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Life in the New Normal

They tell us to get used to it. It is the “new normal.” It is not so new after all, however. In fact, it is quite old.

The Babylonian captivity of the Jews was one of the major turning points of the Old Testament. This story can give us courage and wisdom in our new situation if we pay attention to it.

The Jews went into captivity because of their sins. God punished them by unleashing the Chaldeans on them (Hab. 1:5-10). Are we really surprised that what is happening in America might be the just punishment of God for our rebellion? Did people think they could get away with murdering sixty million babies and legalizing same-sex marriage?

The Jews had to adjust to a strange land in Babylon. The laws, the culture, and the people were different. They were no longer in the majority and in control. A large portion of Americans who believed in the moral standard of the Bible at one time had a voice in government and the media. That day has passed. Now we face increasing hostility from both. Now we are becoming a minority—just like the captive Jews.

The Jews who were taken to Babylon had to stay there long enough to learn their lesson. That took seventy years (Dan. 9:2). They were not perfect at the end of this time, but they changed their attitude toward the idolatry that had put them in this foreign land. Serving idols was never the problem from that point among the Jews that it was before. Today everyone wants to know how much longer this confusion and stress will last. Only God knows, but the answer may be long enough for us to learn our lesson.

When the people of God returned to Jerusalem after the captivity, they soon discovered that their old home was not the same. The laws were different because they were under the Persian administration. The population was more diverse because of Assyrian immigration policies implemented earlier in neighboring northern Israel. The temple lay desolate and the Jewish religion no longer had the presence it once enjoyed in the community. The die was cast and there was no going back to the way things were.

How did the Jews respond to the changes in their country? The book of Ezra tells us. First, they united. “The people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem” (Ezra 3:1). This unity did not happen when the Jews were deported to Babylon; they were stubborn and divided then. But later they realized that they needed to pull together if they were to survive. When a nation begins to fall part, division trickles down to every sector of society—communities, schools, workplaces, homes and churches. This condition today makes it all the more necessary to realize our need for one another and to work together for the Lord’s cause.

Second, able and concerned men took the lead in restoring the temple (Ezra 3:2). Men like Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and others went to work to rebuild the altar. They did not take a vote of the people or expect the women to make the decision. They acted like men and went forward. We need men today, not just males, but God-fearing men who will put their hands to the plough and not look back or be distracted. We need men in the home, the church, and the nation.

Third, they followed the instructions of the Scriptures. They rebuilt the altar according to what was “written in the law of Moses the man of God” (Ezra 3:2). None of them said, “Those directions are old. The situation has changed. We should find a way of worship that people can relate to. The important part is to worship God; those details are not vital.” In a time when churches are losing numbers and interest, elders and preachers today are tempted to try something new to attract people. This is wrong. Now more than ever we must commit to following the Word of God and let the numbers take care of themselves.

Fourth, the Jews focused on relaying the foundation of the temple (Ezra 3:8-13). The church is the temple of God now (II Cor. 6:16). In this time of division, ignorance, and confusion we must stress the foundational truths of the gospel. We cannot allow our attention to be diverted away from the salvation of our souls.

Fifth, the Jews faced mockery from their enemies as they worked to build the temple (Ezra 4:1-6). Sadly, the Jews for a time gave in to the intimidation of their critics and ceased their work. We are facing bitter opposition today in America and this may become worse. Now is the time for each one of us to determine to hold to the Truth and pray that we will not falter.

We keep hearing people say, “I just want things to get back to normal.” But this is normal now, a new normal, the same old change that God’s people experienced many times in the Bible and overcame by His grace.

Kerry

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