Joseph and Daniel: Exemplary Exiles

Think through the characters in Israel’s history who lived out their trust in God most faithfully, and the two names that stand out most are Joseph and Daniel. Though their lives are separated by about 1,300 years, their stories bear great similarities. Both were taken forcefully from their home as teenagers and made to work for the most powerful nation of the day. Both ended up serving the ruler of the land. Both brought great blessings to the foreign people. Both were tempted to compromise their convictions but resisted that temptation. Both wisely navigated partial assimilation to their host culture while remaining faithful to Yahweh. Both interpreted dreams that troubled the ruler. Both enjoyed God’s presence and favor. Both died in a foreign land.

With these stories of Joseph and Daniel in mind, let us pause over this theme of faithfulness in exile. With Israel’s identity so thoroughly tied to the Promised Land, it is astonishing that two of her most faithful witnesses lived very little in the land. For that matter, the two most important figures in Israel’s history–Abraham and Moses–only saw the Promised Land but never inhabited it in its full glory.

This suggests that living a dynamic, God-glorifying life has very little to do with living a settled, predictable life where we taste the fulfillment of all God’s promises. Indeed, the other great figure of Israel’s history, King David, started his sinful turn at the pinnacle of Israel’s peace and rest in the Promised Land.

As we face the particular trials 2016 will bring us, let us not imagine that we would serve God much more effectively if only our loose ends were all tied up and our painful circumstances resolved. Like Esther, another faithful exile, God may have you in that place of weakness or uncertainty or waiting “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Let us entrust our hearts to our Sovereign God and seek to be faithful where he places us.

Pastor Chris

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