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Copyright © Jules Dervaes

September 17, 1983

You are living in the most powerful and most prosperous nation on earth. As a resident of this advanced society, you are enjoying a certain measure of success and prosperity; you have a nice home, maybe with a garden. Overall, your lifestyle is a very comfortable one. But, as a member of a religious sect, you are one of more than 100,000 brethren scattered abroad whose unique God-given heritage sets you apart from the mainstream. Fortunately, you have religious freedom here, and, in the midst of all the major pagan religions, you are keeping the Sabbath.

For some time now, you have had in your possession a letter sent to you from the prophet living at headquarters that states there will be a definite end to your residence here. Over fifty years have passed, and, according to prophecy, it won’t be long now. Time is really short. Then, one day, a sign occurs that leaves no doubt in your mind that this is it–the time to leave. Political circumstances drastically change overnight as a new leader comes to power. Prophecy has been fulfilled to the letter.

You and your brethren suddenly are not only permitted to leave the country, but also are encouraged to do so by the government. You will soon be assisted to go and make a new start, to build your church and make it a safe place. However, your proposed destination is in stark contrast to how you have been living all these years. It is a city that is desolate and lay in ruins; the few inhabitants are poverty-stricken. Under the leadership of a descendant of King David, a group is forming to return to the land of your ancestors. And, on this one man is placed the responsibility of laying the foundation and making ready the church to which Jesus Christ would later come. There is a hard life ahead. The choice is risky. Will you go?

Did you imagine these fascinating events as happening now or in the future? Incredibly, what was described has already occurred during the years 606-536 before Christ. It happened exactly this way to the Jews who were living in Babylon as captives after Jerusalem was burned by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. What can we learn from our relatives the Jews and their experiences?

For us Israelites today there are important lessons from these historical experiences of our close kinsman, the tribe of Judah. Look at the striking similarities. For instance, the Jews in captivity were sent a letter from the prophet Jeremiah living in Jerusalem, their headquarters, who promised an end to their exile (Jeremiah 29). They also received a booklet predicting the very downfall of Babylon (Jeremiah 50 and 51). They heard scriptures expounded to them that applied to coming world events (Isaiah 44 and 45). They were given a leader named Zerubbabel to follow at the end time.

It seemed that the Jews, then, had everything going for them to help them leave. Everyone of them left Babylonian captivity for Jerusalem–you would think so, wouldn’t you?

The actual number of returnees is given in Ezra 2 as 42,360. The historian Max Dimont states in his book, Jews, God, and History, that the total Jewish population living in Babylon at this time was 150,000. Therefore, more than two-thirds of the Jews chose to stay behind. Why did such a large group refuse the invitation to leave? How could that happen … and why?

Basically, it comes down to the plain fact that the majority were satisfied where they were. They had begun to think of themselves as good Babylonians and had ceased yearning to leave. The remnant that had returned were the ones that, after all the many years in bondage, still longed for Jerusalem. These verses of Psalm 137 show their deep emotional involvement to their true homeland:

By the rivers of Babylon,
we sat and wept,
when we remembered Zion.

If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.

If I do not remember you,
may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth;
if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.

Do you see their total emotional involvement, their deep commitment to Jerusalem? Not forgetting their attachment, they did not make themselves “at home” in Babylon. Their hearts were not bound up in their temporary residence and they remained strangers in a foreign land. Instead, they yearned without ceasing for Jerusalem. And the intensity of their yearning grew stronger and stronger as the time grew shorter for them to leave.

Can we understand what yearning is? Yearning can be described as a spiritual hunger and thirst. If you have ever experienced a physical hunger and thirst, as after the Day of Atonement, you realize that the desire can be so intense that it brings on aches and pains that, if not satisfied, can lead to fainting. Your whole being can be preoccupied with extinguishing that urgent longing. The same is true with the true hunger and thirst of the spiritual way. It’s a spiritual hunger and thirst, a desire so strong in you that you’re in pain and aching.

Jesus told us we should really yearn when He said, “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). We should be yearning for righteousness. The word righteousness encompasses all that God stands for; it means all the graces of the Kingdom and the full restoration of everything to the way it should be–in God’s image and to the way it was in the beginning. We should be urgently longing for the New Jerusalem, the seat of the millennial rule of Jesus Christ.

How can we yearn? First, we should be THINKING often about the soon-coming Kingdom. This event should be uppermost in our minds; it should be a real and vivid picture of a certain and sure happening. Using this picture as reference, we should relate all that we do to the future Kingdom. There is a positive correlation about what we think about often and what we will do. If we don’t think about something often, then we are less likely to do it. We are to carry a torch of yearning and pass it along to our friends, our brethren, and, especially, our children. We should definitely light the fire of yearning.

Second, after thinking about the Kingdom, then we should be ACTING on it. Act as children. Follow their example when it comes to relishing the Sabbath. Children anticipate an opportunity to be with their friends and is something they dare not miss. They gravitate together, becoming totally involved in the joy of friendship. Have this yearning so strong that you can taste it, feel it.

Just as some of the Jews did in ancient Babylon, we should be yearning for our true home. Aren’t we in modern Babylon today and in economic bondage? Whereas the Jews were only longing for a temporary, physical city, we have, instead, a permanent, eternal home ahead for us. So, as we learn much from our own church history, perceiving the similarities from the Jews in Babylon, realize this one fact: those that yearned–left; and those that were satisfied–stayed.

We all know that children are excitable. We know how much they really like the Feast of Tabernacles. They really enjoy it. You can see it on their faces, smiling and bright. It’s their place of safety out of the world.

I would like to share with you, in closing, this personal example about children an example of a real yearning that is available to us. After this Feast of Tabernacles was over, we had packed the car and had managed to get everything inside. We had parted with everyone and we were on the verge of returning home when I found my 9 year-old daughter in the motel room, crying. She was crying because the Feast she had enjoyed so much had ended.

Well, yes, she should cry. In her own way, she was hungering and thirsting for the Feast of Tabernacles to go on and on and on. And we should cry and be hungering and thirsting after the coming of the Kingdom of God.

So, let us pray now: “Please, God, let us never stop aching and crying to have ‘Your Kingdom come.'”

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