Today’s Bible Reading: Ezra 3-4:23; 1 Corinthians 2:6-3:4; Psalm 28:1-9; Proverbs 20:24-25
Publicly stating one’s commitment to Jesus can be scary, especially when you are surrounded by people you know are enemies of God. But that should not prevent us from admitting what we believe. Fear of men should not stop us. Such is the case with the Jews who returned from Babylon when they began to rebuild the Temple, starting with the altar (Ezra 3:3). Despite concerns about what the locals might say or do, the people went ahead with what they knew was right.
Notice the altar was built before the Temple itself was built (Ezra 3:6). This was intentional. The altar was used to offer sacrifices for sin. And sin has to be dealt with before we can approach God. Once the altar was completed the people’s sins could be addressed and their standing with God could be maintained, allowing them to do the work He wanted them to do.
The two men who were leaders of this new Jewish community, Zerubbabel and Jeshua, got their hands dirty during the construction (Ezra 3:8). There is a time to lead and there is a time when leaders need to pitch in and help. These men didn’t just stand around giving orders, they helped because the laborers were few and because of the importance of the task.
Several times this year we’ve seen important occasions concluded with the singing of songs to God. This happens again when the foundation of the Temple is completed (Ezra 3:10-11). I wish we still did this.
Obviously this was a bitter-sweet moment. Some of the older priests, who lived in Judah before the exile and who would have served in the original Temple, were sad as they recalled the glory of that building. They knew that the glory would not be repeated in this new temple. It would be like rebuilding the monuments in Washington, D. C. with lesser materials and on a smaller scale after having been destroyed. Yet the younger generation, who did not know the original Temple, see the occasion as a reason to celebrate (Ezra 3:12-13).
In Ezra 4 some enemies, probably Samaritans, try to join the effort to rebuild the Temple, probably for political reasons. Notice that they claim that they worship God also. But that was not true. They worshipped “a” god, but not “the” God. Today there are many people who claim that Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, etc all worship the same God. Just like the leaders of Israel did, we should reject offers by these people to partner with us in serving God. Their presence, although well-intentioned, will only dilute the truth of God’s word.
After being rejected, the Samaritans create problems (Ezra 4:4-5) thereby proving that their intentions were selfish all along. They create all kinds of trouble for well over 100 years, spanning the reign of at least 3 Persian kings (Ezra 4:4-16). This includes telling lies to create fear. When doing God’s work we can expect to be opposed. In fact, opposition is one way we can know that we are doing God’s work.
One of the marks of wisdom is that it stands the test of time. In 1 Corinthians 2:7 Paul states that the wisdom of the world – rejecting Christ – will prove to not be wisdom at all. God’s wisdom was not understood by the “rulers of the world”. I think this phrase refers both to the demons and humans who crucified Christ. These beings thought they were doing themselves and the world a favor (1 Corinthians 2:8-9). But they were actually playing into God’s plan that He put into effect in Genesis 3:15. It turned out God was the wisest one after all. No surprise there.
God reveals His wisdom to those who have received the Holy Spirit – those who have been born-again. It is the Spirt who reveals these things. Therefore we can know things that others cannot. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13). People think the message of eternal life through the death of Jesus on the cross is foolishness. They cannot understand the truth because they do not have the Spirit. I can attest that this is true. Before I was born-again in 1992 I laughed at the message of the Bible. Immediately after I received the Holy Spirit I could “see” the truth. This is exactly how it works.
The main problem with the Corinthians was that they were saved (“brothers and sisters”) but they had not matured in their faith (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). They were too enamored with the words of men, which lacked wisdom. The only wisdom, though, is the wisdom of God as we have just seen.
Without God we might as well be dead. That is how David begins Psalm 28. David pleads for God to hear his prayers (Psalm 28:2-4). In verse 6 David praises God for answering him. God hears all our prayers. We are never alone. God will give us strength (Psalm 28:8). He will even carry us when we need it (Psalm 28:9).
If God is directing a person’s steps, there is no reason to need know all the details (Proverbs 20:24). God can be trusted. All we need to do is step in the direction He is leading.
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