Thriving as Exiles – Intercessors for America

Where are we? War in Israel; indoctrination by a false national history in the schools, to lead children away from their parents, their country, and their God; relentless propaganda to force artificial divisions between people, whether on race, sex, gender identity, political party, vaccination status, and even pet pedigree — rescue dogs being the PC choice (yes, that’s a thing!).

Hundreds of thousands of people are flooding over the southern border, many of them criminals, and many of them also infected with the very virus that U.S. citizens are being pressured to vaccinate themselves against — though those migrants are allowed to refuse the vaccine.

The mainstream and social media are slavishly supporting the talking points of the extreme left and crushing all dissent through “deplatforming” and “cancelling.”

Hundreds of thousands of babies continuing to die in the womb in horrible ways at the hands of supposed “healers” and by the choices of their mothers.

You might be excused for feeling like an exile in the land in which you have been born, have been raised, and have lived for so long. You would be excused for feeling like your head is spinning, like you can’t believe what is happening to your beloved America.

You wouldn’t be blamed if you felt like you wanted to stay in bed all day, with your head under the covers; if you threw in the towel, so to speak, and sat solving Sudoku puzzles all day; if you unplugged and checked out.

Nope, I wouldn’t blame you. And I hope you wouldn’t blame me. But let’s face it, if we thought we could flee to Canada, as in those old 1960s days, well, think again. Even Australia and New Zealand, long favorite fantasy escapes for me, are no longer potential refuges.

Where can we go now? What is happening here?

As always, the Word of God gives us truth.

Foreigners in a Foreign Land 

In the land of Judah — the southern kingdom of the once mighty Israelites and the home of the temple of the Lord God — there was once a lowly and lonely prophet. Like most prophets of Yahweh (the covenant name of the Lord God), Jeremiah had a difficult call: to speak over nations and kingdoms … to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant. (Jeremiah 1:10 NIV).

And Jeremiah did that, declaring Yahweh’s judgment for the sin of His people and of other nations. And he encountered opposition and resistance. And perhaps once or twice, he may have met repentance. But the nation Jeremiah cared the most for — Judah — continued to rebel against Yahweh. Ultimately, Judah received the Holy One’s judgment in the form of an invasion and resultant exile under the Babylonians.

It may be hard to imagine what it was like for the Israelites to be exiled to Babylon, a land where rulers and objects were worshipped as gods; where the government demanded, on pain of death, absolute fealty; where an unfamiliar, confusing language and a heretical religion were dominant; and where practicing Hebrews were persecuted.

And there were faithful ones caught up and persecuted in the judgment of the exile. For the people of God and the innocent are not always exempt from the effects of judgment. Remember Daniel? And his buddies who went into the furnace?

Trying to live as a faithful Hebrew in Babylon may have been just like trying to live as a faithful Christian in the United States today.

I can imagine a couple of responses to this situation in Babylon:

  • Compromise with the governmental, societal, and religious culture. What’s the big deal? Abandon your religious conviction and go with the flow. After all, the Lord doesn’t want us to cause unnecessary “friction,” does He? That wouldn’t be a good witness, would it?
  • Curse the wicked. Turn your prayers into weapons against all those who oppose the Lord and His people. Let the tongue be guided by feelings of hatred and spread a little vengeance around. After all, God doesn’t want there to be evil, does He? Wouldn’t it be best if those who do evil were neutralized?

Sadly, I’ve engaged in both responses here in America, but there is a third response, and it is found in a letter that our beleaguered Jeremiah sent to the exiled leadership of Judah.

Before we get to that response, though, let’s look at this important letter found in Jeremiah 29. It instructs the defeated Hebrews in how to live in a foreign land, and it warns them against listening to false prophets and others who have led the people astray. In Judah, this included the king, some of the priests, and other leaders who led the people deeper into sin while dismissing the warnings of Yahweh’s judgment.

But there is hope! This letter shares Yahweh’s promise of a day when He will restore the exiles to their original land — in fulfillment of His unbreakable covenant promises to the fathers of Israel.

These promises are a favorite set of verses for many (and they serve as my life verses too):

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile (Jeremiah 29:11–14 ESV).

Frankly, I usually hear the first couple of verses quoted. But those final verses are instructive also. Part of the important dynamic to restoration in the land is seeking God in prayer and intercession, something we intercessors at IFA know a bit about.

Wait, There’s More

Recently, I’ve been drawn to the opening of the letter, where I am reminded in verse 10 that the exile would be 70 years long. For some of the exiles, their time in Babylon will be their entire lifetime. Is that fair? Especially for the faithful ones? Lord, have mercy!

What might this mean for me, feeling like an exile in America? How long will it be before the land is restored? Is it possible that I will live in exile in these United States for a Babylonian-long lifetime?

Discouraging thoughts, for sure. And yet, the book of Jeremiah is known for its theme of hope.

How is that? How am I to survive, to get along, perhaps even to thrive, in such an evil culture, in such evil days?

Again, Jeremiah’s letter gives us the most excellent way, the way of witness, the way of Yahweh’s love. As the Hebrew exiles were urged:

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare (Jeremiah 29:4–7 ESV).

The Hebrews were called to settle in; to build their lives, their families, and, ultimately, their influence; and to pray for the good of Babylon. Their good was tied up with the good of their enemy.

They were called to that third response to the foreign culture: to commit — not to the evil, but to the Lord’s purposes in that culture; to build His influence; to plant the good kingdom and allow the Lord to bless through them; to expand the people of God; to pray; to care; to love.

Some people believe that the writings the Hebrews left in Babylon influenced the Magi to search for the Great King when they espied the phenomenon in the night sky. And these visitors from afar knelt before that great King as He sat on His mother’s knee in a dusty little Middle Eastern village. Did Daniel know how far and how deep his influence on Babylon might go?

Do we? For we, being exiles in our own land, are also called to commit to the Lord’s best for America.

We are not to give up. We are to establish our houses, our families — even the family of Jesus Christ — in this land. We are to multiply the Lord’s influence. Most significantly, as intercessors, we are to pray for the good of America and its people — all its people — for in God’s best for them, we will find ours.

A Closing Prayer

Lord, please forgive us for when we have compromised with the evil in America. And please forgive us for when we have cursed people who do evil things, because Jesus died on the cross for them as He did for us. Please forgive us for unthinking reactions of scorn, repugnance, and ridicule, and for allowing cynicism, unforgiveness, and discouragement to rob us of hope and to silence our prayers. We ask You, Holy One of Israel, to forgive those who have sinned against You and against us and against each other. Cover all these sins — ours and theirs — under the blood of Jesus, and let our enemies lose their influence over the United States by the virtue of Christ and His blood. 

Teach us the most excellent way: to commit to Your best for the land in which we dwell, to build our homes and the family of Jesus Christ here, and to increase the influence of the Lord so that the nation may abound in the blessings and salvation of Heaven. We lay hold of the heavenly way and choose Your welfare for this nation and for ourselves. In Jesus’ name. Amen and amen.

Does this speak to you? Share your thoughts and a prayer for this nation in the comments below!

New York City–based Joyce Swingle is an intercessor and a contributing writer for IFA. With her husband, Rich, also a contributing writer for IFA, Joyce shares the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through theater, speaking, writing, and film. Prior to going into full-time ministry, Joyce worked for about 20 major magazines and now works in pastoral ministry and Christian counseling. Read more about Joyce’s work at Photo Credit: Min An from Pexels.