we remembering in all our interactions that this is not our true home and we must value everything accordingly as temporary and transitory, something entrusted to us just until our salvation arrives and we are whisked away to the kingdom of the true King? In the meantime, let us dig in and flourish!