I never thought it would feel like an exile,
this place I called home from day one.
I never expected that word to arise in ashes,
beauty slayed by disappointment and dashed expectations.
Tears that overflowed in joy as we descended months ago
ran down in fear with the second descent.
The unknowns pile up, heaping more ashes upon the fire.
And I realize how unsettled I am, we are, here and now.
I react strongly against words to the contrary.
And He spoke, out of my harshly held lips—
“I think He’s made us so unsettled so that we’d settle ourselves in Him before this place or season or ministry.”
Immediately, I knew a document would arise—a glorious unsettling.
And today it returned to me, as God promised in Zephaniah 3—
a glorious unsettling to bring His people home to Him.
“In the end I will turn things around for the people.
I’ll give them a language undistorted, unpolluted,
Words to address God in worship
and, united, to serve me with their shoulders to the wheel.
They’ll come from beyond the Ethiopian rivers,
they’ll come praying—
All my scattered, exiled people
will come home with offerings for worship.
You’ll no longer have to be ashamed
of all those acts of rebellion.
I’ll have gotten rid of your arrogant leaders.
No more pious strutting on my holy hill!
I’ll leave a core of people among you
who are poor in spirit—
What’s left of Israel that’s really Israel.
They’ll make their home in God.
This core holy people
will not do wrong.
They won’t lie,
won’t use words to flatter or seduce.
Content with who they are and where they are,
unanxious, they’ll live at peace.”
So sing, Daughter Zion!
Raise the rafters, Israel!
be happy! celebrate!
God has reversed his judgments against you
and sent your enemies off chasing their tails.
From now on, God is Israel’s king,
in charge at the center.
There’s nothing to fear from evil
Jerusalem will be told:
“Don’t be afraid.
Your God is present among you,
a strong Warrior there to save you.
Happy to have you back, he’ll calm you with his love
and delight you with his songs.
“The accumulated sorrows of your exile
I, your God, will get rid of them for you.
You’ve carried those burdens long enough.
At the same time, I’ll get rid of all those
who’ve made your life miserable.
I’ll heal the maimed;
I’ll bring home the homeless.
In the very countries where they were hated
they will be venerated.
On Judgment Day
I’ll bring you back home—a great family gathering!
You’ll be famous and honored
all over the world.
You’ll see it with your own eyes—
all those painful partings turned into reunions!”
And I hear Him say, “Believe My promise. Believe My love. Do not fear.”
And I long to obey these words. But without Him, I cannot.
I must look to His obedience and let Him cover me again
with the fact that I don’t have to do this,
not alone, not ever on my own.
Because He is not a God who leaves us defenseless,
who expects us to lose so that He may win with a fury-filled victory.
No, He is the God who sets up Himself as the only defense,
who makes hope a stronghold for His prisoners to be known by,
whose victory is a love song.
He won the victory for us to walk in from day one,
not to discover after long-fought battles of flesh,
an eternal victory that can never be crushed.
Because the serpent is already crushed—once & for all.
And though He crushes all that is around me—
every expectation and desire and dream and known thing—
He promises to rebuild the ruins.
Not to the exact specifications I thought were good,
but to the exact plans that He knows are best.
His blueprints are more than I dare imagine—
they are gold.
Yes, He’s building a city of gold,
to reflect a lasting city where all is gold,
glittering in the light of His presence.
And I’m His gold—the precious gleam in His eye.
That’s why He’s rebuilding.
What I thought was “good enough” is nowhere near His best.
And His love breathes life into my dying city,
breathes renewal over these dry bones,
sings His songs, raises His banners,
calming me, delighting in me,
speaking victory into the defeated places,
and asking me to sit, to slow down,
to allow His love to quiet me
as He dissipates the sorrows
and brings the exiles home to Himself.
not in painted chains that claim His love,
but in a glorious unsettling that knows His love.