"Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. " - Ezra 2:1
God made us emotional beings, but we must anchor those feeling in the truth. What we feel is real, but it may not be fact. For such reasons, truth is important for us. Truth helps anchor our emotions and feelings unanchored from truth lead us astray.
I was struck with these thoughts recently while studying Ezra 2. The covenant faithfulness of God is emphasized throughout the book. Chapter 2 captures this reality in detail showing the names of many people who came back to Judah after captivity in Babylon.
While in captivity, some of these people would have developed deep relationships, friendships, possessions, networked work relations, trading routes, and entertainment habits. Others would have had deep wounds and pains from the abuse and neglect they experienced while in captivity. Yet, these people walked away from all the horrors and honors of captivity to choose to be with God’s people in God’s place.
Now, the text doesn’t tell us how everyone felt, but we can speculate a little here. Just think of how you would feel after being gone for 70 years, or being born in captivity and hearing stories of going back home. Think of the nerves, fears, excitement, and other emotions you’d experience. In the experiences we see in Nehemiah, two important "truth anchors" for our feelings stand out:
1.) I might feel alone, but I am not alone.
We are often tempted to think we are the only ones going through a hard time, serving, or sacrificing, but that’s not true. Just as God had called 42,000 plus to go back to work the Promised Land (Ezra 2:64) and just as God preserved 7,000 who had not bowed to Baal (1 Kgs 19:18), so God has called others to labor in his field. The fact that I may be unaware of them, their doubts, their sacrifices, their pains, struggles, or successes, doesn’t mean they do not exist.
I have a tendency of looking in the mirror as if I’m the only one versus looking out a window at the world around me. I have a natural tendency to think I’m alone, but it’s not true. The truth is that God is with me, and he has given me a group of people with whom to walk through life: the church. In the church, I have a group of people who want to walk home with me.
2.) This might feel like home, but this is not my home.
Verse one explained that after everyone arrived in Judah, they each went to their own home. But, there’s a problem: it wasn’t their home any more. They are under the rule of Cyrus, which became abundantly clear in chapter four when he issues a cease-and-desist order making them halt work on the temple. Though they are seeking to serve God, they are under the influence of a pagan ruler.
For us, Jesus has secured the victory, but there are still consequences from living in a sinful world until the end comes. The world is a passing place we travail together. God wants us as the church to faithfully serve and abide in community while we await Jesus, who will establish the fullness of his kingdom - a kingdom we will enjoy and call home. As 1 Corinthians 15:24–26 confirmed, “Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”
While I have feelings of isolation and complacency at times, I must anchor my thoughts and actions in truth. The truth is: I get to walk in community while anticipating life in my present-and-future home.