THE LIFE OF THE EXILE

ANARCHY AND BLOODSHED

‘Were the principles of God’s laws regarding the distribution of property carried out in the world today, how different would be the condition of the people. An observance of these principles would prevent the terrible evils that in all ages have resulted from the oppression of the poor by the rich and the hatred of the rich by the poor.

While it might hinder the amassing of great wealth, it would tend to prevent the ignorance and degradation of tens of thousands whose ill-paid servitude is required for the building up of those colossal fortunes. It would aid in bringing a peaceful solution of problems that now threaten to fill the world with anarchy and bloodshed.’

Ellen White, Education, 44.1

What are these life saving principles that this inspired author spoke of that could turn the tide of rebellion and anarchy in society? The specific law is that of the ‘Year of Jubilee’. This was the 50th year in the Jewish calendar, and on the tenth day of the seventh month of this year (which coincided with the Day of Atonement), all debts in the Jewish society were cancelled. Yes, everything! All slaves were to be set free, any debts you owed to your neighbour were cancelled, and any land which you had sold returned to your ownership (Lev. 25:8-17).

Why was this? Because it was understood that all things belonged to God (Lev. 25:23), and that any financial exchanges were only temporary. The land, all possessions, and even people, could never truly belong to another person, they all belonged to God.

Now, imagine just like Ellen did, a world in which these principles were abided by. Where every 50th year ANZ would cancel your mortgage. Where you didn’t have to pay those monthly installments anymore. One the one hand it sounds like a dream, and for others it may seem frightening to have essentially a capitalist system that has a cap to the amount of ‘capital’ one can acquire.

Whether or not the Jubilee Year could ever be integrated into our society today is in an interesting discussion for another time. But Ellen White’s quote on this law seems so relevant to our society today despite it being written over 100 years ago. In a world in which it appears the rich grow ever richer, and the poor grow ever poorer, societies around the world have been in uproar. The Yellow Vest movement in France, the Hong Kong riots against China, and all across the world dissenters who are tired of their corrupt politicians, selfish banks, and aristocratic elite. Countries are teetering on the verge of, as Ellen put it ‘anarchy and bloodshed.’

LIFE IN BABYLON

So, what is a Christian to do? In a world of unfairness and corruption, what is the role of the Christian in society?

To examine this, let’s look at the example of a Biblical figure of whom we are not told any negative details about their spiritual and moral life: Daniel. Daniel among many other nobles was taken from his home land in Jerusalem, and to the foreign nation of Babylon at the age of 16. There, Daniel is trained for three years to serve in the courts of King Nebuchadnezzar as an advisor in spiritual matters (Daniel 1:5).

Now, if there is one person in the world which Daniel could be justified in feeling anger and resentment to, it would be the corrupt politician who kidnapped him from his home, culture and people, and attacked his nation. Were any of us in Daniel’s place, I’m sure we would struggle to serve with any sincerity and instead have bitterness and resentment towards the king. Yet, Daniel serves not only Nebuchadnezzar, but the three kings who follow him, two of which were from another invading nation (the Medes and Persians). Daniel felt no desire to rebel against the corrupt, rich, oppressor of his people. Instead, he trusted God to not only make the most of the situation, but that God had had a hand in this situation from the beginning, which was indeed true (Daniel 1:1,2).

In this way, Daniel was following the instructions of the prophet Jeremiah who encouraged the Jews to actually support the nation of Babylon.

ADVICE FOR EXILES

‘Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters, that you may be increased there, and not diminished.

And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace.’

Jeremiah 29:5-7

Jeremiah actually tells the exiles to pray for their government! He tells them not to rebel against their authorities even if they are corrupt, but rather to seek the prosperity of Babylon. To be a good citizen, to build a home, get a job, start and family, and just carry on with everyday life.

However, the Jews were also instructed to live in a tension. While they were to support the government, they were also to subvert it. For example, King Darius issued a decree that all of his subjects were to pray only to him for thirty days. Though Daniel wished to support the king as his advisor, Daniel’s higher and ultimate calling was to the Kingdom of God, and to worship anyone but God would violate the law of God. Thus, Daniel was willing to suffer even the penalty of death so as to not morally compromise. Daniel’s friends did the same, supporting and praying for their government, whilst also subverting it by holding their nation morally accountable for its actions and rejection of God’s law.

OUR LIVES AS EXILES

So, how should a Christian live in a world absent of the Jubilee? A society in which the corrupt rich exploit the vulnerable poor? A culture which promotes sin and violates the law of God? Should we join in the rebellion? Should we contribute to the anarchy and bloodshed?

No. We are to live the life of the exile. We are to build homes, have families, and go to work. We are to pray for our politicians (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). We are to subvert our culture by calling out social evils and breaches of godly morality. We are to help the poor and disaffected who have been mistreated in our society, and to seek justice and mercy (Micah 6:6-8; James 1:27). In so doing, we can have a positive influence in all aspects of our society. We can help people physically, financially and mentally, but most importantly spiritually.

We can help people live in the spiritual reality of the Year of Jubilee today. A reality in which the death of Jesus cancels all our debts, set us free from our slavery to sin, and ensure that all people can live freely and at peace with God. This is the life we are called to. This is the life of the exile.

By Christopher Petersen

For a beautiful visual depiction of this concept, see the Bible Project’s video ‘The Way of the Exile’.

Would you like to learn more about this topic? Click this link to have a one on one discussion with one of our MWM staff.

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