Advent and the End of Exile

Matthew begins his narrative with quite the gripping tale. If it takes well-meaning, would-be readers of the Old Testament several weeks before they get mired in seemingly jumbled laws and endless genealogies, it takes their New Testament counterparts all of ten seconds.

Jesus is the son of David, the son of Abraham–and we get 20+ generations of genealogy to prove it.

But entailed in this genealogy is a story: a story of God’s promises. God has promised a king from the line of David, and God has promised a full restoration of the people–an end to the age of exile.

There was an age of Abraham; there was an age of David; and there was an age of exile (Matthew 1:17). But now the age of the messiah is dawning.

What God had promised to Israel is coming to fruition in Christ. What exile was supposed to do, but didn’t, will now be realized.

“You will call him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21, CEB).

Of course, this is what the prophet had long ago declared, but which had not yet been realized:

Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her
compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received
from the LORD ’s hand
double for all her sins! (Isa 40:1-2, CEB)

The exile was insufficient to pay for the people’s sins. So not only did the exile endure, so did the sins which were its cause.

Advent is the beginning of the end, the beginning of the age of the Messiah, the beginning of the restoration from exile.

Israel’s story is coming to its culmination.

Or, if you prefer the words of hymnody:

O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel that mourns in lonely exile here–
until the son of God appear.

4 thoughts on “Advent and the End of Exile”

  1. The problem here is that it doesn’t look like the exile ended, or if it is argued it did in some sense, the end still looks so different as to not look anyway to be the end of exile.

  2. The exile did come to an end. The history of Israel from Canaan-to-Egypt-to-Canaan was repeated, but with Babylon at the centre. The nation was slain and resurrected numerous times under whatever Covenant Ethics were in force at the time, and each time, Israel was more mature, more prophetic.

    Post exilic Israel was promoted to prophetic advisor to world emperors, serving in a higher court than the Davidic kings. It was Joseph replayed on a greater stage. Daniel played the Covenant bridegroom, obeying in the Garden by refusing the food of kingdom until he was qualified publicly. And Esther matches him chiastically as the fragrant resurrection body, marrying a new Solomon and conquering the entire world. The exile was indeed over.

    The Jews forgot their prophetic ministry and, as under Samuel, demanded a king before time. Instead of Saul they got the Herods, and Christ was the new David. But the “slavery” they suffered under Rome had nothing to do with the sins of the Davidic kings. It was the result of their disobedience to the Restoration Covenant, the one predicted by Jeremiah and ratified in Ezra and Zechariah. They broke the new High Priestly lineage of Zadok, and became elitists instead of witnesses and prophets to the nations.

    The nation was split into two (as a sacrifice) and reunited (the houses of Judah and Israel). The only reason the writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah is because the same process was happening again, only this time it was the reunion of Jew and Gentile.

    You are correct in that it was the culmination of Israel’s history, which itself follows the Creation week: Light on the waters (Call of Abraham); Firmament (Red Sea parted); Land and Sea (Canaan); Ruling Lights (the Kings); Swarms (Gentile Eagles and Sea Beasts); Mediators (Joshua the High Priest to Jeshua the High Priest); and finally the Rest promised to the Old Covenant faithful, who were seated on thrones and now rule with Christ.

    Our problem is that this pattern occurs at many levels in the Bible – like a fractal – and we have a hard time separating them from each other.

  3. excellent! I’ve been studying Dan 9 and have wondered if the 490 years was an extension of the 70 in Babylon. Thanks for the confirmation with this post. It occurs to me that post-exilic Judiaism was looking for political and release from their captors in Babylon and later also in their homeland. It is as if they were exiles in their own land (after the return).

    I believe Gabriel thru Daniel is making the point that Israel’s problem is far greater than there lack of political and cultic autonomy. There problem runs deeper than the external. They are a people exiled in heart from their Covenant Maker.

    I see Israel in this situation as serving for an example of the systemic problem with all of humanity. Messiah is the only solution AND He is much more interested in a return of man’s heart than a return to political or ethnic power.

    thanks again for your encouraging thots. It lifts up the beauty of the Atonement in Christ.

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