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Work through the confirmation Lesson below. Do the best you can on your own. If you need help, or if you get stuck send me an email, (email@example.com), text or call me (610-401-5602). When you're done, post your answers at the bottom. When we meet next I will go over this and we'll do an exercise to have some fun with it.
Exile and Return
My Faith Story
Ask yourself this question: How can I be sure that God is really with me?
Think about a time in your life when you felt as if you were in your own type of "exile." This could be a time when you felt alone or when it felt as though God was a million miles away. How did God's promises of unfailing love, constant presence, and mercy see you through that difficult time?
Open the Bible
Turn in your Bible to Ezekiel 5:5–8. Read these verses. Even though we don't like to think of God as angry and destructive, the prophet Ezekiel spends a lot of time portraying God as instrumental in the destruction of, as well as the redeeming of, Jerusalem.
Q#1: Do you ever find yourself blaming God when things don't go your way?
Now turn to Ezekiel 36:22–32. These verses were written to offer comfort to God's people, who had been taken captive and had seen their homeland destroyed. This event was called the Babylonian exile and it lasted from 597 to 539 B.C.E. On a piece of paper, make a list of things from this passage that prove that God remained faithful to God's people.
Q#2: Do you think these things are important for us to know about God today? Why or why not?
Read about the end of the Babylonian captivity in Ezra 1:1–11. King Cyrus defeated Babylon and established the Persian Empire. He allowed the exiles (Jews) to return to their homeland. Reread verse 1.
Q#3: How does this verse show that God was behind the return?
Lutheran Study Bible page 737: Read and think about the Faith Reflections question.
Lutheran Study Bible page 2106: Look at the map of the Ancient Babylonian Empire. The return to Jerusalem would require a 900-mile (1,440-kilometer) journey from Babylon. Ezra led them on this four-month journey, and when they got to Jerusalem, they were eager to settle in the land and rebuild the temple.
Turn to Nehemiah 2:17. Read this verse aloud. Here we gain additional insight as to why rebuilding the temple was so important. Additionally, we learn that Nehemiah is concerned with restoring not only the temple but also the entire city of Jerusalem. The "disgrace" he refers to comes from the belief that God's people were exiled because they turned away from God. Nehemiah knows that rebuilding Jerusalem will restore power to the people of God. Nehemiah's enemies tried to keep him from succeeding.
Q#4: What tricks did the enemies use? See Nehemiah 4:1–23 and Nehemiah 6:1–13.
Now turn to Ezra 7:10. Again, read this verse aloud. Ezra, a priest, felt that it was not only important to restore Jerusalem in the physical sense but in the spiritual sense as well. Studying and keeping the law was a major concern for Ezra. Ezra focused on studying and teaching the law in this "new" community. The people not only returned to their homeland, but also to their faith, and Ezra wanted to help renew their faith and their mission in the world.
Open the Catechism
On a piece of paper, write the phrase "confession is good for the soul". Write down what you think this means. Explore how confession reconnects broken relationships. The exile was a time when the sins of Israel separated them from God and from each other. Of the 12 tribes, only one, the tribe Judah (whom we call "the Jews" today), returned from captivity to rebuild their city, their temple and—most importantly—their relationship with God and one another.
Lutheran Study Bible page 753: Check out Nehemiah's prayer in Nehemiah 1:4–11. Then read and think about the Faith Reflection Question about confession.
Student Book page 306: Read together "What is Confession?" Because we sin daily, every day we experience mini-exiles in which we find ourselves separated from those we love. But because of God's forgiveness in Christ, we can also enjoy many happy returns from our daily exiles. Talk about the importance of and difference between public and private confession.
Q#5: What other sorts of exile do we face today?
Q#6: In what ways has God provided inxile for you? Based on the cartoon, create a definition of “inxile” that reflects what you’ve learned today.
Q#7: Read Zechariah 1:1-6. What do you think God meant by the words in verse 3, “Return to me . . . and I will return to you”? How does Zechariah 8:14-23 describe ways we can “return” to God today?
Identify someone you know who is in some kind of exile. Write the person’s name on a sticky note and place it in your Bible. Like the prophets of old, your challenge is to be the voice of God’s hope. How can you bring hope to others? Pick two ways to bring hope to the person on your sticky note this week.
1. In the Babylonian exile, God's people were taken from their land and held captive in the city of . . .
2. The ancient city of Babylon is currently found in modern-day . . .
3. When someone is in exile, he or she is . . .
a. held captive against his or her will.
b. usually unhappy.
c. fearful of what will happen to him or her.
d. all of the above.
4. The time in exile for God's people was more than . . .
a. 100 years.
b. 500 years.
c. 50 years.
d. 150 days.
5. Ezekiel's images of God included . . .
a. a God filled with anger.
b. a God of judgment.
c. a God of faithfulness.
d. all of the above.
6. An important thing to remember about the exile is . . .
a. God was always with God's people.
b. God stopped loving God's people because they were mean.
c. God makes bad things happen to us so we will love God more.
d. Babylon isn't such a bad place to live.
7. A prophet is someone who . . .
a. works for the Internal Revenue Service.
b. ignores God and does what he or she wants.
c. proclaims a message from God.
d. none of the above.
8. The prophet Zechariah called the people to . . .
a. learn a new dance move.
c. return to God.
d. both b and c.