Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Exile Pattern

Happy birthday to anyone but me.

Big Idea: The Exile imagery in the Bible describes when God’s people are cut off from all that is familiar, needing to hold on to God alone.

Happy Birthday to Anyone But Me

I moved to New York City straight out of college. I took a day off for my birthday. How does one celebrate a birthday in the largest city in America not knowing anyone yet?

Getting groceries, the entire store sang Happy Birthday to one of their employees. I closed my eyes and imagined it was to me too. But I knew it wasn’t. I stopped at the post office. Someone yelled across the room “Happy Birthday” to the person next to me in line. That evening as I watched a sitcom on TV, you guessed it. Somebody celebrated a birthday on the show.

My birthday all by myself mocked me.

That sense of strangeness and aloneness is part of the Biblical image of exile. Out of my comfort zone with all the familiar props removed, God whispered, “Trust me. I am still here.”

The Exile Pattern

Adam and Eve experienced exile. They second guessed God, getting banished from their paradise habitat. Later in Genesis, the story of Joseph is all about exile. The trigger idea is associated with the phrase going “down.”

    Down into the cistern (Gen 37:24)

    Down to Egypt (Gen 37:15. 39:1)

    Down into the dungeon (Gen 39:20)

We too use the term down when things don’t go well.

    I’m feeling down.

    He’s down with the flu.

    Our portfolio is down.

Exile Happens

Throughout the Old Testament, exile happens, often because one chooses against God’s way. This was not in Joseph’s case, and God had a special mission to prepare for him. He was sent for a purpose into exile. When God’s people go down into exile, God desires it will drive them to Himself. and to use them.

You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ Jeremiah 29:13-14 NASB

The New Testament reminds believers this world is not our home. We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), strangers in exile on this earth (Heb 11:13). The longer we know Jesus, the more this world feels like we don’t belong here. We walk through this strange planet feeling alien, strengthened best when driven to Him. He will see us through our Exile.

As Joseph told his brothers,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. Genesis 50:20 NLT

God is with us in our exile moments. He wants these uncomfortable experiences to draw us closer to Him, depending on Him more than ever.

Check out this BibleProject video on Exile for more insight.

[The four blogs for October are based on the four primary patterns (also known as themes) in the movements of Genesis presented by the BibleProject. Next month's theme will be about how I have learned to be thankful in the midst of physical health issues.]

Up next: 3 Things I Miss Since I Broke My Foot
Previous post: The Blessing and Curse Pattern


1. Does an experience come to mind when a trial or hurtful event was difficult, but later you could see that God used it for good? If you cannot think of something, in quiet prayer ask God to show you He was at work.

2. What Bible verse or passage comforts you when you feel alone, or separated from all that is familiar, for instance, during the early days of the pandemic?

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