Monthly Archives: June 2013

Joyful Worship Restored

Sunday School Lesson

Lesson: Ezra 3:1-7

Golden Text: “They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required” (Ezra 3:4).

INTRODUCTION. People often begin to worship God from the heart out of desperation brought on by some type of trouble. In this week’s lesson we see that Israel was desperate. They had been allowed to return to the Promised Land after being in captivity in Persia. They found themselves under great stress from their enemies who lived in the land. They had the challenge of establishing a city and sustaining themselves agriculturally and financially. However, when they began to honor the Lord by restoring the prescribed worship, they moved from desperation to joyful worship.

II. THE SETTING FOR THE RESTORATION (Ezra 3:1). Ezra was a captive during the Babylonian Captivity. He was also a scribe (see Ezra 7:6, 12) and a priest (see Ezra 7:1-5). As a scribe, his duty was to copy, interpret and transmit the books of the Law. The Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians with a series of deportations to Babylon beginning in 605 B.C. The Captivity would last for 70 years (see Jeremiah 25:11; 29:10) from 586 B.C., when the temple was destroyed, to about 516 B.C. when the returning exiles rebuilt it.

A. The time and the people’s circumstances (Ezra 3:1). After resettling in the towns and villages where their ancestors had lived (see Ezra 2:70), our text begins with “And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.” The Jews had two calendars, a civil calendar and a religious calendar. The “seventh month” on the religious calendar was Tishri which is the same as our mid-September through mid-October, but it was also the first month on their civil calendar. It was celebrated by the blowing of trumpets and a holy convocation, or sabbath day in which no work could be done (see Leviticus 23:24-25). The Day of Atonement followed on the tenth day (see Leviticus 23:26-32), and the Feast of Tabernacles was observed from the fifteenth to the twenty-second day of the month. Since the seventh month had such spiritual significance, it seemed to be the proper time to reestablish their worship. In the seventh month the people “gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem.” The phrase “as one man” means that the people were in full agreement that the reestablishment of worship must take precedence over anything else. After years of captivity, they now understood that if they neglected worship disaster would follow.

III. THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE RESTORED (Ezra 3:2-3)

A.The leaders of the restoration (Ezra 3:2). This verse says “Then stood up Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, and builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.” The leaders in restoring the worship in Jerusalem were first “Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests.” Here called “Jeshua,” this priest is called Joshua in Haggai 1:1 and Zechariah 3:1. He was the grandson of Seriah, the last high priest before the Captivity (see II Kings 25:18-21). The phrase “his brethren the priests” refers to Jeshua’s relatives from the priesthood. There were 4,289 members of the Jewish priestly family among those who returned (see Ezra 2:36-39). It was very important that the restored worship be conducted by descendents of Aaron. The next leader was “Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren.” The name “Zerubbabel” was Babylonian and means “offspring of Babylon.” However, he was of Jewish royal lineage being a descendent of David and the grandson of Jehoiachin (see I Chronicles 3:17-20). Since he is called the governor of Judah (see Haggai 1:1), he was also most likely the political leader of the returning Jews. The phrase “and his brethren” could refer to either other Israelites, or probably others of the royal Davidic line. All of these men came together to rebuild the “altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon.” Rebuilding the altar came before anything else. The temple foundations had not been laid yet indicating that offering of sacrifices was the main feature of Jewish worship, because it was the divinely given means for atonement, or forgiveness of sins. Without an altar there could be no sacrifice. The altar was constructed “as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.” In other words, the altar was built according to the instructions given in the Law of Moses, and the returning exiles saw the need for following the law. They understood that their fathers had been removed from their land for disobeying God’s Law, and they certainly didn’t want to repeat that mistake.

