Today, our reading is from a new book of Ezra. Interestingly, at the start of the year when I signed up for a random week to write for Seek Grow Love, I had no idea I would have just finished reading the book of Ezra with my daughter. I can’t say that means much though other than I am a little more knowledgeable on the history than I would have been a month ago. A few things to know about the book of Ezra are:
- A Jewish man named Ezra wrote Ezra.
- Ezra was born in exile in Babylon into a Jewish priest’s family and lived the first part of his life there.
- He was a scribe, writing the books of the Torah and the Prophets. So, he knew God’s law and instructions regarding the temple and sacrifices well.
- Ezra was written before Chronicles (the books covered earlier this week) but the story itself took place after the stories retold in the book of Chronicles.
- Time-wise, the book covers the period when a remnant of Jews in Babylonian exile are allowed to return to Jerusalem to start rebuilding the temple and the years following that.
- Ezra means “help” or “helper” in Hebrew.
In Chapter 3 of Ezra, we see that the rebuilding began with the altar. This allowed the Jews to offer sacrifices for their sins again according to the instructions given in the law of Moses after so many years without them. Verse 1 tells us this started in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, which was considered to be their most sacred month and included several important celebrations including the Feast of Tabernacles. This feast is one Zechariah speaks of being celebrated in Jerusalem in the millennial kingdom after the return of Christ and some Christians celebrate it today. So, the time period for starting this project was a joyous one.
Verses 7-10 highlight the next part of the project, which was starting the rebuilding of the temple itself, and ends with men weeping and celebrating. We see mixed emotions of excitement, nostalgia, guilt, and hopefulness throughout this book, and we can certainly relate to this as Christians today.
With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. (Ezra 3:11)
Despite opposition, the temple did get rebuilt. And while it was also destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins was not destroyed and will never be destroyed. Just like the remnant of Jews who returned to Jerusalem from the exile, the New Testament speaks of a remnant who will be left when Jesus returns whenever that is. Nowhere does the Bible speak of the large masses of “anyone who tries to be a good person” being guaranteed eternal life. It does speak of things like a narrow road, the eye of a needle, and a remnant. Fortunately, no matter how many times we wander off the path, we will be welcomed back and forgiven like the people of Israel if we turn and seek. Interestingly, there is still a “remnant” of the second temple in the temple mount in Jerusalem which now supports the holy Muslim site of the Dome of the Rock and is the source of some ongoing tensions. Ultimately, Jesus will return to reign in Jerusalem, and all nations, tribes, and tongues will worship him and recognize him as the Messiah, the begotten Son of God. Bring on the Feast of Tabernacles. Bring on the recognition that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Let’s get this party started.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- What stands out to you most in this chapter? What would God want you to learn from this chapter?
- What were the obstacles in the way of the remnant completing their task? Is there a neglected project for God that He would be pleased to see you attacking this week? What obstacles are in your way and how will you overcome them?
- Do a little research on the Feast of Tabernacles. What was the purpose of the celebration? Envision the remnant celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in the Kingdom with Jesus in Jerusalem. What similarities and differences will this celebration have to the one Ezra wrote about in Ezra 3?