Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 10 February 2023:
Ezra 3:6 – 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.
Life’s challenges did not stop the people from putting worship first and being faithful with worship.
Ezra 3:8 – 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.
The entire community joined to rebuild the temple. What role are you playing in the building up of God’s people?
Ezra 3:8 — Now in the second year… Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning.
Change in large organizations takes much time. After the first year, you may feel like you are just getting started.
Ezra 3:11-13 – 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. 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, 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.
New beginnings can be bitter sweet as you reflect upon what was lost while rejoicing in what you now have. Rebuilding may bring mixed emotions – perhaps your joy in Jesus is still hindered by guilt and regret concerning past mistakes and subsequent consequences. God wants you to learn from the past but to look forward and to trust Him with the future; and you must trust Him to take care of what is out of your hands to fix from the past. You can’t plow a field or drive a car looking backwards. Your present joy must replace your past sorrow. The Bible uses the word “rejoice” 220 times in the English Standard Version. The prefix “re-” is Latin for “again” or for “again and again.” So, rejoice can mean “joy again,” to return to joy again and again. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) This is a Biblical command that had to be repeated for a reason – we sometimes have a hard time doing it. Sometimes we must force ourselves to return to joy, to posture our minds for joy, to drive out all negativity. Take action – pray for joy; recite memorized Scripture verses on joy; sing hymns of joy, recollect all the ways God has blessed you; seek strength from other Christians, get busy serving others, etc. When you are feeling down, return to the joy you have in Jesus, despite apparent circumstances. Trust that God is exercising Romans 8:28 in your life and drawing you closer to Him every day.
Ezra 3:12 — 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.
The most important part of any building is the foundation; the most important part of any organization is the foundation; the most important part of your life is the foundation. If the foundation of your life isn’t Jesus Christ, what you build is irrelevant. It will all come crumbling down. Build your house upon the Rock of Jesus!
Acts 2:37-47 – “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 2 demonstrates the Great Commandment of love and the Great Commission in execution and should serve as the model today. Acts 2 also shows us the indicators of a true church – love, presence of the Holy Spirit, faithful preaching of the word, leadership, administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), membership, giving, witnessing, evangelism, ministry, worship, discipleship, individual/corporate prayer, and regular growth.
The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in this church, which was full of believers who proclaimed the Gospel to sinners. As with John the Baptist and Jesus, these believers first proclaimed the need for repentance, a word rarely heard today. Those who accepted the Lord were immediately baptized and then entered into true community with other believers, devoting themselves wholeheartedly to instruction, fellowship, and prayer (true discipleship), not every Sunday but every day! They cheerfully took care of the tangible needs of everyone in the church, even selling their possessions to do it, and they gave immediately – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) What was the consequence? “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” And those added represented many cultures – “devout men from every nation under heaven…. the multitude came together,” a Holy Spirit reversal of the Tower of Babel curse and a representation of God’s Kingdom restoration yet to be fulfilled in completeness. (Acts 2:5–6; Genesis 11:1-9)
- Revelation 7:9-12 — After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Does your church experience resemble the Acts 2 experience? If not, why not? Some might say that Acts 2 describes a “special” move of the Holy Spirit reserved for the inauguration of the church. However, I see nothing to indicate that God intended to limit His Spirit after these days – “The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, 9) But the Bible does say that we can “quench” the Spirit, “grieve” the Spirit, and get out of step with the Spirit. Perhaps, we are limiting the Spirit. Let’s pray for revival in the church.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 February 2023: Pray for revival within the church.