PFOA : Ezra 1
When churches embark on a building programme, a series of sermons on the book of Nehemiah often seems to be the requisite staple. Actually Nehemiah oversaw the building of the walls of the city of Jerusalem, not the Temple, which was already completed. Whilst that book also speaks much about leadership, it is concerned with the qualities of one godly individual, and not so much the community of God’s people.
The book of Ezra is often overlooked. The message of Ezra is about the fulfilment of prophecy about the release of Israel from its exile in Babylon; the restoration of the nation in the land God has given to her; the rebuilding of the Temple of God in Jerusalem; and the spiritual revival of the people as a community.
1 & 2 Chronicles record the history of God’s chosen people from the time of kings to the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah to Babylon. Ezra picks up the story from there, with Ezra 1:1,2 quoting the last two verses of 2 Chr. 36.
During their 70-year captivity in Babylon, the Jews, though sometimes feared and hated by others, had grown and prospered. They had men like Daniel and friends who became well respected and influential with the Babylonian king Nebuchadnazzer. When the Medo-Persian Empire defeated Babylon, God used the king Cyrus to encourage the Jews to return to their land (Ezra 1:1-4). But not every one returned, only a small remnant of about 50,000 obeyed.
These were the ones who believed that God’s promise was being fulfilled in their lifetime. They were filled with enthusiasm as they returned to the land to rebuild their homes and the Temple. They got on with the job and a made a good start. The foundation of the temple was soon completed. They organised a collection for the rebuilding of the temple and people gave joyously and generously. The king showed his favour by granting them release to return and even restored to them the treasures that were taken from the Temple by Nebuchadnazzer.
Why didn’t more return? Many reasons may be suggested. Some may not be aware of the prophecy that the exile will end after 70 years. Others may not trust God that this is it – the fulfilment of His promise. In Babylon, many had settled comfortably and become wealthy – they didn’t want to make changes to their lives. There are some who were plain lazy and lethargic - they just can’t be bothered.
Dear GBC friends, God has blessed us with a piece of freehold land where we are able to use for worship and ministry 24/7. God has shown us his favour when the authorities increased the plot-ratio so that we can have more built-up space. In addition, we will have an MRT station at our doorstep and a new town for ministry nearby.
In Ezra’s day, everything was ready for the people to trust God, believe in His promise, and follow Him. The Jews returned to work and build, bringing with them the freewill offerings generously given. In Ezra 2, we see a long list of names of those who returned. This may be boring reading, but please note significantly that this is a list of tribes and families. The people responded and obeyed God as tribes and families, as a community.
Let us, therefore, come together as a community, to believe in God, to trust, to work and to give for the rebuilding of Grace Baptist Church. Let us pray, not just for the rebuilding of the physical structure, but also for the spiritual rebuilding and revival that we need desperately as well.