God told me to defect and I know I have to go, but I can’t get past this one question: What do you pack for a defection?
It’s been safe in the city all these years. Our wells are deep and our food supply secure. Yeah, I guess we’ve gotten a little lazy in our worship and Sabbaths and some of the town’s folks have new ways of doing religion but that’s got to be ok, right? The walls are high and wars are just stories our grandfathers tell on long winter nights. It’s nice here. My family and friends are all here. I know who I am and I know I belong.
But God told us to defect. He sent the prophet Jeremiah, who couldn’t have spoken more plainly. Stay in the city and die or defect and live. Crazy choice given my life so far and all the evidence I see before me, it doesn’t make sense at all. We’re safe in the city, aren’t we?
So what do you pack for a defection? I’ve heard of a few people who’ve defected. They left the city to join the throng of refugees tangled in the fringes of the Babylonian army. Some seemed to have taken a lot and some only a little. So what should I pack?
I don’t really know where I’m going, just that God told me to go. I have no idea if I’ll make it to Babylon or if I’ll settle somewhere along the way. I’ve heard stories about Babylon and far off places, and even to a homebody like me some sound too tall to be true. Deep down I know it will be weird and strange and nothing like home and smell funny and it makes me feel scared, very scared. But…
I have to go. God said. I need to defect. I need to do it soon. I could not stay, even if I wanted, because dying by sword, famine and pestilence is not in my five year plan. I plan to live as long as possible and to do that God said I must go. So what do I pack for a defection?
The refugees outside our city have been there for weeks now. They have had to survive the wait and will have to survive the trudging to a new place. I guess I should pack for that… Refugee, I guess I’ll be one of them when I defect… I never thought I’d be a refugee. I guess I should start packing, put things together, it’s getting heated and tough in the city and I see more people leaving each day, but what do you pack for a defection? Maybe I need to take something to bribe guards and soldiers along the way. Maybe I can exchange my ever lowering morale for a small glimpse of hope as I pass over to the enemy’s side.
I’ve done it. I’ve packed. Now I must defect. I’m not exactly sure what I’ve packed but the bags are full. Too many conflicting emotions whirling inside me to think straight to pack and too many tears to see straight. I’ve never left this city before. I have to say good-bye. Will this be the last time I see family and friends or will they change their minds and come too? I understand that it’s hard to go but God clearly gave us a choice. Stay and die or go and live. He didn’t promise an easy life. He didn’t promise us freedom or security. He didn’t even promise any blessings. He simply promised that if we go we will get to keep our lives. So I’m taking Him at His word and I’m defecting, now.
I can’t believe I did it. I defected. I joined a bunch of refugees. Like Jeremiah prophesied we watched the city fall. We shed tears and then packed our gear and started the long march to Babylon. I had no idea how very far away it was. It seemed to take forever. Now I’m here. In Babylon. In a slum with thousands of other refugees. No homes, just shelters made from what we can find. Few jobs but desperate motivation to create some. It’s not what any of us had imagined. But as God promised we have our lives, and a little bit more.
Word has come from the prophet Jeremiah again. I made an effort to go and listen as he was so right last time. It was a message just for us refugees here in Babylon. God told us to settle down, build houses and vineyards as His plan is for our good and not for evil. We’re here for the long haul. It will be seventy years before we Jews are freed and start heading home. That will be beyond my life time.
So once again I obey the voice of God and defect. This time I’m leaving behind the refugee squalor and defector’s mentality. This time I’m taking a bigger step of faith. I’m walking and working into a promise of goodness and blessing. I’m going to find me a new home and a new hope. Good work to feed my family and a future of love and life. I’m going to plant a garden and pray for peace. So I’m taking Him at His word and I’m defecting, now.
So what do you pack for a defection? That’s an easy answer now: I pack the promises of God and beyond that, anything else is a bonus.
This story is based on two passages: Jeremiah 21:8-9 and 29. Often we quote Jeremiah 29:11 and assume the plans of prosperity and hope is for times of happiness and peace in our lives when all is fine and blessings flow. Reality for the Israelites is that this promise came to captives and refugees in Babylon who had left all behind and were at the start of a long exile, far from home and escaping with little more than their lives. Sometimes God’s plan of hope and future and prosperity includes defection and long journeys to faraway places. Usually it involves a huge step or two of faith.
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