Back to Top

Saying Yes to God’s Earth and God’s Exile

There is a man I know. More than a man – a friend and a prophet. He is Indigenous, tall, with small piercing eyes that bore into you with gentle kindness. He is a stranger longing for a heavenly country. His home on his back, he wanders deserts and back alleys. He lives in caves and parkades. Did I mention that he also has an amazing mullet?

He is a stranger longing for a heavenly country.

From time to time, we meet. Always unplanned, never unexpected. With joy, we talk of the mysteries of the Bible and the battle we wage for Christ against evil.

On one occasion, I noticed my friend eyeing a bagged lunch he had just received from a street ministry. He said, “I am not trusting in God right now, Jeremiah”. I expressed my confusion—I know this man to be truly faithful.

“I am tempted to save this lunch for tomorrow.” 

“Well,” he said, “I am tempted to save this lunch for tomorrow. But I should be trusting God daily for my food”. Wordlessly he reached into his fanny pack (did I mention he has a purple fanny pack full of treasures?) and pulled out a small sandwich bag. In that bag was a New Testament. He opened the little Bible and I could not help but notice that nearly every verse was highlighted in a variety of colours.

Finally, he came to the verse that he was looking for: “And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given as well.” (Luke 12:30-31) In that moment God spoke to me.

Nearly every verse was highlighted in a variety of colours.

I did not exactly know what God was saying to me through my friend until, with the help of others smarter than I, I came to understand Jeremiah 29: “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.” This letter goes on to say: marry, increase in number, and seek the prosperity of the city. This message would have been ridiculous to the Israelites. After all, they were exiles (estranged and homeless individuals) in the heart of the Babylonian empire!

In order to explain how ridiculous this would have been at the time of Jeremiah, a modern parallel might help. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a theologian and pastor in Germany during the reign of Nazism. Because of his faith, he became involved in the resistance to oust Hitler and was on the verge of being found out.

This message would have been ridiculous to the Israelites.

And even though he was near detection by the Gestapo and on the verge of death – he decided that he would get engaged to marry. He did this because he recognized God’s great love for all creation. He saw it good then to "embrace this present life" by getting engaged and seeking marriage despite his circumstance. His decision was what he calls a resounding "Yes to God's earth" (quoted in Bonhoeffer, by Eric Metaxas, p. 456).

Getting married, even in the midst of great danger, was how Bonhoeffer followed the Lord’s call to build homes and create a family in Babylon. In the same way, Jeremiah’s plea to Israel encouraging them to say YES to God’s earth is set alongside and is in the context of treacherous exile. The Lord beseeches his people to simultaneously say “Yes” to God’s earth and “Yes” to God’s exile.

His decision was what he calls a resounding "Yes to God's earth."

To modern, Western ears the call to build houses and get married does not have the same heaviness. If I ever considered building a home, I will not likely consider Babylon or an oppressive regime – I would think about money and the market, but not exile.

I easily say “Yes” to God’s earth, and don’t always have much to say about that exile part. And then my friend read his New Testament from a sandwich bag. He spoke prophetically to my heart that day on the street. He was reminding me of my yes to God’s exile. I was reminded that even though I feel so comfortable in my nice home and neighbourhood with my wonderful wife – I am really a stranger too.

He spoke prophetically to my heart that day on the street.

Thanks to my friend’s great faith, I am now able to say a louder ‘yes’ to God’s exile. I am better able to trust in God, not in political or economic stability, for my security and future.

And through this friendship, I hope I am able to help my friend say a bit more boldly ‘yes’ to God’s earth. I pray that “these things be given to him as well.” (Luke 12:31)

Which ‘yes’ do you find it harder to embrace?

The Church (a place where he feels very little welcome) is supposed to be the place where those who experience God’s “Yes!” to earth and God’s “Yes!” to exile commune together. This is how we maintain the delicate tension of two yeses: in community and through love. God, help us be true and united to your good earth and good exile.

Which ‘yes’ do you find it harder to embrace? Who can help you to embrace it?

[Photo by Patrick Robert Doyle on Unsplash]

The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.