“Indeed, whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that, through patient endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we would have hope.” [Romans 15:4]
During the COVID crisis many have described a feeling of being held captive in their own houses. Get this: Children are even eager to get back to school! When was the last time that happened? With God’s blessing of the development of vaccines, most are looking forward to a return from “captivity.”
About two and a half millennia ago, God’s people experienced a return from captivity. After seventy years of Babylonian captivity, God moved the heart of Cyrus to decree this return. Did all the Israelites pack their bags and head for the camel port? (Well, no, there wasn’t a camel port but…) We are told that about 50,000 returned and that this was a small portion of God’s Chosen People. That might surprise you, but consider this: It was a long difficult journey back to the Promised Land. After seventy years, many had become too old and feeble to return. You might compare them to our homebound who cannot travel. Then there were those who had been born in Babylon and had never seen their homeland. Then there were others as well.
When the people had been rounded up to be taken to Babylon, Jeremiah had told them to build houses and settle down. They did. Many grew very comfortable, even prosperous. Why should they give up all that and make the trek back to Jerusalem which lay in a heap of rubble, where a new start would present hardship and hard work, where infrastructure was non-existent?
The simple answer is that it was God’s will that his people return to rebuild the Temple and re-establish the worship of the True God in Jerusalem. As God’s Chosen People, they were the bearers of the Promise of a Savior. How important was that? Thank God that he moved the hearts of a remnant to make the sacrifice, to give up their comfort, and to return for the fulfilment of God’s promise!
How about our return from “captivity”? We may have settled in and we may have grown comfortable with what some have labeled “couch church.” We don’t have to go out in the cold, we don’t have to drive, we don’t even have to get dressed for church. Many a Hebrew in Babylon had lost sight of God’s plan for them and had lost heart. God’s plan for us is that we gather for worship, that we make whatever effort necessary to sit at the feet of the pastor (“shepherd”) he has trained and called to feed us with the pure Word and sacrament. May we always remember and consider God’s plan for our lives more important than our own comfort. You are part of God’s house. Let’s put it back together as fast as we can!
“Let us not neglect meeting together, as some have the habit of doing. Rather, let us encourage each other, and all the more as you see the Day[ approaching.” [Hebrews 10:25]