B.The burnt offerings resumed (Ezra 3:3). This verse continues to say “And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord, even burnt offerings morning and evening.” This group mentioned in the previous verse “set the altar upon his bases” meaning that they set the altar on its foundation. They may have been able to find the place where the altar once stood and set it up there. The phrase “for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries” gives us the reason why it was so important that they finish the altar first. They were afraid of the peoples who now occupied the land and they realized they needed God’s protection. “The people of those countries” were the groups of people who now lived in Israel. These included nations that the Jews didn’t cast out of the land as God directed including the Amonites, Moabites, and Edomites, and the Philistines. There were also foreign peoples living in Judah and Israel that were brought in by the Assyrians who intermarried with the Jews who were left in Israel after the Assyrian invasion. This created a group later called Samaritans. No doubt all of these groups of peoples hated the idea of a restored Jerusalem and may have thought the returning exiles threatened their claim to the land.

IV. THE RELIGIOUS OBSERVANCES RESTORED (Ezra 3:4-6)

A. The Feast of Tabernacles (Ezra 3:4). In this verse we are told that “They kept also the feast of tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required.” Now that the altar was finished, it was ready to be used fully. The “feast of tabernacles” was one of three yearly feasts that all Jewish males were to attend in Jerusalem. The other two were the feast of unleavened bread and the feast of weeks, or Pentecost (see Exodus 23:14-17; Leviticus 23:34-42; Deuteronomy 16:16). The “feast of tabernacles” is also called the Feast of Booths because the Jews were to build temporary shelters (tents, booths or lean-tos) to remind them of the time their forefathers spent in the wilderness of Sinai after they left Egypt (see Leviticus 23:39-42; Nehemiah 8:14-18). Living in these temporary shelters would also remind Israel that they were only strangers and pilgrims on this earth. This feast began on the fifteenth day of the seventh month Tishri on the Hebrew calendar, and lasted for one week. It was the first feast celebrated by the returning exiles after they restored worship in Jerusalem. The “Feast of Tabernacles” is the only feast that will be celebrated during the Millennial reign of Christ (see Zechariah 14:16-21).

This verse also says that the feast of tabernacles was kept “as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number, according to the custom, as the duty of every day required.” In other words, the people observed the “feast of tabernacles” precisely as the law instructed. It was to last for seven days and each day required a certain number of animals to be offered as a burnt offering (see Numbers 29:12-38). More sacrifices were made during this feast than during any other. In addition, though the other feasts may have been a time of joy, the “feast of tabernacles” is the only feast at which the law commanded the people to rejoice (see Deuteronomy 16:14).

B. Other feasts (Ezra 3:5). This verse says “And afterward offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and of every one that willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord.” The phrase “And afterward” refers to the end of the Feast of Tabernacles. Once this feast was completed they “offered the continual burnt offering, both of the new moons, and of all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated.” The people offered the burnt offering every day, including the new moon offering which was offered at the beginning of each month (see Numbers 10:10; 28:11-15). The phrase “all the set feasts of the Lord that were consecrated” refers to the seven feasts mentioned above (see commentary on verse 3) that were “consecrated” or set apart to God. In addition, everyone “willingly offered a freewill offering unto the Lord.” With all of the offerings to be given, surely there was a need for the altar. Note: When we give our resources to the Lord, it all belongs to Him and is no longer ours. If we say it must be used for something specific that we personally want to see done, then it is really not given freely. The Macedonian Christians got it right. They first gave themselves to the Lord and then they gave their resources (see II Corinthians 8:5). Giving is part of worship and it shows our gratitude to the Lord for what He has done for us. For sure it is impossible to earn God’s favor, but He still loves to have worshippers who show their open hearts with open wallets (see II Corinthians 9:7). The returning exiles brought offerings to the Lord out of their own free will that were not commanded by the law. God always looks for worship that comes from an open and willing heart. Joyful worship has to be more than what is commanded, it must be freely given from the heart.

