PFOA (Ezra 7 & 8)
Read Ezra 7 & 8
The Temple is completed! Let’s take down the scaffolding and put up the decorations! We are going to celebrate! Our enemies thought we wouldn’t finish the job, but we did. For a while we thought the money would not be sufficient; there were not enough workers, but we came through. And now the building is completed.
Let us celebrate! Now we have a temple to worship God! Now we can observe the rituals of sacrificing of animals, grain, food and drink! Let us rejoice with thanksgiving and observe our festivals! (Ezra 6:16-22).
But the people of Israel had a temple before, the grand and beautiful temple built by Solomon where cost was never a constraint. That wonderful and inspiring artifice did not stop the king and the people from straying into unfaithfulness, not withstanding the strict warnings given directly to Solomon at its dedication (2 Chr. 7:19-22).
Will the people become unfaithful and disobedient this time?
It is interesting that God used the Persian King Artaxerxes to remind his people that completing the physical temple is only the beginning of the restoration of the people of God. The spiritual rebuilding or reformation still lay ahead. God used the king to confirm his appointment of Ezra, a descendent of Aaron, a scribe who knew the Scriptures, to read and explain the Word of God to the people (Ezra 7:12-26).
“Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10), and this was recognised by both the king and people. So he was able to bring priests, scribes, Levites and others with him to Jerusalem to teach and explain the Word of God. Nehemiah, a contemporary of Ezra, described these teaching sessions (Neh. 8:1-8) where “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the meaning, so that the people understood the reading” (Neh. 8:8).
Having good physical infrastructure is certainly a blessing, especially in Singapore, but this is not even a pre-requisite for ministry. However, for Ezra, the rebuilding of the temple was an opportune time to turn the hearts and minds of the people to the Word of God – reading, understanding and living it. And this is what should be the case for the church today. We may call it spiritual formation (or reformation), discipleship or use the classic description, sanctification.
And sanctification, i.e. made holy, is by the Word – “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17). So Ezra and his team read the word, taught and explained it to the people. In the same way, every individual, as well as together as the church community, need to get into the Word of God, to know it, understand it and live it. Only then will the church be ready for ministry, ready to be sent out into the world (John 17:18).
Prayer points :
• Pray for the church, that the Word of God will be carefully taught and explained so that every member individually and together will know it, understand it and live it.
• Pray that as a church we will grow in holiness as the Word does its work of sanctification.