“When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them. The LORD hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O LORD, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
Long gone were the illusions of their freedom, it could no longer be suggested that they were their own people, living their own lives, amidst their own independence. All dreams of liberty had been long since gone after the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem and the forced exile of the people from the land of promise that had once been given unto their fathers. Once more, as they had in Egypt so many generations before, they now found themselves as “strangers in a strange land”, living amongst foreign people who worshipped foreign gods, as they called foreign rulers and kings their master. A conquered people without a hope, a captive nation that no longer had a nation, the faithful longed for the day when the Lord would deliver and they would once more return, leaving Babylon to again find themselves in Israel’s borders.
As far off, as far distant as that day would seem to be, it would come.
God… a God of grace and of mercy, a Heavenly Father who cares for and loves His children, He would not forsake his faithful to forever dwell in distant lands, to be ruled over and governed over by wicked men of bitter iniquity who knew not his ways but pursued the path of idols and sought to force His people to bow before false gods in submission to the sins of man rather than the glory of Heaven. He would call His children back home, and in a way that could not be ignored by the kings and the princes of this world. He would once more let laughter fill the mouths of His people, and their voices to rise with joyful songs of praise.
It’s the love and the compassion, the infinite mercy of our Lord that guides Him and that, in looking to the plight and the struggle of His children, moves him to contend with their cause . There, despite the struggles of this world, despite the bitter captivities, and the pained hardships that it may cause, He moves, an ever present force for righteousness in this world, setting His people free.
Though captivity may have changed since those days when the children of Israel were exiled to lands of Nebuchadnezzar, though it may have changed since those days when God moved through the Babylonian kings to let His faithful children once more return home, the love of our Heavenly Father has not. It is the same today as it was yesterday and forever shall be.
The world is full of bitter iniquity and wickedness, it is full of sin and evil, and those who would use it to subjugate their fellow man as they contend not with the cause of the Lord but their own ambition or greed or selfishness, using their position or power, using all of the weapons they have to take captive the hearts and souls, the bodies and minds of those around them.
We see it in the political persecution of tyranny and those who would use their authority over governments to take political prisoners. Those who would lock away their own citizens and the citizens of other nations, keeping them far from their homes and their families, leaving them to die in their prisons and dungeons. We see it in the human traffickers who lurk in the dark shadows of our society, just out of sight, as they take children from their parents. Those who deal in human flesh and human life, buy and selling it on the open market as if they were trading and selling, buying and bartering for a piece of meat, ripping the innocence away from the grasps of those whom they effect. We see it in the forces of slavery that still exist in this world as they keep their fellow man held at the end of the whip, chained in dark bondage as they force them into servitude. Those who would oppress and hate, those who would use pain and agony as the means of keeping their power and making their fortune as they use the body until it is no longer good and then cast it aside to die as if there was no value to it. We see it in the pirates and the terrorists who take and ransom their fellow man, using fear as their weapon, seeking to force us on to our knees. Those who hide in the dark, dank corners outside of our sight as they move, causing pain and suffering as their means of reaching their objective, never caring about those whom they hurt.
Yet God… God, our Heavenly Father, is ever vigilant, ever present throughout all of the struggles of this world, and as He contended with the struggles of His children in ages gone by, so too shall He now contend with their cause today, even amidst the hardship and pain, the hurt and the sorrow, the agony and the darkness of our present age. He shall look upon the plight of His people and He shall, in His time, in His way, set them free according to His great love and compassion for them. He shall let laughter one more escape their lips and songs of praise one more come from their voices as they find themselves in the presence of those whom they love and care so dearly for.
That is the promise that He has for His children, that is the blessed assurance that He has always offered, from the earliest of times to the present, for all of His people, in ages and in all times. There is no exile, no captivity, no dark force in this world that God will not put to flight for the faithful. There is no force in this world that is greater than God’s power, and there, in God’s way, in God’s will, He shall let justice prevail and freedom to reign. And there, joyful voices shall raise from the lips of all of those who were held, all of those who were subjugated, all of those who were oppressed, as freedom finds a way into their lives, and liberty once more comes to guide their paths and guide their ways. This is God’s love for His children in all ages and in all places, and we can take comfort, we can take joy in it even in these darkest of days of chaos.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.