C. Continual burnt offerings (Ezra 3:6). The writer here adds that “From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.” As soon as the altar was finished, “burnt offerings” were offered unto the Lord beginning with the “first day of the seventh month” which was when they finished erecting the altar. The statement that “the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid” is very important. It shows that worship could go on even when there was no temple. As long as they had the altar they could offer sacrifices even though the temple was still in ruins.

V. REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE INITIATED (Ezra 3:7). Our final verse says “They gave money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters; and meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa, according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia.” We are told in the first chapter of Ezra that King Cyrus of Persia was led by God’s Spirit to allow His people to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. As already noted, upon returning home their first priority was to rebuild the altar. The construction of the temple would begin about a year later (see Ezra 3:8) so they started making preparations. They began by giving “money also unto the masons, and to the carpenters.” In other words, they hired “masons” (bricklayers) and “carpenters” (those who worked with wood) to work with stone and wood. They paid these workers from the gifts the people collected before returning to their homeland (see Ezra 1:4, 6) and also from the royal treasury (see Ezra 6:4). In addition the people gave “meat, and drink, and oil, unto them of Zidon, and to them of Tyre, to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa.” The meat (or food), drink and oil were items that could be traded to the men of “Zidon” (Sidon) and “Tyre” in exchange for the purchase and transporting of “cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea of Joppa.” These two cities, “Zidon” and “Tyre” were major sea ports in Phoenicia, a small country located along the Mediterranean Sea northwest of Palestine. The wood from “cedar trees” was coveted by many people because of its fragrance and resistance to rot and insects. These qualities made this wood ideal for use in rebuilding the temple.The phrase “according to the grant that they had of Cyrus king of Persia” refers to the permission to rebuild the temple that King Cyrus had given. The original decree of Cyrus gave the returning exiles the right to build the temple (se Ezra 1:2-4) and even specified some building details (see Ezra 6:3-5). Now worship was restored by the returning exiles. The altar enabled them to begin offering sacrifices to God and steps were being taken to rebuild the temple.

VI. Conclusion. God had moved the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia to send the Israelite captives back to Jerusalem to rebuild the house of God. Over forty-two thousand of them walked some nine hundred miles, taking with them whatever they could. While in Captivity, they had not been able to worship God as He had ordained since they had no altar or temple. Once they returned to Jerusalem, they had to start a new life in the Promised Land. When time came to rebuild the temple, they gave a freewill offering. God provided the workers and the leadership to begin their work. It was also time to resume the sacrifices and feasts that God had commanded for Israel. The joyful worship they had missed for seventy years was to be restored to them. It should bring the believer great joy to worship the Lord and to give Him ourselves and our resources..

How You Tell The Story Matters

John 4:29″ Come,see a man,which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ”.

Here Jesus’ interview with the Samaritian woman establishes,for all the readers of John’s Gospel, that salvation is for everyone,regardless of social, or racial position.If we want to be an effictive witness for the Lord, we must be willing to cross all barriers.The wall of separation has been destroyed,God is now accessable to all through Jesus Christ.Let us invite all to “come see a man”.It it does matter how you tell the story.

In this scene at Jacob’s well,the metaphor of water that satisfied the woman’s physical thirst represents the need for spiritual nourishment that can satisfy the thirsty soul.Jesus initiated the conversation by asking for a drink.He then offered her “living water” that would meet her eternal needs.We must realize that Jesus is that one thing that meets our most basic need.Jesus did not rush His discussion with the woman.He began where she was,drawing water.We too should share at the other person’s pace,meet them where they are in Christ.We all have a story to share, if Jesus has changed our life.When Jesus told the woman that He was the Messiah, the woman went immediately to share her experience with those in her town.She invited all to “come see a man”, she challenged them to answer for themselves: “could this be the Christ?”

How will you tell the story?Will you invite all to come and see? When a Christian shares his or her story with excitment and passion,they never know how far the gospel will reach.we don’t realize that one changed life can change the world.Jesus started with twelve,look how far their testimony have come.Let us tell our story and lead others to come see a man………….

