Matt Chandler: Hi, Pastor Matt here. Thank you so much for either streaming or downloading this sermon. I pray that every week you’re challenged by the Word of God, you’re built up in his love, and the Word of God kind of gets in you and rearranges things and draws your affections up to the person and work of Jesus Christ.
I want to remind you, as always, that although I’m so glad you want to hear what I have to say this week or we have to say this week, this is never meant to substitute God’s good plan for you to be in a community of faith where the Word of God is preached and proclaimed. I want to encourage you to use this like a vitamin, not like a meal, so that you belong to a community of faith where you’re being shaped by being known, by using your gifts, by receiving the Word, by partaking in the sacraments, and by walking faithfully in accordance with the Scriptures.
Then this is something you’re listening to while you run or you’re watching when you have a few minutes. I just want to make sure we frame what this is and what it should not be. With that said, one of the things The Village Church wants to do is to give away the things that are created here by the grace of God. That’s podcasts and vodcasts. That’s family discipleship curriculum. That’s Bible study curriculum. What we’ve tried to do for over a decade is to give away just whatever we create here.
To do that, though, we rely on the donations and generosity of those who believe in what we’re doing and who have benefited from the things that have been created here. So before you dive into what I’m sure is going to be a 45- to 50-minute sermon, I just wanted to encourage you. If you have grown, if you have benefited from our resources, would you consider being a part of the team that helps this engine continue to produce and create biblical, creative, and practical discipleship curriculum for men and women of all ages and all stations? If you’d pray about that and consider that, that would be amazing. Thank you so much. Enjoy the Word of God proclaimed.
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JT English: Are we doing well? It’s so good to see you guys. We have a lot of work to do today, some work I’m super excited about, so you need to get your Bible. Second Kings, chapter 25, is where we’re going to be spending most of our time. I want to remind you that we ended our John sermon series, at least the portion for the fall, last week. We’re entering into an Advent sermon series over the next few weeks as we lead up to Christmas. Then in January we’ll have our Prayer sermon series, and we’ll go back to the gospel of John beginning about late January, early February.
I’m really excited for this Advent sermon series. It helps orient our lives to the true story of the world. For those of you who were with us last year, you know TVC produced a book called Seasons that helps us walk through the church calendar over the course of the year. This is something that if you didn’t have or if you do have, or whatever, we have a lot of copies for you to take in the foyer on your way out. If you’re interested in walking through some devotional material around Advent, this is a wonderful resource for you to grab, so I would encourage you to do that.
I know many of us come from different church backgrounds and different traditions. Some of us perhaps are more familiar with participating in the church calendar and others less, so I thought it would be good for us to spend a few minutes on why we would spend time walking through a series specifically on Advent. I want to tell us that, basically, the church calendar functions to orient our lives to the true story of the world.
It’s basically about Bible literacy and understanding what God has done in the world, what God continues to do in the world, and ultimately, what he promises to do in the world through the work of Jesus. Advent is really just trying to orient our hearts and lives to the true story of the world. You and I both know that life is a battle of stories.
One of my favorite quotes is, “He who tells the best story wins.” That’s from Bobette Buster. (I like saying that quote because that’s an awesome name: Bobette Buster. I laugh every time. If your last name was Buster, to name your daughter Bobette is just… She’s a courageous woman, and that’s a courageous family.) It’s a quote that I think absolutely rings true, at least it rings true for me. “He who tells the best story wins.”
Life is really a battle for stories. You are living in a story whether you know it or not. It’s a story that’s either orienting you to what is true, good, and beautiful or disorienting you from what is true, good, and beautiful. Advent serves as this corporate time for us to orient our hearts and minds to that which we believe the Bible says is true, good, and beautiful.
As we think about entering into this season of Advent, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at Advent through some lenses. We want to look at Advent through the lens of the prophets, through the lens of angels, and through the lens of shepherds, how these different groups of people would have been thinking about the coming Messiah who has come to end our exile.
Here is my hope for you, not just this week but over the course of the next several weeks. My hope for you is that you would grow in your knowledge of the story, in your understanding of your place in the story, and your ability to participate in the story. I want you to know the story, your place in the story, and how to participate in the story, because Advent is all about knowing the story of the Bible.
