Pastor's Ponderings: Old Testament Bible Study on Ezra 3:6-13 (November 16, 2023)
May the bountiful Love of God be in, with, and around you this morning.
This morning let us continue to pray for all of the victims of the war in the Middle East between Israel and Hamas. In our world it is easy to point a finger at one side or the other, but the harsh reality is that there are no winners in a war, not the ones who started it, or the ones who will finish it. What is needed are the prayers of the world for the wisdom of God, and His Peace to be in all of their hearts, to intervene. Please pray for our member Annette who had 14 injections around her spinal column to try to stem the pain issues with her back. At this time, I am not so sure that the direction she has consented to is the best. Pray for relief of pain and healing for her.
Today we get a better idea of how the rebuilding of the "House of God" began to take shape. Unlike the Romans in 70CE who obliterated the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, the Babylonians destroyed the temple, yet left partial walls standing on the site. That meant to those who were coming back, there was at least a framework visible and usable for worship. In the seventh month that reconstruction was only just barely beginning. After two years, under the guidance of Cyrus, and funding for the project, it all began to come together. The passage talks about how arrangements were made with local people, though from other tribes, craftsmen to undertake the immense task. And though Solomon stripped the cedar forests of what we know today as Lebanon, that is where the people return after a 50-year growth period to acquire the cedars that would be required to do the work, and just like our midwestern people did in the 1800s, used water to move larger logs into place. They floated in the Mediterranean along the coast, and then dragged or carried up land to Jerusalem. Of course, it is critically important that this work is overseen by the ones who know what the law of Moses requires, and also the Psalms of David offer guidance for the sense of what must be present to do this all really right, and they are the Levites, the traditional priests of the Temple. These Levites would not only oversee the building, but they would also get the whole affair started with their vestments, trumpets, and cymbals presenting quite a picture of the pomp and circumstance of this event for their own people, and for people who were not Jewish or those who had returned from Persia, from their exile.
When a new church is started, there has already been a great deal of preparation done. A mission developer has already been at work, preaching the Gospel, and finding people who are willing to make a commitment to the chartering of the new place of worship and community gathering. When the ground is broken to begin construction there is always a large group of people present who are filled with excitement, praying with thanksgiving to God, and singing hymns of praise. We see a very similar response on the part of the people who gather for the start of the Temple reconstruction in Jerusalem. It is probably good for us to know that the Temple was never fully returned to its former glory as a "Palace for God", yet this event of getting started brings great excitement and emotions of joy. However, there were, according to Ezra, tears of sadness for those who knew the glory of the previous Temple structure before its destruction. It is no different when a church, which has been a vibrant member home for many years, and for many of its members, must close its doors, be sold, and all too often, deconstructed for other kinds of structures to occupy the land. Those who would have remembered the previous Temple would have been in their very senior years. The very same emotions that all of us might feel in such a situation were part of the community gathered at the rebuilding of the Temple which would not any longer be Solomon's Temple, but the renewed worship place for the returned exiles.
Next Thursday in our bible study of Ezra, we discover that all of this excitement, and the construction, was not without major problems.
Thanks for taking some minutes with me today.
In Christ's Love, Pastor Kim