The people of God were living in exile. They had been transported, against their wills, away from their homes and all that was familiar, to another country. In the midst of all this sorrow and despair, the prophet Isaiah promised release, healing, and return.
During the Roman Empire, a rogue rabbi was invited to preach at a local synagogue. Religious men, at their wits end, trying to hold what little was left of their lives, culture and religion together, listened as Jesus unrolled the scroll of Isaiah and read:
The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor.
Recently, my daughter was living in a part of the country very unlike the midwest in which she grew up. The people, culture and religious beliefs were foreign to her. She said, "Mom, I just want to come home to the place where I understand what is going on."
The New Testament speaks to all of us, calling us aliens in a foreign land. It says our home is heaven, and thus we struggle with the culture of "darkness" that is all around us.
Jesus still crashes into our modern day places of worship and preaches to us exiles. He offers a trade that is not fair; it is a trade of grace. Good news, healing, freedom, light, comfort, beauty, gladness and an attitude of praise. These are all marks of our true homeland.
So, if you are feeling a little frustrated and lost in this world, it's because you are in exile.
One of these days, you'll get to go home.