Home is Shifting

I can see it in the way he eyes the Girl as she grabs her third helping of chicken. When I throw him a questioning glance he says, "A chicken half this size would be all the meat for dinner for all 28 kids at the home."

He makes them eat all of the salad on their plate, with a seasoning he brought home. "If you are going to travel with daddy, you need to be able to eat whatever you are given. Even if you don't like it. I ate monkey meat and dog meat this trip, you will too."

It's there in the way he tosses and turns on his bed at night. "My bed is too comfortable. my brothers in the hills are sleeping on bamboo floors and I've gotten used to how it feels."

I can see him glancing at the loads of laundry as I'm washing them when the people he just spent the last 2 weeks with have no more than 2 or 3 changes of clothes. Many even less. One grandmother has worn the exact same outfit, every time he's visited, for the past 3 years.

It's not just reverse culture shock. I'm used to that now. Something has shifted in him. The excesses of our lifestyle, which is still frugal by north American standards grate on him.

For $200 dollars the friend in Hotsprings village could pay off the medical debts left to him when his mother passed away. Just $500/month would be the start up cost for a home and hostel in 48 kilometer village. U' Thawng and his wife will take 18 kids into their home right now and feed them and tutor them after school with that. They already feed them a meal a day and let them drop by whenever they want.

And I can feel it too. The shifting, the tightening, the discomfort with our wealth. Those 6 shirts I bought on sale for $4 each while he was gone prod at me. Did the kids really need new shirts? Yes, the shirts they have are getting small and ratty... but that's more an aesthetic judgment than a need. I could have fed many children with that for at least another day.

So I go through the banking, rearrange. Another hundred out the door instead of lining this temporary existence we call home.

I need to make a concrete plan, a step by step how to guide to get us on a plane and living in Thailand. I need to get us there so that my husband doesn't have to turn to me 2 days off of a plane and say, "I'm ready to go back to work now, to my real work. I'm ready to go back to Thailand in the morning and go to the villages again and help those people. I don't want to build houses for people who have first world problems, like they aren't happy with the finish on their granite floor tiles."

How am I gonna get us there, where our real life is?

I have no idea, but you can bet I'll be trying to figure it out.

A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 23-God with Us

by Little
Luke 1
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." 34 "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me according to your word." Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1
Joseph Accepts Jesus as His Son
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" (which means "God with us"). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.

God with us! The angel said he will be called Immanuel, which means God with us. And he will save his people from their sins. That's what the Prophet Isaiah said. That was the promise God made when Israel was about to go into exile.

That promise, God would be with Israel, live with them, again, as in the tabernacle in the wilderness, it was about to com true, in the birth of a baby, who would be called Jesus.

He's who this whole story is really about. He's the one we've been waiting for.


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 22-The Silence is Broken

Luke 1
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both well advanced in years. 8 Once when Zechariah's division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." 18 Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." 19 The angel said to him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time." 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 "The Lord has done this for me," she said. "In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people." 

For 400 years the remnant had offered sacrifices in the temple. They restored it and cleaned it when it was taken over by foreign powers and offered sacrifices again. Four HUNDRED YEARS, and no sign of God's presence.

The old temple that was built by King Solomon was filled with the glory of the LORD.

2 Chronicles 7
"1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "He is good; his love endures forever." 4 Then the king and all the people offered sacrifices before the LORD."

But not in the new temple. Not a sound was heard from God.

by the Girl

And then Zechariah, toiling away at his priestly duties sees an angel. Not only that, the angel tells him he will have a son who will bring the people back to God, like a prophet does.

An angel, a sign, and a prophet of the LORD. The long silence has been broken. The new Exodus of Israel has begun.


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 21-The Maccabees

After the Remnant returned from Exile and rebuilt the temple and the wall of Jerusalem there were no prophets. There was no word from God for 400 years!

The people lived in the land, and like we talked about yesterday, they did their very best to follow God's laws. They were very religious, very pious. They tithed. Even the mint that grew in their gardens they gave a part of it to the temple.

In 200 BC Israel was once again conquered by a foreign power. This time it was the Greeks. Well, they were called the Seleucid Empire. They were left in charge after Alexander the Great died. You may have heard of him.

Antiochus Epiphanes was the governor of Judea, and he wanted all the Jews to be like Greeks. He put a statue of the Greek God Zeus in the temple. He forced Jews to eat unclean food that the laws of God in Torah forbade them to eat. He made it a crime to possess the Holy Scriptures.

Finally, one man named Matthatias killed another man in his village who was offering sacrifices to a Greek idol. His 4 sons led a revolt against Antiochus and won. They were called the Maccabees.