I don’t know about for you, but for me, when I first became a Christian, it was really hard for me to know how to participate in the story. Why? Because I didn’t know the story. There are massive parts of the Bible we’re simply unfamiliar with and that are hard for us to know, so I thought it would be good for us, as we enter into 2 Kings 25, to orient ourselves to what has gone on in the story. I want to do a brief biblical theology, just in a few minutes.
The Bible begins in Genesis 1 and 2 saying that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, this God who eternally existed in a loving communion and fellowship and relationship with himself… He spoke creation into existence. This God, who is not dependent upon anything else for his life, spoke creation into existence. So we have this distance between the Creator and the creature. Everything that exists, other than God, is a creature or a created thing, but God alone is the Creator.
In Genesis 1 and 2 we see specifically that he created Adam and Eve and you and me to bear his image and to represent him to the nations. No other created thing was given this dignity, this representative role to extend God’s glory to the nations other than humanity. We were supposed to be fruitful and multiply, and perhaps more than anything else, you and I were meant to enjoy the presence of God above all else.
As we were in the garden, we were to extend God’s presence from the garden to every single piece of God’s creation. Every blade of grass, every city, every mountaintop, every valley is meant to be invaded with the presence of God, but rather than taking dominion for him we tried to take dominion for ourselves. Rather than giving him honor and glory we decided to seek honor and glory for ourselves, and we ate of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, bringing about rebellion, sin, and shame.
You may have heard some theological terms used to talk about Genesis, chapter 3, before. Some people call it the fall or total depravity or original sin. Those are all true, but I want to introduce a category to you of exile, that the most important thing for your life is the presence of God. In the moment we, along with Adam and Eve, sinned in the garden, we lost the thing most precious to us: the presence of God.
At the end of Genesis 3, this brutal image comes to mind. This isn’t in the text. This is me using my biblical imagination. It says God sent us out of his presence. He marched us out. He pushed us out of his presence. I have this picture of Adam and Eve literally trying, by the grittiness of their fingertips, to stay in the presence of God, because they know that once they lose the presence of God they may never get the presence of God back.
With dirt underneath their fingertips, they are expelled, exiled out of the presence of God. Genesis 4-11 demonstrates this incredible spiral humanity goes on. We, in our sinfulness and rebellion, keep marching ourselves away from God. We want nothing to do with him. Instead of making his name great at the Tower of Babel, we would rather make our names great. But God, being rich in mercy and grace…
In Genesis, chapter 12, he enters into what’s called the Abrahamic covenant. He picks the most unique and the people you and I would not have chosen, these nomads who were probably worshiping the sun, the stars, and the moon. His name is Abraham and her name is Sarah. He says, “Through you I’m going to bring blessing to the nations. Everything you lost in Genesis 3 I’m going to restore through your family. You will be my image bearers, and you will represent me and bring glory to the nations, and through your son, Abraham, I will redeem and restore all that was lost.”
If you’ve read the rest of the book of Genesis, you know that Abraham’s family is as dysfunctional as your family, if not more. In our families we experienced a dysfunction perhaps at Thanksgiving, and we’re going to experience it again at Christmas. Abraham’s family, which is our family as well, is far more dysfunctional. What happens? They are sent out of the presence of God. The land they were supposed to be living in, enjoying the presence of God and extending his blessing to the nations… He sends them into another exile, repeating the story of Genesis 3.
They end up in exile again, but this time in Egypt. Abraham’s family that was meant to live in the presence of God and enjoy the presence of God is now living under the tyrannical rule of Pharaoh and Satan and sin and death. They’re like a vine that’s withering, and they’re waiting to see if God’s promises are going to come true. “Will we ever live in the presence of God again or will our exile go forever?”
God, being rich in mercy and kindness and grace, sends a deliverer. His name is Moses. Moses comes to deliver God’s people from Satan, sin, and death and ultimately to destroy Pharaoh and their enemies. Moses leads God’s people out of Egypt through the Red Sea. He crushes our enemies of Satan, sin, and death, gives us a new name. We’re no longer slaves, but we’re sons and daughters. We’re no longer slaves to Pharaoh, but we’re made children of God and given a new birth and a new identity.
We wander into the wilderness, and we’re there for years and years and years, and we wonder, “Are we ever actually going to inherit the kingdom again? Are you leading us anywhere, Moses, or did you just bring us out here to die? Will we ever have the presence of God in our lives again? Can God be trusted? Can you be trusted?”
God enters into another covenant, Exodus 19-24. He says, “Moses, through this new covenant you and your people will be a nation of priests and priestesses. You will be a nation of kings and queens. As you’re obedient to my law, as you go live in the land I’m giving you, you will be a city set upon a hill, set apart, so that once again you might experience my presence, that my holy presence can dwell among you, and you will be a blessing to the nations.”
God begins to dwell with his people in the ark of the covenant. Then they enter into the Promised Land. This is the book of Joshua and the book of Judges. This conquest happens, and they inherit this land that was originally given to Abraham. It feels like the kingdom of God is on its cusp. We are dwelling in the presence of God. We are reigning on his behalf, and he is with us, and we are his people.
David ascends to the throne, and he says, “We should make this relationship permanent. God, we know that exile is absolutely the worst thing that can happen to us. We never can lose your presence again. Will you just simply stay with us? I’m living in this palace, and you’re living in a tent. Can I build you a permanent house so that you’ll never send us into exile again?”
God said, “David, that’s not for you, but instead of you building me a permanent house, I will build you an eternal dynasty, an eternal throne that will last forever. You will reign forever through your son. David. Through your son, you will establish my kingdom forever.”
But then we know the story goes on from there, that David, just like Adam, just like Abraham, just like Moses and the people in the wilderness… They want glory for themselves. Rather than being obedient to God’s law they are disobedient to God’s law, and God sends his people into exile again. The kingdom divides, Jerusalem’s kings are destroyed, and ultimately they are sent into exile east of Eden again in Babylon.
As we think about Advent and we think specifically about the prophets, the question is…What is the message of the prophets to God’s people in exile? As God’s people live in exile, and we wonder to ourselves, “Is God faithful? Is God true? Will he come for us? Will he end our exile?” the prophets have a very specific message for us, and that’s what we’re going to learn about today in 2 Kings 25.
“And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans [the Babylonians] were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king…” David’s sons, David’s kings are being overtaken in the plains of Jericho.
“…all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.” It seems like there’s no hope for David’s sons.
“In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down.
And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.” Jump down with me to verse 27.
“And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.”
What an incredible story: God’s people, living in God’s land, disobedient, and they have their city burned down and are carried off into exile, but the king is alive. These are my points: the prophets remind us that our sinfulness brings exile, our exile brings despair, and our only hope in exile is the life of the king.
- Our sinfulness brings exile. Look back at verse 6 with me. Remember, our hope is in the king. It says they captured the king. They brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah. They passed a sentence on him. They slaughtered his son so he wouldn’t have any heirs, and they took Zedekiah’s eyes out and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
Wait a minute. How can our hope be in the king if he is a prisoner in exile? How is he ever going to reign and rule over us? How will he ever bring the presence of God back to us? If we are in exile and the king is in exile and his sons have been killed, how will we have hope? Israel’s prophets over and over and over again warned God’s people that our sinfulness, our rebellion, our hard-heartedness would lead to our exile and to our judgment.
They gave us this message that our disobedience once again will lead us to be sent out of the presence of God and we will lose the thing that’s most valuable to us…not things, not people, not money, not comfort but the presence of God himself. Jeremiah says, “My hope is gone, and grief has fallen upon me. My heart is actually sick within me. Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people. The whole land is crying. ’Is the Lord no longer in Zion? Has he forgotten us? Is her King not with her?’ ’Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their idols? Why have they worshiped anything else?’”
Amos says it similarly. He says, “I will not revoke the punishment, because they have rejected the law of the Lord. They have not kept his statutes, but their lives have led them astray. So I will send fire upon Judah. I will devour the strongholds of Jerusalem.” As you think about Advent, the message of the prophets is this: we are in exile because we have sinned against God. Exile is God’s judgment upon our sin.
I keep using this word exile. It might be helpful for us to have a definition of what this is and think about what the Bible calls exile. Here’s a good definition of exile. Exile is the experience of pain, suffering, that results from the knowledge that there is a home where one belongs, yet for the present we can’t go back there. This existential sense of deep loss is compounded by a sense of guilt or remorse stemming from the knowledge that the cause of exile is our sin.
This is something I don’t have to tease out for a long time, because you have felt this. Sin and exile is a subject all of us know far too much about, even if we can’t put words to it. It’s that deep longing and groaning within us. We know there is a home we were made for and this isn’t it, because if this is home, why is there so much pain, so much shame, so much sin, so much darkness, so much death? Certainly God’s world is better than this. This can’t be the presence of God. This must be exile.
Not only does Israel find themselves in exile in 2 Kings 25, but the Bible describes our experience, the church’s experience, you and me, as being one of exile. Here’s one thing I need you to be absolutely convinced of. If we can’t agree on this one thing, I’m not sure how much more forward I should go with this sermon. One of the greatest dangers to your Christian life is believing that you are living in the kingdom when you’re actually living in exile. One of the greatest dangers to your life is believing that you are in the kingdom when you are actually in exile.
You and me, the church, we have more in common with Daniel in Babylon than we do with David in Jerusalem. You have more in common with Israel’s exiles living under a foreign government, foreign rule, and foreign oppression than you do living under David’s rule in Jerusalem. The Bible is trying to tell us that all of your pain, all of your suffering, and all of your shame are actually symptoms of a far greater problem: the lack of the presence of God, exile.
Exile is this disease we are all suffering from, and its symptoms are shame, guilt, and death, but the disease itself is exile, the lack of the presence of God. The thing that is just heartbreaking and gut wrenching about this is it’s our sin that has brought us here. So, the prophets are reminding us and Israel that it’s our sinfulness that brings our exile.
- Our exile leads to despair. Look at verse 9. “He burned the house of the Lord…” The place where God dwells with his people, the place where heaven and earth meet, the place where grandparents were taking their grandkids and parents were taking their kids, and every Israelite would have grown up wanting to go experience the manifest presence of God, the God who led us out of slavery, the God who promised this land to our forefathers, the God who dwells with us in this temple, and the house is collapsing in upon itself.
Could you imagine being carried into exile, perhaps having chains bound to you, perhaps leaving everything else behind, and you walk past the temple in Jerusalem, the place where God’s presence dwells, and see it collapsing, and you know, “I’m back in exile. How long will this last? Will God ever come back? Will our unfaithfulness last forever?”
When I was in college, I spent a few summers in Myrtle Beach. Has anybody heard of a Campus Crusade for Christ summer project? They’re awesome. They’re these things where you get to spend about 10 or 12 weeks out somewhere else, away from home. You’re supposed to get a job, and on this job you’re supposed to learn how to share your faith. Then at night we would go out on the beach and just pray for people and get to know people, pray for their needs, and we would share the gospel with them. It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life.
Macy was there with me for these summers. She worked at Chick-fil-A. I worked at a place called The Great Steak & Potato. She had the better job. The job I had at The Great Steak & Potato was I made Philly cheesesteaks each day. I worked the grill. So I would get this piece of meat and cut it up, and I would literally leave with an inch full of grease in my hair. It was as gross as you’re picturing it right now.
But it was this beautiful summer where God changed my life. Do you ever have those times in your life where the Lord is just present, shaping you and forming you? We would go out on the beach, and I can literally, at this moment, recount dozens of conversations I had with complete strangers who shared everything they were walking through about themselves, and they would pray to receive Christ. Dozens of people.
I can remember sitting in rooms as college students were giving their lives to ministry or God was bringing them out of some kind of hidden sin or hidden shame. During the summer we lived in a place called the Victory Motel, and it was as victorious as you can imagine. It was at Ocean Boulevard and First Street, right in the middle of everything that is Myrtle Beach in the summer. It was 126 college students living in this dilapidated, broken-down, falling in on itself, asbestos-ridden… Just nastiness.
As I look back at it, I’m fairly convinced it was illegal, but we’re 14 years removed, so I think I can talk about it now. But it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how comfortable it was. It didn’t matter how beautiful it was. The accommodations and amenities didn’t matter, because the presence of God was with us. He was changing my heart. He was changing my friends’ hearts. It was one of those summers you look back to and say, “Lord, you did something there, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it.”
