No doubt we are all weary of the lockdown, chafing to resume our normal jobs, activities and, most of all, worship assemblies. And while I don’t want to minimize what we are going through, it has only been a little over a month. Perhaps we can use this perspective to help us appreciate other time spans in Scripture.
70 years of captivity. It is easy to read past Bible numbers with little thought, usually because we lack a point of reference. The seventy years of Babylonian captivity was preceded by death and destruction on a massive scale. There were previous incursions and deportations in 605 and 597 B.C. Then Jerusalem was annihilated and the temple burned to the ground in 586. With their nation destroyed, the remnants of Judah were then scattered throughout the Babylonian provinces to prevent the resurgence of the nation. What mental torment this must have brought the exiles! No wonder when their enemies “required of us a song” their response was, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand for get her skill!” (Ps 137:3-5). And this went on for 70 years.
40 years of wilderness wandering. We all know this number well, but it is difficult to relate to it. Next month I will have been preaching for forty years. Some of those years have been challenging, but they don’t hold a candle to tent-living in the desert. Since Melanie and I married we’ve lived in Ohio, Florida, England, Alabama, Georgia and Virginia. Check out Numbers 33 for Moses’ travelogue of wilderness wandering; it will boggle your mind. And it was truly a death-march; every day in the desert should have reminded the people of their disobedience and what they could have had in the land “flowing with milk and honey.” Every day they buried more and more of the older generation upon whom God had declared capital punishment. And this went on for 40 years.
5 (or so) years of imprisonment. Again, we may know the facts of this period, for Luke gives ample detail, but we might lack the feel for it. Paul, who had traveled extensively planting churches as far as Corinth and had planned to go to Spain for the same purpose, is now quarantined in chains. Not for a month, not for three months … but somewhere around sixty months. Our quasi-quarantine might give us new insight on such interruptions of life and the spiritual stresses they inflicted on the faithful.