It was on this day that Ezra and his followers left the river Ahava, making their way to Jerusalem, as recorded in the book of Ezra.
“Then we departed from the river of Ahava on the twelfth day of the first month, to go to Jerusalem. And the hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and from ambush along the road. So we came to Jerusalem, and stayed there three days.” (Ezra 8:31-32)
This journey began in Babylon and culminated in Jerusalem. And so this is just one of many examples whereby we see that God calls upon His people to come out of the nations and go up to Jerusalem. Abraham was called to leave the land of the Chaldees (Babylon) and was led to the land of Canaan. Interestingly, his final test came when, in Genesis 22, he was required to go up to Mt. Moriah, along with his son Isaac, and “lift up” his son as a burnt offering. Generations later, the Holy Temple would sit on that very site in the city that would be called Jerusalem.
Like Babylon, Egypt is often used metaphorically to speak of the nations, and so it was that Jacob and his family were compelled to go down to Egypt and settle there. But at the appointed time, God brought Jacob’s descendants out of Egypt, through the wilderness and into the land of Canaan. Centuries later, in an effort to find the new born King of Israel, the Magi traveled from Babylon to Bethlehem, but by way of Jerusalem.
The point of this is to alert us to the fact that we, too, are being called to come out of Babylon and the nations and go up to Jerusalem. That is to say that, first and foremost, we are being called to come out of the mixed and mingled way of thinking that is so prevalent in the world. We must abandon the Babylonian mindset and way of living and find our way back to the Biblical worldview that is provided for us in Scripture. In short, we are being called to follow the ways of the God of Israel.
It’s also worth noting that, even though He calls His people to return to the land of their fathers, it is while they are among the nations that He prospers them and causes to multiply and grow. Though it might come as a surprise, nevertheless, you should know that we, as followers of Messiah, are considered to be living in exile – that is, we haven’t been gathered to Him yet. Yet, it is in this situation that He is causing us to grow and multiply. Though he started out as one, Jacob’s family multiplied and prospered while he was living in Syria working for the oppressive Laban. Later, Jacob went down to Egypt with seventy souls but, by the time they were delivered from the tyrannical hand of Pharaoh, his family had grown to be millions of people.
So if you and I are considered to be living among the nations, perhaps we should be focused on growing and multiplying and, by that, I mean doing our Father’s business. We must be producing fruit and making disciples, all in anticipation of the day when He literally calls upon us to come out of Babylon. One day this journey will be more than just a separating from the mindset and the cultural norms that surround us. One day, maybe in our lifetime, we will be gathered unto the Messiah, in Jerusalem, in a most literal way. But until that day, we must continue to occupy. We must continue to grow, to mature and make disciples.