They captured Jerusalem and rededicated the temple to God. There is a story of a miracles that happened when they did. They needed special oil for the temple dedication but all of it had been destroyed except one small jar that was only enough for one day. The lamp in the temple was never supposed to go out but it tool 7 days to make the special temple oil. The miracle is that the oil in the lamp lasted for 8 whole days, long enough for them to make more. There is a whole Jewish festival. called Hannukah that celebrates this miracle. They light candles for 8 nights to remember the miracle of the lights.

No one interfered with the temple after that. They were always ruled by foreign rulers who demanded that they send money and goods as taxes, bu they were allowed to worship God in the temple for the next 200 years or so.

Finally, after a very long silence, God would move again. Maybe now the Presence of God would come back to Israel, and back to the temple.


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 20-Trying So Hard but Missing the Point

1 After these things had been done, the leaders came to me and said, "The people of Israel, including the priests and the Levites, have not kept themselves separate from the neighboring peoples with their detestable practices, like those of the Canaanites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, Ammonites, Moabites, Egyptians and Amorites. 2 They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness." 3 When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard and sat down appalled. 4 Then everyone who trembled at the words of the God of Israel gathered around me because of this unfaithfulness of the exiles. And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice. 5 Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God 6 and prayed: "I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. 7 From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today. 8 "But now, for a brief moment, the LORD our God has been gracious in leaving us a remnant and giving us a firm place in his sanctuary, and so our God gives light to our eyes and a little relief in our bondage. 9 Though we are slaves, our God has not forsaken us in our bondage. He has shown us kindness in the sight of the kings of Persia: He has granted us new life to rebuild the house of our God and repair its ruins, and he has given us a wall of protection in Judah and Jerusalem. 10 "But now, our God, what can we say after this? For we have forsaken the commands 11 you gave through your servants the prophets when you said: 'The land you are entering to possess is a land polluted by the corruption of its peoples. By their detestable practices they have filled it with their impurity from one end to the other. 12 Therefore, do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. Do not seek a treaty of friendship with them at any time, that you may be strong and eat the good things of the land and leave it to your children as an everlasting inheritance.' 13 "What has happened to us is a result of our evil deeds and our great guilt, and yet, our God, you have punished us less than our sins deserved and have given us a remnant like this. 14 Shall we then break your commands again and intermarry with the peoples who commit such detestable practices? Would you not be angry enough with us to destroy us, leaving us no remnant or survivor? 15 LORD, the God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence.
Ezra 10

The People's Confession of Sin

1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites--men, women and children--gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. 3 Now let us make a covenant before our God to send away all these women and their children, in accordance with the counsel of my lord and of those who fear the commands of our God. Let it be done according to the Law. 4 Rise up; this matter is in your hands. We will support you, so take courage and do it." 5 So Ezra rose up and put the leading priests and Levites and all Israel under oath to do what had been suggested. And they took the oath. 6 Then Ezra withdrew from before the house of God and went to the room of Jehohanan son of Eliashib. While he was there, he ate no food and drank no water, because he continued to mourn over the unfaithfulness of the exiles. 7 A proclamation was then issued throughout Judah and Jerusalem for all the exiles to assemble in Jerusalem. 8 Anyone who failed to appear within three days would forfeit all his property, in accordance with the decision of the officials and elders, and would himself be expelled from the assembly of the exiles. 9 Within the three days, all the men of Judah and Benjamin had gathered in Jerusalem. And on the twentieth day of the ninth month, all the people were sitting in the square before the house of God, greatly distressed by the occasion and because of the rain. 10 Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, "You have been unfaithful; you have married foreign women, adding to Israel's guilt. 11 Now honor the LORD, the God of your ancestors, and do his will. Separate yourselves from the peoples around you and from your foreign wives." 12 The whole assembly responded with a loud voice: "You are right! We must do as you say. 13 But there are many people here and it is the rainy season; so we cannot stand outside. Besides, this matter cannot be taken care of in a day or two, because we have sinned greatly in this thing. 14 Let our officials act for the whole assembly. Then let everyone in our towns who has married a foreign woman come at a set time, along with the elders and judges of each town, until the fierce anger of our God in this matter is turned away from us." 15 Only Jonathan son of Asahel and Jahzeiah son of Tikvah, supported by Meshullam and Shabbethai the Levite, opposed this. 16 So the exiles did as was proposed. Ezra the priest selected men who were family heads, one from each family division, and all of them designated by name. On the first day of the tenth month they sat down to investigate the cases, 17 and by the first day of the first month they finished dealing with all the men who had married foreign women.

