I have been studying through the Old Testament since September. By June, I will be finished going through a survey of all of the Old Testament books. It’s been a fascinating journey for me as I dig into portions of the Bible that I have not spent significant amount of time in before. Now, I’ve spent time in the typical books, like Psalms and Proverbs, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, some of the minor prophets who we hear about in Sunday School, but I never took this long and hard of a look at the overall Old Testament to see how the books relate to each other and to the New Testament.
As I was reading the overview of some scholars on the book of Ezekiel (you know, he saw the wheel and the dry bones danced for him), something jumped out at me. The Jews were sent into exile because of their disobedience to YHWH. Apparently, the conditions in exile were not as bad as one might think, because, according to these scholars, “when the opportunity came to return to Jerusalem, many preferred to stay in Babylonia.”
That phrase may not strike you as it did me, so let me explain my take on it. Although it would seem that the conditions in exile may not have been very bad, I wonder if that was really the case. The fact is, the exiles were comfortable where they were, even though it wasn’t what God had intended for them, they were willing to settle for second best.
As I read that, I couldn’t help but think about the times in my life that I get into ruts and how much easier it is to just stay there. It’s comfortable. I know what to expect. I don’t have to think too hard. It might not be the best place in the world, but it beats venturing off into the unknown, right? I mean, who wants to live a life of adventure when you can have every moment planned out and know exactly what to expect around the corner?
Sure, this was Israel’s big problem, but as ancestors of the Israelites (at least adopted ancestors), the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I’m not telling you to go and live your best life now, please don’t misunderstand me. What I am saying is that it’s possible that God has something better for us than we think. It might not be comfortable. It might not be easy. It might not be fun all the time. But if it’s from God, would we really want to be anywhere else?
Six years ago, my wife and I left the comfort of the familiar to pursue the call that God had on our lives. It has never been easy. It has never been comfortable. Sometimes, it’s just plain sucked. But it’s what we feel like God has called us to, so would we really want to risk being somewhere else? Yet at the same time, I will not rest on my laurels and say, “I already made my sacrifice to the Lord. I’m done.” It would be too easy for God to come at me with the words of Janet Jackson saying, “What have you done for me LATELY?”
God doesn’t call us out of our comfort zones once and then never again. He might call us to constantly be on the move (geographically, but also in other ways as well). It’s easy to want to rest in the known and comfortable, but I wonder whether we would really reap the benefits of really understanding the idea of a fulfilled and abundant life if we did that.
I don’t know what’s right around the corner for me, the planner and engineer in me always wants to know though. I don’t even know that I have a Five Year Plan, but I have committed to the fact that I am doing what God has called me to do. I fight it, try to change it, and sometimes rebel, but I can’t deny that God has orchestrated things in my life in such a way that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. Although I’m where I am supposed to be, it doesn’t mean that I don’t change. If I’m not constantly being refined, then I’m stuck in a rut, and if I don’t move myself, God might just move me.
Jeremiah 29 speaks of God’s command to those who were in exile. They weren’t to mope around, waiting for the opportunity to get out of the land to which God had brought them, they were to settle down and actually make it seem like they were going to be there for the long haul. Jeremiah 29:7 says, “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.” You might be stuck in a rut, or you might be exactly where God has brought you. Only God can reveal which one it is. If you’re in a place that’s uncomfortable, He’s probably got you there for a reason. If you’re feeling too comfortable, you might want to check yourself and see if you’re stuck.
May the God who leads us into exile, deliver us to a place that, though it might be uncomfortable, unexpected, difficult, and even dangerous, we wouldn’t change for the world. After all, the most uncomfortable, unexpected, difficult, and dangerous place to be might just be exactly where He wants you.