Denouement: Life as an Exile

Today we’re featuring the second post in our Advent series based on the seven themes from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth’s Advent devotional Born a Child and Yet a King: The Gospel in the Carols. “Denouement” is the theme of today’s offering by Cindy Matson. Not familiar with the term denouement? (Don’t worry, you’re not alone!) In Born a Child and Yet a King, Nancy defines it as “a literary term for the final section in a story or play that ties all the various plot threads together.” Enjoy!

He supposed one never really got used to it, though it had happened to him before. Angels interrupting one’s dreams surely did not make for restful sleep. It had taken him two years to recover from the first visit in which an angel had told him to take Mary as his wife because she was pregnant with the Savior. Now here he was, adjusting to life in Bethlehem with his bride and toddler when once again an angel had hijacked his dream. 

The message this second time around had been dire: “Get up! Take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. For Herod is about to search for the child and kill him” (Matt. 2:13). Joseph, no longer drowsy, knew what had to happen. He immediately roused Mary, told her to feed Jesus, and they set off. Thankfully, the wise men had brought him that gold. Otherwise he’d never have been able to afford such a journey. But life in Egypt? Life as an exile? This was not how he had expected the story of raising the Son of God to go. 

This part of the Christmas account doesn’t make it into the Christmas songs or cards. We prefer to leave Jesus in the manger, his mother glowing like an angel, and his father proudly, serenely, gazing at the newborn while shepherds and wise men stand nearby, listening to the soft music of angels—probably singing “Silent Night” in beautiful eight-part harmony. Of course, by now we know that picture is actually quite inaccurate. We won’t go into those details here, but we do need to consider what happened next. As far as Christmas is concerned, it may be an epilogue, but it affects our everyday lives in a tangible way. 

Jesus’ first memories were probably not of shepherds, angels, and wise men. They most likely were of Egypt, a land in which He was a refugee. Of course, all of Jesus’ sojourn on earth could be called life as a stranger in a strange land, but nowhere is that clearer than in Matthew 2 as Joseph obeys God and evades the rage of Herod’s jealous edict by fleeing with his family to Egypt. 

As followers of Messiah, we too have escaped the rage of a deadly pseudo-king and now live as exiles. Perhaps no book of Scripture better prepares us for a life on the outside than the epistle of 1 Peter, which is specifically addressed to exiles (1:1). Though we can’t look at all of it in such a short space, let’s consider one short verse that helps us as pilgrims here. 

Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:17)

Honor Everyone—Even the Emperor 

Honor everyone—even the emperor. This should go without saying, right? Perhaps it should, but Peter knew that it couldn’t in the first century any more than it can in the twenty-first. While the culture all around us shouts about respect, tolerance, and acceptance, we actually live in a considerably intolerant society. Oh sure, we’re taught to “go along to get along,” but that’s not the exile life. We’re not citizens of that country. We’re citizens of the kingdom of heaven who cling to the truth of Scripture, the supremacy of the Creator, and the existence of moral absolutes. And those things are intolerable. 

Peter’s audience knew about suffering for the sake of the gospel. They knew what it was like to be marginalized, rebuked, or fired for standing up for truth; so Peter takes care to make sure that they don’t suffer for the wrong reasons. Well aware of the temptation to dish back what had been dished out, Peter curtails that inclination with a simple command: “Honor everyone.” 

The far-left neighbor who puts up obnoxious yard signs as close to your yard as humanly possible? Yep. Honor him too. 

The abortionist doctor who tried to convince you to abort your child because of a test result consistent with a brain disorder? Honor him. 

The political leader who stands for everything you stand against and mocks those who disagree with him? Yes. In fact, Peter deals with that specifically. Jews living under Roman rule were no bigger fans of their government leaders than many of us today are of our elected officials. Yet Peter did not call them to insurrection or rebellion. He called them to honor. That doesn’t mean we can’t involve ourselves in politics or take proper channels to see things changed. But it does mean we must not participate in mud-slinging or politician-bashing.

We must be known as people-honorers rather than being known for the same hatred-laced venom-spewing of our unbelieving counterparts. In person or online, we exiles are called by our King to honor everyone, especially an unbelieving political figure. Responses, confrontations, questions—as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we’re called to show honor to everyone in all interactions, not because they deserve it, but because they bear the image of the King.

Love the Brothers and Sisters

While we show respect to all people, saved or unsaved, we sojourners must pay special attention to one another. It would make no sense for an embassy to throw out one of its country’s legitimate citizens because they came from a different part of the homeland. So, the church is called to show special care and concern for its own people. 

Of course, there’s a time for separation from a local assembly and a time to speak out against sin in the camp. However, our King told His followers that they should be identifiable because of their love for one another (John 13:35). 

Sadly, it’s easy for us exiles to spend so much time bickering and quarreling with each other that we lose sight of the fact that we’re all citizens of the same place. Especially within the local church, but also to the far reaches of the global Church, we must take care of one another. The way we interact with each other speaks volumes to our unbelieving neighbors. 

Fear God

The prophet Daniel knew something about life as an exile. Kidnapped from Judah as a teenager, he would never return to his homeland. Instead, he would serve the kings of Babylon and eventually Persia and die outside of the land of promise. He teaches us to fear God instead of man. 

We all know the story. Daniel, an old man by this point, had a reputation for serving and praying to his God. No skeletons in his closet, no secrets on his internet history. Because of his high position in the Persian palace, his subordinates grew jealous and plotted against him. They soon realized that their only hope of entrapping Daniel was to capitalize on his faithfulness to Yahweh. So they went to King Darius, buttered him up, and convinced him to sign a foolish law forbidding prayers to anyone but the king for one month. Of course, Daniel was unfazed. Knowing the law was signed, he did what he had always done: he went home and prayed, with windows wide open for all to see. 

Daniel didn’t know at that point that God would shut the mouths of lions. Though he had seen his God do some spectacular things in his day, my guess is that he thought he would finally die in the lions’ den. After all, he was nearing death anyway. And if God chose for him to go out this way, so be it. This was the attitude of his friends from long ago as they stood before another king and said,

“If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:17–18, emphasis added)

Daniel, as well as his three friends, understood the fear of the Lord. They recognized His power, lived their lives for Him alone, and accepted the repercussions of their faithfulness. But they didn’t live in fear of the dictator. 

We are called to the same life. Exiles for the moment, we must remember that our King is ruling and reigning today, completely in control of and involved in our lives.He is the One we must fear, not a law, a ruling, or referendum. He can shut the mouths of lions and quench the heat of the fire, but even if He chooses not to, He has already defeated death. 

For us exiles, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). 

As we look back on the Lord’s generous provision for Revive Our Hearts in 2023, it only makes us more excited about all He has in store for 2024. Would you prayerfully consider joining us in financially supporting this vital work? When you do, your gift will be doubled thanks to our matching challenge. May Christ be magnified in the days ahead as we call women to find their joy, their hope, and their satisfaction in Him. Give today!

About the Author

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson

Cindy Matson lives in a small Minnesota town with her husband, son and daughter, and ridiculous black dog. She enjoys reading books, drinking coffee, and coaching basketball. You can read more of her musings about God's Word at

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