 Ezra was determined to get it right this time. The last time God brought Israel out of slavery and int the promised land he warned them not to let any of the people remain in the land.

So when Ezra hears that a lot of the people who came to rebuild the temple have married women who were already living there he gets really upset.

He is very afraid that God will be angry at them again and so he makes all of the men who married foreign wives send them away, and their children! Not all of the men thought this was a good idea. Some of them tried to change Ezra's mind.

Imagine if you were one of those children. Your daddy comes home from Jerusalem, very sad, and you ask him what's wrong. he picks you up and sits you in his and and says, "You and your mama need to go away. You can't be here because you aren't part of God's chosen people and you don't belong. It was wrong for me to marry your mama and for you to be born."

The Bible doesn't tell us if Ezra was hearing from God or not. In other parts if God is directing someone it says, "the word of the LORD came to so and so."

What we do know is that Ezra was afraid that God would be angry at them and tore families and marriages apart in order to stop that from happening. But God really cared about marriages and children too, as you will see in other parts of the Bible.

So, was what Ezra did the right thing to do, or not?

In another part of the book of Ezra it says that some people who were already living in the land " came to Zerubbabel and to the heads of the families and said, "Let us help you build because, like you, we seek your God and have been sacrificing to him since the time of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." 3 But Zerubbabel, Joshua and the rest of the heads of the families of Israel answered, "You have no part with us in building a temple to our God. We alone will build it for the LORD, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded us.""

Right or not, what we will see is that the remnant that returned was so afraid to break God's law again that they became very suspicious and afraid of any other countries and any other people. They wouldn't let any one else in. They only were God's holy people. They even rejected other people who worshiped their God also if they were only half Jewish, or had a different ancestry. (Parents can refer to the parts in the NT about Samaria if they would like more references on this.)

What the newly returned exiles did was swing to the opposite extreme. Rather than make the same mistakes as their ancestors they would make brand new mistakes. Rather than mix with the peoples in the land and worship their gods, they would refuse to let anyone who wasn't Jewish worship their God.

Was that really what God wanted?


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 19-Return from Exile?

Ezra 1
Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return
1:1-3pp -- 2Ch 36:22-23
1 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 2 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: " 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you--may their God be with them, and let them go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.' " 5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites--everyone whose heart God had moved--prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7 Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god. 8 Cyrus king of Persia had them brought by Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. 9 This was the inventory: gold dishes, 30 silver dishes, 1,000 silver pans, 29 10 gold bowls, 30 matching silver bowls, 410 other articles, 1,000 11 In all, there were 5,400 articles of gold and of silver. Sheshbazzar brought all these along with the exiles when they came up from Babylon to Jerusalem.

If you've studied ancient history at all you may remember hearing about the Babylonian Empire that conquered a lot of the surrounding territories and organized into a much bigger empire than the city kingdoms that existed before. After that, another empire, the Persian empire, led by Cyrus fought with the Babylonian empire and conquered all of the territory that the Babylonians used to occupy, and more. Israel was no longer in captivity to Babylon, now it was Persia who was in charge.

The new king allowed the Israelites to go back to their own country, rebuild the wall of Jerusalem and the temple. God kept his promise and anyone who wanted to go back to Judea was allowed to go, with the king's blessing.

What do you think they all did?

Did they all go back?

Compared to how many were taken out of Judea, and how many there must have been in Babylon, not many actually went back to Jerusalem.

They had been in Babylon a long time. Many of those who were first taken were probably dead, 70 years is a long time. Their children and grandchildren would have grown up in Babylon, they were used to it there. A lot of them didn't want to return to a city without walls and do the work of rebuilding their country again.

But a faithful remnant returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the wall, and the temple.

But did they have a new spirit yet? Did they have new heart? Did the nations come to them for wisdom because they saw the light? Did the presence of God fill the rebuilt temple?

Well, not yet. So parts of God's promise had been fulfilled... but the rest was still to come.


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 18-God's Servant

Isaiah 52

1 Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendor, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. 2 Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive. 3 For this is what the LORD says: "You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed." 4 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them. 5 "And now what do I have here?" declares the LORD. "For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, " declares the LORD. "And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed. 6 Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I." 7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. 11 Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the articles of the LORD's house. 12 But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the LORD will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

The Suffering and Glory of the Servant
13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him-- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness-- 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Isaiah 53
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Do you know what the word redeemed means?

In it's simplest form it means to buy something back, a trade of sorts you get something by offering something else in it's place of equal or greater value.

