Ezra 2 gives us a list of the exiles who returned to Israel from the Babylonian captivity. While all the names and numbers may seem trivial, they are not. And verse 41 gives us a special insight when it says that there also returned “the singers, the sons of Asaph, 128 (people)”. This reveals that Asaph’s line, the leaders of musical worship in Israel, had maintained their continuity even in exile. This is significant.
That the sons of Asaph continued to be recognized as God’s worship leaders indicates that the faith of the exiles remained intact. It would have been easy for the people of Israel just to be absorbed into the religious practices of the Babylonians, into whose land they had come. Indeed, when they dwelt in Israel they had allowed their faith to become corrupted with the practices of the nations — why would it not continue, and even worsen, in captivity in Babylon?
Undoubtedly part of the answer lies in the fact that the trial of the captivity strengthened their faith. Often it is so that hardship will STRENGTHEN a commitment, if it is genuine, rather than destroy it. A number of historians do look at retrospect at the Babylonian captivity as a time when the faith of Israel was refined, idolatry was eliminated, and their commitment to monotheism and the worship of Yahweh alone was confirmed. The captivity, as horrendous a trial as it was, was used by God to strengthen their faith, as was reflected in the continuation of the service of the sons of Asaph.
All of which should lead us each to evaluate our own faith in light of the trials we experience. What effect does hardship have on your faith? Does it devastate it? Or as in the case of Israel in the captivity, is your faith confirmed and strengthened in the trial?