Life for Israel in the days of Ezra was not unlike our own day. Things were, humanly speaking, uncertain, but hopeful. Life was tough and hard-going, yet encouraging for the people of God.
These were “grey times” and yet, Ezra chapter three seems to say that God’s people can live through these times and even be found rejoicing.
The Focus on the opening verses is on the Altar. Notice what is said about Israel in these verses. They are fearful of the peoples; they long to return to faithful worship; they are willing to acknowledge their fragility. Israel was afraid of the surrounding nations and that drove them to the altar. Shouldn’t we have higher motives for approaching God? Maybe. But what better recourse can we have in times of fear than God?
The feast of Tabernacles was celebrated to remind the Israelites of their wilderness days. For a weak they left their prosperity and moved into little makeshift huts out in the paddock. The feast was God saying, “This is the way it is with my people. Fragile. Don’t ever forget that your life hangs by a thread and that I am your only Sustainer.”
The beautiful lesson is this. You can be fearful and faithful at the same time. Life can be fruitful, even though its fragile.
Ezra goes on to describe the laying of the Temples foundation. The Levites are their with the priests overseeing the work and all the people are engaged in the work in some way. What does this work suggest to the people? Could it be that God is turning history to fulfil His promises in Jeremiah 33:7-11.
Sometimes it is impossible to imagine that things really could get better; that fortunes really can be restored. But that is the message of this Temple foundation. God really will fulfil His promises, but He will do it in a fallen world. And that means that our joy will always be mingled – in this life – with tears. Those who remember the old Temple can see by the foundation that this new Temple will not have all the same sparkle and so they grieve.
That grieving is fine. It is a normal part of life. But we must not let it overshadow us for too long. Nostalgia for what once was can kill a church. We are sometimes tempted to think that if it doesn’t have all the same buzz and bang of the former days that it must be worthless. But the question must never be, “Is it jazzy here”, but, “is Jesus here..” Faithfulness is about contentment. Content to let God do incredible things in ordinary, quiet and non-sensational ways.
Lessons For little Saints…
- Why were the people afraid?
- What did they do when they were afraid?
- Why were some of the men crying?
- Do you think things are getting better or worse for God’s people?