April 2, Saturday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on October 10, 2015.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Worship as the Foundation!”

Ezra 3:1-11

When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedar trees from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the grant that they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the Lord. 9 And Jeshua with his sons and his brothers, and Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together supervised the workmen in the house of God, along with the sons of Henadad and the Levites, their sons and brothers. 10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel. 11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.

Previously we looked at the priorities of the returning exiles in Ezra 2—how they made provision for the rebuilding of the temple before they focused on resettling the land.  Today, we look again at priorities as the exiles began the work of rebuilding the temple.  Ezra 3 is a story of foundations—both figurative and literal.

Ezra 3 tells us that even before the physical foundations were laid, a spiritual foundation was being laid: “they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord.  But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid” (v. 6).  As such, we can better nuance the priorities of the exiles—even before the actual house of God was built, they prioritized the purpose of the temple, which was to worship God.  They had come to Jerusalem for the explicit purpose of rebuilding the temple, but they played the highest priority upon the worship of God, not on the building in which that worship would occur.  

There were likely some who would have said, “Let’s wait for a real temple before we start sacrifices.”  But the leaders of Judah knew that worship could and should begin right away!

Then when the workers had laid the foundation, they stopped everything for an extended time of praise and thanksgiving.  Again, the pragmatists in the crowd might have said, “Why are we stopping now?  We will lose momentum.  Let’s build now and worship later.”  But again, the leaders insisted upon the right spiritual priorities. 

Ezra 3 challenges us to have the right spiritual foundations in our lives and to make worship one of those foundations. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (A.D. 1647) proclaims that our chief purpose in life is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Worship is our fundamental purpose and is the foundation upon which we can pursue any mission of God.

Prayer: Father, you are indeed good.  And Your steadfast love does endure forever!  I thank You that even as You invite us into Your work, first of all, You invite us into Your presence to behold You and declare who You are, with all of our souls, bodies and minds.   May my worship of You be the foundation of my life and may everything else follow!  In Jesus name I pray.  Amen.

Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 16-17

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