International Sunday School Lesson for Sunday June 30, 2013
Scripture Text: Ezra 3:1-7
Purpose: To experience in worship the renewal of a once-broken relationship with God.
Ezra 3:1-7 (CEB)
1 When the seventh month came and the Israelites were in their towns, the people gathered together as one in Jerusalem.2 Then Jeshua, Jozadak’s son along with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son along with his kin, started to rebuild the altar of Israel’s God so that they might offer entirely burned offerings upon it as prescribed in the Instruction from Moses the man of God. 3 They set up the altar on its foundations, because they were afraid of the neighboring peoples, and they offered entirely burned offerings upon it to the Lord, both the morning and the evening offerings.
4 They celebrated the Festival of Booths, as prescribed. Every day they presented the number of entirely burned offerings required by ordinance for that day. 5 After this, they presented the continual burned offerings, the offerings at the new moons, and at all the sacred feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who brought a spontaneous gift to theLord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month, they began to present entirely burned offerings to the Lord.
However, the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and carpenters; and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedarwood by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, according to the authorization given them by Persia’s King Cyrus.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
For the past four weeks we have been learning about worship from a prophetic view as seen by the prophet Isaiah. This week we switch to a historical view of worship, as practiced by a returning group of exiled Jews to their homeland.
In the prophesy of Jeremiah recorded in Jeremiah 32:37 it says, “I will gather them from all the countries where I have scattered them in my fierce anger and rage. I will bring them back to this place to live securely. 38They will be my people, and I will be their God.” This appears to be part of the reference in Ezra 1:1. “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia’s rule, to fulfill the Lord’s word spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Persia’s King Cyrus. The king issued a proclamation throughout his kingdom (it was also in writing) that stated:
2Persia’s King Cyrus says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has commanded me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.”
To bring you up to date historically, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had carried the prominent families of Jerusalem away into exile, where they had been held for 50 or so years. Then the Persians defeated the Babylonians and Cyrus, the Persian king, became for all purposes the ruler of all the world.
Cyrus respected the Israelite God, and vowed to help them rebuild both the city and the temple. That brings us to today's passage in Ezra.
The Book of Ezra records for us the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Notice the order that is recorded. First there is the coming together as one. Notice that prior to the building of the altar, the scriptures were searched and every effort was made to follow strictly the law of Moses as they prepared to build. They started with the altar, where sacrifices could be offered, and sins forgiven and restoration with God was completed.
The people then celebrated the “Festival of Booths.” The instructions can be found in Leviticus 23:33-43. “The Lord said to Moses: 34Say to the Israelites: The Festival of Booths to the Lord will start on the fifteenth day of the seventh month and will last for seven days. 35The first day is a holy occasion. You must not do any job-related work.36For seven days you will offer food gifts to the Lord. On the eighth day you will have a holy occasion and must offer a food gift to the Lord. It is a holiday: you must not do any job-related work.” The basic concept is that all of the people lived once again in “tents” or “booths” just as they did when God brought them out of Egypt. They forsook the comforts of their homes and again dwelt in tents for eight days.
It should be noted that there were seven feast days throughout the Jewish calendar that were noted. The first feast day of the year was “Passover” the second immediately followed, called the feast of “Unleavened Bread..” These two took place from the first month 14th day, to the 21st day. Seven weeks later the “Feast of Pentecost” would take place. Then the seventh month there would be four different” feast days. The first was “ The Feast of Trumpets” (also called Rosh Hashanah.) This was on the 1st day of the 7th month. Then came “The Day of Atonement” (also called Yom Kippur) It is the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, on 10th day of the 7th month. That was followed by the “Festival of Booths” on 15th day of the 7th month”. This was then followed by the “Eighth Day” festival which was the final day of the Festival of Booths.
I think we can put together that there was almost a month long celebration taking place in our text. I guess emphasis was placed on the “Festival of Booths” and the “Eighth Day” because of the the gifts and offerings that were brought per the instructions given by God to Moses. These gifts and offerings allowed for construction to continue.
Remember, this worship starts with the call to gather as one, then the “Atonement” then reflecting back on all that God has done for us in bringing us out of captivity, culminating with us bringing our offerings to God. It is completed when we have done all that God wants us to do in order for our relationship to be restored with God. God's grace allows our offerings and gifts to bring about our salvation. Just as God's grace today allows our faith to bring about our salvation.
I know some think differently and claim there is nothing we can do to earn God's grace, it is by the grace of God that our life has meaning, and faith is rewarded. I believe Hebrews 11:6 “It’s impossible to please God without faith because the one who draws near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards people who try to find him.” The reward is our salvation.