A few weeks ago we got to go back to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving. We were there celebrating with family and friends. I found out once we’d already gotten there that this place, the Victory Motel, was only about a mile or two away from where we were staying, so one afternoon I decided to do a jog walk up the beach and just go see what it was like and remember God’s presence, remember what he did that summer.
As I’m jogging and walking (probably more walking than jogging), I come up to Ocean Boulevard and First and Second Street, and I’m not exaggerating this. That very day, machines were there tearing the Victory Motel down. For me, it was this gut punch of, “Wait. This is where God worked. This is where he was present with us. This pool right here that is full of dirt and nastiness… I remember sitting in that pool and having some of the most meaningful spiritual conversations I’ve ever had, and it’s gone?”
How much more so do you think Israel is lamenting the Lord’s house, the actual manifest presence of God being destroyed in their midst, being taken down brick by brick and stone by stone? The house of the Lord was more than a place of worship. It was more than just where Israel experienced the presence of God; it was the dwelling presence of God with his people. Its destruction represented exile, and they had no idea for how long it would last.
Exile is so painful. It’s painful for us and it was painful for them, not because we lose things but because we lose the presence of God. There was an article in the Wall Street Journal that you may have seen this week. If you didn’t see this article, you might have seen the news elsewhere. It said that life expectancy for Americans fell again last year. What’s incredible about this new study is that this is only the second time this has happened since World War I.
The increase comes primarily not from diseases like heart disease or cancer but actually preventable causes. Do you want to know what the highest increases were? Suicide and drug use. In other words, Americans are, at an increasing rate, believing that life is so painful, so dark, so challenging, our exile is so horrific, we’d better just end it.
This is not a story about sociology. This isn’t even a story about psychology. This is a story about theology. This is what happens in exile. Our exile has been so long we’ve even forgotten we’re in exile, and it’s so painful we do not know what to do, because we are so desperate for the presence of God and we don’t even know it. Our exile is so painful that after we’ve tried every other way of self-protection or self-medication we’ll actually kill ourselves because it’s so painful.
Barry Jones, thinking about this despair of exile, says, “We feel completely overwhelmed by the brokenness of our lives and of the world. Despair comes when our sense of control is lost and our attempts at escape leave us empty, so we give up to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. We lose the capacity to dream of a better future.” That is exactly what happens in exile.
Whether you are acutely aware of your exile right now or not, you are in exile. Whether exile is right in front of your face in every way, shape, or form, whether it’s through death, sickness, disease, sin, shame, guilt, or whatever it is, no matter how close you can see it, it is absolutely there. We are in exile, and in exile one of the easiest things to do is to start to believe false stories, to start putting hope in other things than God and the gospel.
We begin to believe these false stories in order to help us deal and cope with the pain. When we don’t know what to do with this chaos, we’ll find any strategy possible to take the pain away, but do not miss this: your only hope in exile is in the life of the King. In exile, the only hope you have for exile to end is if the King is alive. If the King is dead, all hope is lost, but if the King is alive, it’s possible that our exile will one day come to an end.
- Our only hope in exile is if the King is alive. Look back at verse 27. “And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month…” Thirty-seven years of despair. “…Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign…”
This blows my mind. He frees the king of Judah from prison. He speaks kindly to him. He gives him a seat above the seats of the kings of Babylon. So Jehoiachin takes his prison garments off, and every day of his life he sits with the kings of Babylon and enjoys a meal. He’s given a regular allowance for his daily needs, as long as he lived. God works in exile. In some of the smallest ways, sometimes indiscernible, in ways we can’t even see, God is still working.
I realize 2 Kings isn’t the end of the Old Testament in your Bible, but chronologically speaking, it basically is the end. Ezra and Nehemiah come, yes, for sure, but basically, this is the end. The text is trying to remind you, the author of 2 Kings is trying to remind us, the prophets are trying to say that regardless of how long your exile has been, regardless of how much despair you have in your life right now, if the king is alive there is hope.
No matter how hard your exile is, no matter how long our exile will go, if the King is alive, our exile will come to an end. Even in exile God’s promises remain if the King is alive. The king is freed from prison. He’s given a seat at the king’s table. He has his prison garments removed, and he’s given an inheritance for daily needs. Our hope in exile is that the King is alive even in exile. In exile, put your hope in the King who lives, because if the King is alive there is hope that your exile will come to an end.
The Old Testament ends with these questions looming: Will God return to his people? Will the king reign from Jerusalem ever again? Will the son of Abraham ever come? Will the son of David come to establish his throne forever? Is God going to hold true to his promises or will our exile extend into the unforeseeable future, just forever? Will life be this painful forever? Will we ever experience the presence of God again? Like a deer panting for water, that’s how badly we want God. Will we die in a drought or will God invade us with his presence again?
The New Testament opens up trying to answer those questions in the clearest possible terms for us. This is the book of the new beginnings, the new genesis. This is the genealogy of Jesus. He is the son of Abraham. He is the son of David. He is the one in whom God is placing all of his hope. All of his marbles, all of his chips are in on this one person to end our exile.
The incarnation, far from being this cute scene of a baby in a manger, is actually a declaration of war of the kingdom of God against the powers of Satan, sin, and death. This little baby who comes through the womb of Mary comes to declare war against our exile and to free us from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death.
This is not just a story of a cute little baby being born on a silent night; this is the story of God saying, “My people will not be in exile forever, but I’m going to invade the kingdom of darkness with my presence and establish the kingdom of God.” The means by which he does it is through his death on the cross where he hangs and bears all of our sin, all of our shame, all of our guilt, all of our pain, all of our suffering, as he is sent outside of the city to bear our exile. It is there that the kingdom of God is established.
When the world saw a crucified criminal, the church sees a crucified King, reigning as the Davidic Lord and the Davidic Messiah, the one who is worthy of worship, honor, and praise. Guess what: He didn’t stay dead. After three days, he resurrects from the grave and says, “I’m establishing my kingdom as far as the north is from the south and the east is from the west. My kingdom will know no end. I’m going to ascend to the right hand of the Father, and it’s better for you, because your exile will end as I give you the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit. He will guide you until your exile is finally brought to an end.”
Then Peter says this. He writes to the church and calls us a group of elect exiles. Peter knows that even though we’ve been given this down payment or a deposit or the inheritance of the Spirit, what does he know? He knows we’re still in exile. Why? Because our King is not here. Our King is alive, but our King is not here.
So Advent is a season for us not just to look back at the incarnation but to look forward to the second coming, to say, “He who is faithful to do it once will be faithful to do it again. He who is faithful to come and end our exile once will come and end it for all time, and we will never enter it again.” This is the hope of the New Testament. This is the hope of the gospel, and we’re waiting for our exile to be over. The Bible says he is coming quickly.
It’s to this moment, the return of Jesus, that Advent is trying to direct our attention. Advent reminds us that Jesus will come again to end our exile forever, that just as King Jesus came for us once he will come for us again. Think back to this story of the king of Judah being underneath the tyranny of the kings of Babylon. He is released from prison, he’s given new clothes, he’s given food, and he’s given an inheritance. What a beautiful picture of the gospel.
The Bible uses similar terms to describe what Jesus is doing for us. He isn’t the king of Babylon; he is the King of Jerusalem, and he’s giving us a far better picture. Colossians 1 says we’re not just delivered from prison to freedom; we are delivered from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. We are not given a seat at the table of the king of Babylon; we are given a seat at the table of the King of Jerusalem.
Revelation 19 says all of us will one day be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb, and we will feast with Jesus forever. How much better is that than feasting with the kings of Babylon? The Bible also says in Isaiah 61 that one day our prison garments will be removed and we’ll be clothed with garments of salvation. He will cover us with robes of righteousness.
We’re not just going to have an inheritance that meets our daily needs. First Peter says we will have an inheritance that has caused us to be born again to this living hope through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Do not miss this. Your inheritance is not about daily needs. You don’t have a stingy king. You’re going to have an inheritance that’s imperishable, undefiled, unfading, and kept in heaven for you.
The good news of Advent is that our King came and our King is coming. Your exile is not going to last forever. Whatever you’re walking through in this season… The holidays can bring seasons of depression and guilt and shame and despair and bad diagnoses and diseases and death. Those are just symptoms of exile. We should certainly pray for all of those things to be remedied, but our greater prayer should be, “Come, Lord Jesus, and end our exile.”
I told you my hope for Advent for you is that you would know the story, that you would know your place in the story, and that you would grow in your ability to participate in that story. So just briefly I want to think about our participation in this story for the next few weeks. I love how N.T. Wright talks about stories. He says, “Tell someone to do something, and you change their life—for a day; tell someone a story and you change their life.”
Do you believe this is the true story of the world? Are you willing to put all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength into it, to be a participant of it? Are you done playing with the false stories of the world and putting all of your hope in the King who reigns? Advent is not a story that’s just meant to be seen. I don’t want you to see what happens over the next few weeks. Advent is a story that’s meant to be lived into.
So how do we participate in the story? Two things. The first is I want you to remember forward. Over the next few weeks, you’re going to be inundated with the good news that Jesus came in the manger, that this incarnation is at the very centerpiece of the Christian life. Advent just means coming. The primary movement of the Bible is God coming to us, but the good news of the Bible isn’t just that God came to us once but that he’s coming to us again.
Life is a battle of stories, and this Advent story reminds us there’s only one hope. It’s not good enough for us to simply put our hope in the first coming of Jesus if we forget about the second. Our hope in this season is to confess and believe and proclaim that he who was faithful to come to us once is faithful to come to us again, and it could be any minute. Is that where your hope is this year? Remember the first coming of Christ as a means of proclaiming his faithfulness to come again. I want you to remember forward.
Secondly, I want you to simply pray expectantly. In an instant-gratification world, delayed discipleship is often shunned, but that’s exactly what Advent is proclaiming. You’ve heard us talk about “the already and the not yet.” There’s certainly a tension there, but Advent is the season of “not yet.” Advent is the season of waiting, of yearning, of longing, of expecting. Our only hope in exile is that King Jesus is alive and he’s coming for us. If that’s not true, we of all people should be pitied and full of despair.
Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray in exile. He says, “The primary disposition, the primary posture, the primary prayer of my people is simple: ’Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come…’” That is our only prayer for Advent, that the King who brought his kingdom once will be faithful to bring his kingdom fully, completely, and forever; that the King who died on the cross will one day come and bring his kingdom completely, fully, and freely forever.
I know that those of us who are A types or achievers in here want to somehow bring this or build this, but the Bible never says this. It says you cannot bring the kingdom. You cannot build the kingdom. You will not push God’s kingdom forward. The Bible is really clear. The only thing you get to do with God’s kingdom is wait and receive.
God’s grace is that he is going to bring the kingdom to you. You cannot hustle your way to wholeness. You cannot hustle your way into the kingdom. The only way into the kingdom and the only way into wholeness is to pray expectantly and wait for him to bring it. In this season, I want you to rest in the fact that Jesus will bring his kingdom.
Tom Schreiner says this. This is good news as we end. “[God’s] kingdom will come. The world will be blessed. Yahweh reigns over all, and the world will see the King in his beauty, and [we will enjoy the presence of Yahweh forever, as we gaze upon and revel in his loveliness].” Friends, your only hope in this season of exile is the King, and the good news of the gospel is that the King is alive and that the King is coming for us. So be faithful and patient as you wait, because he is faithful to come. Let’s pray.
To you, Father, and to the Son and to the Spirit we offer all honor and glory and praise. We confess with our hearts and our minds that often we live in these false stories of the world, finding hope in everything but you, trying to dull the pain, trying to mask our hurt, trying to mask our guilt and our shame, but we confess with you this morning, as the Holy Spirit fills our hearts and our minds, that we believe there is one true story of the world. When we try to hide the pain of exile, we want you to show it to us so we will want nothing else other than your presence.
Would your Holy Spirit in this moment, not just individually but corporately for us as a church, build in us this eager hope, an eager longing and expectation for Jesus to come, because we believe that when he does justice will roll, righteousness will reign, and our exile will end forever. In this moment we pray what the Bible asks us to pray, Lord Jesus. Would your kingdom come, would your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven? Come quickly, Lord Jesus, amen.