Many years ago there was a restaurant, The Anchor, that was the pride of a coastal village in Dunbar Scotland. But over time with the building getting older and older business went down at an alarming rate. It changed of owners on numerous occasions, but they weren't long in business. Then when a new owner took over he decided that he was going to take the risk and renovate. It was an substantial loan he took out and if business didn't pick up, he would lose everything. But when people saw the changes they felt it was a place they wanted to go to for suppers. Spiritually there's a profound message from this analogy. When our spiritual homes deteriorate our lives will become miserable. The question comes to God's people of all times and places, “How does your spiritual house look?” It didn't look good for the house of Israel. It was so bad that God had them taken away in exile on a few occasions to go and hit rock bottom and come to the realization: “We need to be spiritually restored.” That was what the Israelites felt in their hearts when they returned from Persia under Zerubbabel in 539 B.C. The church of Jesus Christ can't look down on the Israelites. You see, the state of the church in the 21st century doesn't look in any way better than what it was with the Old Testament people. We see the lack of commitment – people get involved on their terms. So often when you reach out to those who used to attend church and took part in the life of the church, the response is, “I'll call you when I want a visit. I'll come when I have the time.” My friends, we can't be blind or death for the false doctrines that become more and more a reality in many churches. We hear, “If we want to accommodate those people who have issues with outdated principles, we have to make adjustments. The church can't afford any longer to open the door just to some people.” Just like the children of Israel followed other idols and worked out their own future, we see those who go after the ways of the world. When you think of the future of the Church of Jesus Christ, what do you feel in your heart? Don't you feel like Zerubbabel and the people of His time that we need our God to do His restoration? Let's look at this chapter in Ezra and see how God spiritually restored them. You see, He was and always is the Master Designer Who restores people's lives.
First we see from this passage that 1 God Restores People When They Renew Their Commitment To Worship. We read in verses 2&3, “Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening sacrifices.”
Two men, Jeshua and Zerubbabel led the families of Israel in the reconstruction of the altar of burnt offering. This new altar was set up on the foundation of the old altar at Solomon’s Temple. Do you think there is anything significant in the fact that they set up the new altar in the exact same place it was before? You see, they returned to what they had before – their worship of the God of heaven and earth at the temple that was dedicated to His glory. There were others in the bible who led the way back to God. Jacob took his family back to Bethel to renew their vows. There was Joshua who told his fellow-Israelites in Joshua 24: 15, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” There are wonderful stories recorded of families through the ages that made their stand for God. By the grace of God, those families are represented in the spiritual renewal of worship by Jeshua and Zerubbabel. That my friends, is the only foundation to build on. We always have the need to go back to that place where it all started for us. The story is told of a young man in Spain, Emilio, whose fiance left him. He couldn't live without her and wanted her back. So, he posted a note on a bulletin board at the city square. It read, “Maria, Sunday evening at seven where it all started.” He wanted to see if the place where it all started was important to Maria. Their place was the small Catholic church out of town. There together their dedicate themselves in their relationship to God. Sunday evening seven came and when Emilio arrived at the church, there were five other Marias. They all had the desire to go back to what meant so much to them – a beginning with God. Do you have a desire to go back and unconditionally dedicate your life to God again?
Perhaps you want to do it for you and your family.
We learn from Ezra 3 that 2 God Restores Us By Building Us Up In His
Church. Verse 8 reads, “In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Jeshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. They appointed Levites twenty years old and older to supervise the building of the house of the LORD.” Seven months after rebuilding the altar, Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the others began building the Temple. The enthusiasm of the whole group is indicated by the fact that all who came from the captivity offered their services. The Levites as a group supervised the service of the laymen. Again the Scriptures told them all they needed to know about rebuilding the Temple, and they followed God’s plan. How do we build or re-build God's temple in our situation? How does this passage apply to us? Didn't Jesus already establish His church on the foundation of apostles and prophets with Himself as the cornerstone as we read in Ephesians 2: 20? No, my friends, the building of God's temple is still taking place. God's spiritual house will never be completed. Each day new converts are included; each day our God uses something unique in our lives to build His church. Another act or talent we bring to God will become another stone or decoration God wants to see included in His spiritual building. O my friends, it is tragic that there are thousands of people out there in the world who just don't grasp how much needed they are for the building of God. But we have to understand – it's not just about the building. It's about those who are build up; those who are included. Can we ever fathom what a wonderful privilege it is to belong to the church God called by His Son into reality? There is a last thought from Ezra 3 – 3 God Restores Us For New Things.
Verse 12 is a peculiar verse in this passage, “But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.” There was cheering and weeping as the foundation of the new temple was laid. Some looked back and wept. They couldn't loosen themselves of what they once had. Others rejoiced about the new beginning. God is a God of new beginnings. He doesn't want us to live in the past. He brings us from our regrettable pasts and our failures to our new life in Jesus Christ. If there is a piece of advice our Lord would bring before us this morning, I believe it will read as follow,
“You have been restored; therefore don't cling unto the past.” And you know everything will be restored more and more to the point of our Lord's return. He said to John in His Revelation on the island Patmos in chapter 21: 5, “He Who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then He said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." We can hold unto this reality my friends – God makes everything new.
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall