Here is the list of the Jewish exiles of the provinces who returned from their captivity to Jerusalem and other towns of Judah.
They had been deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.
The temptation to settle down in captivity was tremendous for those Jews in Babylon. Many of them had accumulated riches in the land between the rivers. Civilization was very comfortable. Enjoying an easy life far from Zion, why pull up stakes and abandon their routine? Why give up their predictable jobs for this arduous journey?
Can you see yourself and your personal experiences in the mirror of Jewish history? Their temptations are yours. Their dilemma reflects your own hesitancy to lose your life and give it up for Jesus’ sake. Addiction to a comfort zone makes it hard for you to get out of the rut—a grave with both ends kicked out—and take the exit to freedom.
For the Jews to travel those hundreds of dangerous miles was a crucial choice inspired by a search for significance. Wondering why the Hebrews set out on the trek to Jerusalem, some critics labeled the emigrants’ decision lunacy. But they were not insane—they were inspired to embark on a mission outshining the metropolis of Babylon.
Worldly attractions lose their glitter in light of My challenge—if you refuse to shoulder your cross and humbly walk in My shadow to the City of Light, you are not worthy to wear My Name.
Triumph followed courage. Sustained by their Sovereign, returnees to Jerusalem—city of peace, and Judah—country of praise, again walked the familiar streets of their hometowns. After months of danger and diffi culty, it was good to finally be home. At the day’s end, losing by earth’s standards is winning by Mine. Those who lose their lives for My sake truly discover life.
Changed by adventure, returning exiles were cataloged as stars. Honorable mention in the hall of faith is their eternal reward. When you give up your attachment to things to follow Me, I guarantee a payback that will far more than off set the expenditure. To be named by the Shepherd is no small joy. To be registered in the Lamb’s Book of Life is no shallow reward.
Whatever your society decides, choose to aim for Christlikeness. Be a diamond on black velvet—and receive heaven’s honorable mention.
(c) Johnny R. Almond
Pastor, Hull's Memorial Baptist Church
Author, Gentle Whispers from Eternity