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30 June 2016
All ventures – large or small - must have a starting point.
The Israelites’ return to Jerusalem was going to be a massive job – where were they to start?
The first chapter of Ezra tells us what was at the top of the list for the returning exiles.
The people of God were not just returning in a geographic sense but it was to be holistic – their hearts and attitudes and devotion must also return to God. Therefore the rebuilding project began with the temple: for this was the place that the Israelites associated with the holy presence of God. The temple was the place where the people of God worshipped. It was where festivals, and rituals, and customs took place. It was a place of celebration and atonement. It was a place of community and unity.
The psalms sing of its significance to the Israelites.
Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. To gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his Temple…”
Psalm 100 “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God…. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.”
The God of Israel uses the Persian King Cyrus to fulfil the promise spoken through the prophet Jeremiah of when the exiled community would return. The Persian King declares “The Lord God of heaven, who is also the God of Israel, has made me the ruler of all nations on earth. And he has chosen me to build a temple for him in Jerusalem…” [Ezra 1:2]
Stage one of the rebuilding project was to restore the place of worship.
Once again, they would ascend to the temple to declare praise and penitence.
The house of the Lord would once again, sit at the centre of their nation.
The God of Israel was to be central to their living and being.
Psalm 16:7-9 “I praise you, Lord, for being my guide. Even in the darkest night, your teachings fill my mind. I will always look to you, as you stand beside me and protect me from fear. With all my heart, I will celebrate, and I can safely rest.”
What helps you keep God in the centre of your life?
Do you need visible and tangible items to help you be reminded of God’s presence?
After reading Ezra 1 what do you notice about the returning Israelites?
Does it surprise you that their first priority was to rebuild the temple?
What does this scripture teach you about keeping God first and central to your life?
Below there is a place to message any comments or questions or insights you have on the first chapter of Ezra. Please join in!