Today’s Passage: Ezra 3
Over the course of the last few months, we’ve set out to get a birds-eye view of the Old Testament story. We saw the start of all things in Genesis 1 and 2 – and it was good. But the world we live in is not good any more. It is broken, as are we. Genesis 1 to 11 introduces us to the two biggest issues in our world. Firstly, there is sin and death, and the alienation that this causes between both ourselves and God as well as ourselves and each other. Secondly, there is a lack of knowledge of God – we see humanity not knowing who the real God is or what He is like.
The Good News story of the Bible deals with setting those issues right. It’s the story of God reconciling the world to Himself. The sin issue is dealt with in the Old Testament, but only in a temporary manner. Old Testament sacrifices weren’t able to deal with sin – it would take God Himself to deal the death blow to sin and death. That’s why the Old Testament looks forward to the coming Messiah, Jesus.
The Old Testament deals a lot with our lack of knowledge about God. God chose to make Himself known to Abraham and his descendants. Israel was meant to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests. And, at the best of times, they represented God to those around them.
Israel saw God do incredible things in their midst. But there was a constant temptation to abandon God in the lust after other things. Yet, despite their rebellion and unfaithfulness, God remained faithful to His people. He would discipline them, but He never backed away from the promises that He had made to them. That’s the sort of God He is: forever faithful.
Last week, we looked at one of the most dramatic times of discipline from God in Israelite history: the exile. So evil had Judah become that God used the Babylonians to disrupt their security. This wasn’t a snap decision; it came after God repeatedly sending messengers to call His people back to Himself. But His messengers were rebuffed and His grace was rejected. And so their society was upended, with most of the population taken away into exile far away.
But after 70 years, as He had promised, God acted to restore His people. A remnant returned to Jerusalem to live again as God’s people. Not all those who had left chose to return; some chose to remain in their new home. But those who returned chose to return to a life where seeking to do God’s will was to be the most important thing.
Those who returned chose to put first things first. Their priority was worshipping God. Their priority was on honouring God. They celebrated God’s giving His people a fresh start.
You and I haven’t been in exile. But we have also been given a fresh start. Jesus came to release us from the captivity of sin and death. The true King – God – has invited us to return to Him. As Christians, we have said, “Yes!” But what now? Where do we do now? What should our priorities be as people who have been saved?