Ezra 2:1-2, 68-3:13                         Kevin E. Jesmer

Key Verse: 3:3                                 10-1-19

“They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening.” (3) (ESV)

Dear Lord Heavenly Father, thank you for your transforming work in our lives through the Gospel. I am grateful for the hope in the Kingdom of Heaven. I am grateful for the Bible’s teachings. Where would my life be without you, your word and the hope in the Kingdom of God? Please help me to understand your word in Ezra today. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Part 1: Survival In a Hard Land (2:1-2,68-70)

2:1-2, “Now these were the people of the province who came up out of the captivity of those exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried captive to Babylonia. They returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town. 2 They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Seraiah, Reelaiah, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispar, Bigvai, Rehum, and Baanah. The number of the men of the people of Israel:”

The land had been filled with people from other lands. They had been transplanted there by the Babylonians. There were also poor Israelites that had been left there to tend the fields. The land was underdeveloped, filled with villages and towns of people trying to make lives for themselves. Indeed, life was hard. But the returned exiles were bound together. They were enlivened in their spirits by the Lord. They were eager to build and develop a society for the glory of God.

They moved into their towns and gave a free-will offering for the rebuilding of the temple. Though they began the hard task of surviving, they kept their focus on the reason they returned. They were to be a people dedicated to the Lord, a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation.

There are times when God wants us to set out and live a new life for his glory. This may be a time after experiencing much spiritual discipline. We may be recovering from some very hard training. But God enlivens our hearts as he turns the page in a new chapter in our lives. He inspires us to join with other believers and build up the work of God for his glory.

I feel that a new chapter is beginning for Julie and myself. We are going to be completely empty nesters in December. We are poised to be free to serve the Lord with no children living at home. God is enlivening our hearts to serve through the church. We are more willing to invite people over to our home to eat and hangout with us. I don’t know where everything is leading but God is doing something. He is enlivening our hearts to join with others in the church to serve his Gospel mission.

The people made a priority to make an offering to build the temple. When we are in a hard situation, we seldom want to offer to the church or build up the church. We tend to think that there are more pressing priorities, priorities that include securing our basic needs, like food and shelter and future security. Most people, only give to the work of God if these needs are first met, if they ever give to the work of God.

But the people in this passage were living a more insecure life than we will ever live. They were very uncomfortable and insecure and yet they offered for the temple to be built. This reminds me of the western expansion in the USA in the 1800’s. People moved westward and build new towns. One of the first things that were built in the towns was the church. People made their worship of God a priority and they knew the importance of making a sacrifice to build the church even before their own future was secured. I repent of wanting to wait, and wait, and wait, until I am fully funded and everything is paid off before I serve Christ. I want to serve Christ now without worries. I want to make Christ and his Gospel mission a priority in life.

Part 2: Rebuilding The Altar “As It Is Written” (3:1-6)

3:1-6, “When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.”

Spiritual survival was most urgent. The people of the land were godless and materialistic, so it was not easy for the returned exiles to have a clear identity as God’s people. Fear was on them because of the people of the land. Yet, through faith in God, they overcame fear, rebuilt the altar and began worshiping God in the way prescribed in the Bible.

I can see here that they tried to fashion their new lives according to the Bible, “as it is written”. They were not trying to create something according to their own ideas. It was from the word of God. I feel that this is very important. If we are going to build up the church, we need to do it according to the word of God. Anything that is built must be built on God’s principles and precepts. For if it is not, it will not last.

Part 3: Laying The Temple Foundations And Tasting God’s Joy and Love (7-13)

Verses 7-13, “So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. 9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.”

The attitude and the faith of these people amaze me. What amazes me more is the God who inspired their hearts and their passions and desires. He fanned into flame these inner realities. Laying foundations is hard. It requires a decision of faith, much work and sacrifice, and co-working. The work of God is never easy. But when God is with his people, he makes it happen.

Engaging in the work of God is a very joyful undertaking. When the foundations were laid, all the people shouted praise to the Lord. Some shouted for joy, some wept in sorrow, but all praised the Lord. God was making his people elated and come alive. They were rejoicing all together how God’s steadfast love endures forever. They could declare this because they tasted God’s steadfast love all together as they were serving the Lord.

As we live by faith and put God first and do things that require faith, then there is great joy. Of course, there are times of sorrow and burnout etc. But overall, living a life of faith in Christ is joyful. I have never had so many adventures, and have never laughed so hard, than when I was serving the Lord. Some of my best memories has come when I was working with others to propagate the Gospel of Christ. I know that all of that is not in the past. It can be part of Julie and my present and future as we seek to lay foundations for new works of God.

Prayer: “Lord, help us to lay spiritual foundations through the church, along with your people. Help us to trust in you so much that you are our priority and we are able to live sacrificial lives of faith. “

One Word: Overcome fear; lay foundations and experience great joy in the Lord and God’s steadfast love.

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