Did you know that they sold Israelites as slaves when they went into exile. Most places had slave markets. People who had been captured in war or the children of other slaves would be tied up in chains and they would auction them off. Rich people would buy other people to work for them. Slaves had to do whatever a master wanted, and they were never free.

To set a slave free you had to buy them from their master, or redeem them.

God says he will redeem Israel. He will buy them out of slavery, without money. How will he do that?

Who is this mysterious servant who will be numbered among the transgressors? Transgressors means people who did what was wrong in the eyes of the law.

How will he bear the sin of many?

Would you like to be the servant of God? What kinds of things does it say happened to him?

It says that after these things happen he will see the light of life and be satisfied.

What do you suppose that is?


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 17-Hearts of Flesh

Ezekiel 36
Israel's Restoration Assured
16 Again the word of the LORD came to me: 17 "Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman's monthly uncleanness in my sight. 18 So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. 19 I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. 20 And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the LORD's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' 21 I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone. 22 "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. 23 I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. 24 " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. 30 I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. 31 Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. 32 I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign LORD. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, house of Israel! 33 " 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. 34 The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. 35They will say, "This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.36 Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it.' 37 "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Once again I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them: I will make their people as numerous as sheep, 38 as numerous as the flocks for offerings at Jerusalem during her appointed festivals. So will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of people. Then they will know that I am the LORD."

This is the promise God gives to Israel while they are in exile in Babylon. God will save Israel from all her uncleanness, he will give her a new heart, and a new spirit. He will gather them back to the land he promised them and restore them.


Does Israel deserve what God is going to do for them?

God is going to do it to restore His name, or reputation. Israel was supposed to show God to the world. The nations were supposed to see Israel and marvel because of the way they lived with God in their midst.

Instead Israel has given God a very bad name among the nations. They haven't shown what God is like at all.

God says he will rescue them and restore them again, not for their sakes, but so that He can fix His reputation with the world through them.

And this time, he's not going to leave it up to them to be righteous as they are. (After hundreds of years of trying it's obvious that Israel is unable to obey the law on their own.) This time he is going to give them a new heart, a new spirit. This time they won't need the book of the law, this time the law of God will be written on their hearts.

Jeremiah 31
31 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, " declares the LORD. 33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbors, or say to one another, 'Know the LORD,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

This is really good news. I wonder how it's going to happen?


A Child's Lenten Meditation-Day 16-Exile

I Kings 16
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. 

God sends his prophet Elijah to king Ahab. 

I Kings 18
and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?" 18 "I have not made trouble for Israel," Elijah replied. "But you and your father's family have. You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table." 20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." But the people said nothing. 22 Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal's prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire--he is God." Then all the people said, "What you say is good." 25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire." 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made. 27At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened." 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention. 30Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, "Your name shall be Israel." 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood." 34 "Do it again," he said, and they did it again. "Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again." 38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD--he is God! The LORD--he is God!" 40 Then Elijah commanded them, "Seize the prophets of Baal. Don't let anyone get away!" They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there. 

During the times of the kings in Israel, when most of Israel had forgotten God and turned to other Gods, God would send prophets. These prophets tried to warn the kings and the people of what would happen if they didn't turn back to God.

Sometimes, like Elijah, they were successful, and even though king Ahab and his wife Jezebel had killed almost all of God's prophets, the people of Israel turned to God when they saw His power. For a while.

At other times the warnings of the prophets fell on deaf ears, and eventually, Jerusalem was captured by the Babylonians, their princes and people carried off into captivity, the city wall was destroyed, and the temple of God, that on of their kinds built was torn down. The ark of the covenant, where God's presence rested was lost.

The prophet Isaiah warned of this, but no one would listen. It's a really sad story.

Isaiah 5

The Song of the Vineyard

1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. 3 "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?When I looked for good grapes, why did it yield only bad? 5 Now I will tell you what I am going to do to my vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it will be destroyed; I will break down its wall,and it will be trampled. 6 I will make it a wasteland, neither pruned nor cultivated, and briers and thorns will grow there. I will command the clouds not to rain on it." 7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the people of Judah are the vines he delighted in. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Woes and Judgments

8 Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. 9 The LORD Almighty has declared in my hearing: "Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. 10 A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain." 11 Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. 12They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the LORD, no respect for the work of his hands. 13 Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst. 

2 Chronicles 36
15 The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, the elderly or the aged. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the LORD's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah. 22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing: 23 "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: " 'The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you--may the LORD their God be with them, and let them go up.' "

But even now God's plan isn't over. Even now he tells them how long it will be before he delivers them again. Even now he will find a way to keep his promise to Israel.

What do you think will happen next?
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