The Christian’s (Occasional) Self-Imposed Exile

Ezekiel 12:1-11

1 The word of the LORD came to me: 2 “Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.

3 “Therefore, son of man, pack your belongings for exile and in the daytime, as they watch, set out and go from where you are to another place. Perhaps they will understand, though they are a rebellious people. 4 During the daytime, while they watch, bring out your belongings packed for exile. Then in the evening, while they are watching, go out like those who go into exile. 5 While they watch, dig through the wall and take your belongings out through it. 6 Put them on your shoulder as they are watching and carry them out at dusk. Cover your face so that you cannot see the land, for I have made you a sign to the Israelites.”

7 So I did as I was commanded. During the day I brought out my things packed for exile. Then in the evening I dug through the wall with my hands. I took my belongings out at dusk, carrying them on my shoulders while they watched.

8 In the morning the word of the LORD came to me: 9 “Son of man, did not the Israelites, that rebellious people, ask you, ‘What are you doing?’ 10 “Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: This prophecy concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the Israelites who are there.’ 11 Say to them, ‘I am a sign to you.'”

For the modern Christian, Ezekiel’s exile from the rest of the ancient Israelite nation seems drastic, and it is. All that God commands him to do in this passage evokes a symbolic representation of Israel’s coming exile, to remind the Israelites that they have strayed from Him too long. But it also illustrates an important point for modern believers: when you want to receive God’s guidance, often you must completely put aside the world and its concerns.

But how can we do that, when worldly concerns are all around us, swirling in our heads, part of our work and family life? The answer is difficult but real–we must “exile” ourselves from the world, if only for a few minutes or a few hours. When we worship and pray, whenever we choose to do that, it should be a time of leaving behind worldly problems and simply talking to God.

Find a Setting Appropriate for Worship/Prayer

Part of becoming ready to worship and pray in this singly focused manner is the setting we choose to do it in. Just as you generally feel more ready to sleep in a bedroom and more ready to work in an office, psychologically you feel more ready to worship and pray in an appropriate setting, like a church or other sacred place.

Having tried to worship and pray in my own house versus doing so in a sanctuary, I can definitely say that settings are very important to what we’re doing. I often just “feel” closer to God while praying and worshipping in a church, even if I’m the only person in there.

(The question of setting is part of why Ezekiel leaves the Israelites–his world–behind, but he’s also an example to the Israelites. God wants them, His “rebellious people,” to observe one of their number self-exiling, just as the rest of them will be exiled in Babylon soon after this passage of the Bible.)

Believers are Examples to Others

This is not an uncommon theme among world religions, for a person of faith to separate himself or herself from the general populace in order to be closer to his or her deity, but for the Israelites it is also a teaching moment. God is trying to reconnect with them, reach out to them and retrain them in how to get closer to Him, using Ezekiel as an example to them.

Likewise, modern Christians must sometimes isolate themselves from worldly concerns, not only for their own personal worship, but to demonstrate to others how to get away from the world and find their own way to connect to God. We don’t have to exile ourselves from the world all the time, just sometimes–just long enough to remind ourselves how to call for God, how to talk to Him when we need Him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.