What He Has For Me

Isaiah 64:4 “For since the beginning of the world, men have not heard, nor percieved by ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God beside thee, what he hath prepared for them that waiteth for him”.

This christian journey we have embarked upon has many unknowns.It is full of challenges, obsticals, opportunities,temptations, stumblings blocks, and barriers.It is a narrow road we must travel, and along the way we will slip,trip and fall. We will stumble, have doubts and sometimes even entertain the thought of giving up. But the word of God tells us to press on towards the mark of the high calling of God, so quitting is not an option.No matter where the journey leads us we must trust that Jesus will never fail.With every twist and turn with every peak and valley we overcome, it brings glory to God and salvation to a dying soul. Every obstical and challenge we are faced with is a opportunity for us to be molded,shaped and fashioned into that which God has called us to be.No matter what it is we are going thru it is working together with Gods purpose for our good.Whatever happens is part of God amazing plan of salvation, which he ordained from the foundation of the world.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard; they have not either by hearing or seeing come into the full knowledge of Gods goodness. No man has seen, nor can understand the provision made by God for the future happiness of holy souls. Neither seen by eye nor heard by any ear, nor has entered into the heart of any man, what God has prepared for them who love him; those that wait for him,that await the promise salvation designed for us.No eye has seen ,nor ear heard because it is hid in God.Our true happiness is bound up in the richness of Christ, obtainable only by his guidence and through his grace. The goodness God has prepared for us and preparing us for, are laid up in the riches of Christ for those that fear him and trust him.The goodness which awaits all believers; the things made available to all who commune with him in spirit and in truth,are laid up in Christ. What God has for those who work righteousness,for those who are cheerful in doing the whole duty, as he delights himself in the Lord. Those who obey him and submit to his will, making mention of him in all that we do, as we walk in a way worthy of the name by which we are called.

For the eye hath not seen another god beside thee O God. A God who was accused of my faults, a God tried for my charges, a God convicted of my sins and yet he never said a mummling word; a God whipped for my transgressions, bruised for my iniquities, a God who served my sentence as he suffered bleed and died on a cross that I might have a right to the good things God has in store for me. Jesus the Christ the good thing God has for all who will believe

Rest Stop

Matthew 11:28 “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”

Here we have an inventation from the Lord, all things are ready.It is the great gospel cry,let him who hath ear hear,let whosoever will, come; for today is the day of salvation harden not your hearts.All things ready, all things prepared, all things removed which would hinder our comming and accepting this invite.Jesus has made himself known to us, he’s giving us the opportunity to learn of him. It is finished, the foundation laid, the great invitation now offered, but we must accept it.It’s offered to all who realize the burden of sin,those who are convienced of the evil of sin,those tired of being in and of the world, chasing its’ joys and toys, its treasures and pleasures,there is a promised rest,and all are invited.

First we must come to this rest, for it is in the best interest for sinners to come to Jesus.We must disassociate ourselves with all that stands between us and the promised rest of the Lord.We must give ourselves up to his conduct, submit to his rule and come to him freely,willingly and on his terms.It’s his rest offered to all, but only given to those who truly desire his salvation.Let us come to him and take on his yoke,laying down our yoke of sin,for his yoke is easy.Take his yoke,for his yoke will free us from the bondage of sin and death. Take on his yoke of a servant, so that we might be diligent in our service to God.His yoke of submission, that we will humbly and patiently wait on our change to come.His yoke of obedience,that we might walk in his commands and his statues; yoked together with his love,that we have love one for another.Take on his yoke and learn of him,his yoke, that is lined with love and carries the hope of heaven.

Enter this promised rest.The rest that comes from Jesus, the rest that is with Jesus, the rest that is in Jesus, in fact the rest is Jesus. He gives it to every soul that comes to him in faith seeking this rest.Come rest from the terror of sin, the power of sin,and the guilt of sin.Jesus Christ our rest in the Lord. Come And he will give us rest