The book of Ezra tells the story of the Jewish return from captivity. Babylon had become Persia – and the new King of Persia issued a decree saying the Jews could go back home, after 70 years in a foreign land.
What should have been a mass exodus of Jews from Babylon turned out to be only a trickle of people returning home. They had gotten pretty comfortable in that far-away place, and, well, not very many really cared that much about making the long, dangerous trip home. For most of the Jews living in Babylon/Persia, the home of their enemies had become their home, and they stayed.
But for some the permission to return home to the land of Israel was the best news they had ever heard, and the news they had been expecting for 70 years. Some of them had been born in Babylon, the children of the original captives. Some of them were the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original captives. They got their few belongings together, sold everything else, and walked home. It was hard, it was hot, it was exhausting, and once they got there they had lots of hard, hot and exhausting work to do in order to have a place to live again.
But the draw to home was overwhelming. They had to go to the land God had given them so long ago. They wanted to once again fulfill their mission – tell the world about the One, True God.
We’ll see some painfully clear parallels to our own lives in this part of Jewish history. We’ll see ourselves loving our lives and comfortable in our own “Babylon”. We’ll wonder what it actually means for us to “leave Babylon”. We’ll wonder if the sacrifices of leaving Babylon are worth it.
But I think we’ll also see that the message from the Lord is clear:
“Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” – Revelation 18:4