TODAY’S READING FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT- EZRA 3:8-4:25
There are some important aspects to the rebuilding of Jerusalem that are relevant to the work of building up the body of Christ and its expression as a temple of the Holy Spirit in a particular locality.
- They were united. “The people assembled as one man” (Ezra 3:1). When members reckon themselves crucified with Christ, putting aside fleshly interest, and all are attentive to the mind of the head of the body, the Lord Jesus Christ, there is a manifestation of the unity of the Spirit.
The children of God should be characterized by their love for one another and their unity. We find this throughout the Scriptures:
Psalm 133:1 1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
Acts 2:1 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.
Acts 2:41-47 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. 42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. 44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 4:24 24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,
Acts 4:32 32 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.
This is something we are to give attention to:
Ephesians 4:3-5 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling: 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Philippians 1:27 27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
- They built the altar first.
Ezra 3:2 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers arose and 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.
Their first action when back in the land was to approach God in the way He had appointed- the altar. This speaks of a recognition of our sin and the awesome privilege of reconciliation through the God-appointed sacrifice to come.
The lives of each member in the community needs to be centered at the cross of Christ. The cross is the ground for our redemption. It is the place where we recognize our common need and our common altar.
The cross is the basis for our forgiveness. There is no forgiveness apart from the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the cross (Hebrews 9:22).
The cross is the basis of our unity. There is no unity apart from the cross of Christ. There is no unity when the ‘self-life’ of our Adamic nature is on the throne. Unity reigns when there is only one life that is shared and expressed in believers. Unity reigns when all can say, “for me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21).
Whereas conventionally, one would build the walls first to secure a city or build a foundation for a magnificent edifice, in God’s economy, the priority is to come to the altar. It all starts with the altar, the cross of Christ.
The Christian life starts not with our doing anything for God but with a recognition of what God has done for us in the person of His Son, who offered the sacrifice of Himself on the cross. He who died as our Substitute in death did so that we might experience Him as our Substitute in life. He lives in us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
- In all things, the Word of God is to be obeyed (Ezra 3:2) “as it is written in the law of Moses”.
Faith binds itself to God’s self-revelation in the Word. Our authority is the Word of God. We cannot walk by faith unless we yield ourselves in humble submission and obedience to the Word of God.
God had made His will and priority known in His Word. That is why building the altar and honoring God’s work with sacrifices came first. There must be an appreciation of Christ and His finished work of redemption before there can be any participation in building or entering the house of the Lord.
In obedience, the people made their sacrifices of thanksgiving and celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles (v.4).
- The people first must recognize the Person and work of Christ, giving God worship as prescribed in the Word, before building the foundation or temple. They were to honor the fact that God faithfully dwelled among them before any permanent temple was established. (This fact is reflected in The Feast of Tabernacles -The Festival of Booths, commemorating God dwelling with them as they depended on Him during their wanderings for 40 years in the wilderness.
- Finally, once the Person and work of Christ is recognized, the foundations and the house are built.
Ezra 3:10 10 Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel.
Working together led to praising and worshiping together.
The response to the rebuilding of the temple was mixed. Overall there was the sound of rejoicing, but there were those older men and women who were alive when the Temple of Solomon once stood there. Not only was Solomon’s temple more majestic and grander in size, but the Shekinah glory of the Lord also did not appear in this temple as it had in the tabernacle in the wilderness of the Temple of Solomon.
The prophet Haggai would address this concern:
Haggai 2:9 9 ‘The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and in this place I will give peace,’ declares the LORD of hosts.”
Whereas the tabernacle and Temple had the manifestation of the Shekinah CLOUD OF GLORY, the temple of Zerubbabel, later to be enlarged and known as Herod’s Temple would have THE LORD OF GLORY minister in it and be the fulfillment of all its ministries.
Ezra records the struggles of this pioneering remnant. There were enemies from the outside who wanted to join the building project. Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the leaders of the families knowing that these Samaritans, while seekers of the Lord, were offering sacrifices in their own way apart from the revealed will of God. Therefore they did not have a part (unity with the core value) with them in building the temple of the Lord. They are like those today who profess to be Christians but have never really owned Christ as their Lord and Savior.
This generation of builders also had discouragement coming from the people around them, who actually hired counselors to frustrate their plans.
We can expect opposition if we engage in the work of the Lord.
Rehum, the Persian commanding officer, and Shimsai, the secretary, wrote a letter to King Artaxerxes of Persia, falsely accusing those building the temple in Jerusalem of insurrection. The Persian King orders that the rebuilding in Jerusalem stop. The work came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius, King of Persia.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE NEW TESTAMENT – 1 CORINTHIANS 2:6- 3:4
Paul explains that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the wisdom from God that is outside the box of human wisdom. It solves the problem of how lost humanity, dead in sins, subject to the prince of the power of the air, by nature separated from and condemned by a holy God, can be fully forgiven, cleansed, and made right with God forever. God’s wisdom is found in the reconciling work of Christ on the cross. This work of redemption was ordained and destined for our glory before time began. God used the wrath and unbelief of men, the devil’s hatred for God, the jealousy of the Pharisees, the lack of integrity of Pilate, to put His holy Son to death and accomplish the greatest work in time and eternity (See Acts 2:22-24).
God’s wisdom is the cross:
1 Corinthians 2:8 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
The Holy Spirit makes known to us what is outside the box of our limited sense-knowledge and self-oriented reasoning:
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 9 but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 10 For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
The wisdom of the so-called intelligentsia cannot apprehend the depths or the heights of God’s work on the cross.
How is this wisdom made known? Paul declares that it is not through the persuasive words of human understanding but the foolishness of presenting the gospel facts, promises, witnesses, and demands. It is through what seems to be foolish to many- the preaching of the man who lived more than 2000 years ago. The Son of David, who claimed to be the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem, of a virgin, under the law of God. Unlike any human being before or after, He fulfilled the Law as the perfect embodiment of God’s righteousness. He willingly offered His sinless life as a substitute, a perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross to satisfy God’s justice on our behalf. God declared this work effective by raising Him from the dead.
THE GOSPEL EVENTS
- What He did- (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) ‘Christ died for our sins’- what it means– His death is the needed perfect atonement ‘according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53)’; He was buried- evidence of His death- He was raised on the third day- what it means– He was the sinless sacrifice according to the Scriptures (Psalm 16:10)
THE GOSPEL WITNESSES
- What He did was witnessed by the Scriptural prophecies.
- What He did was witnessed by those who saw Him risen; a limited list is given in 1 Corinthians 15:5-9.
1 Corinthians 15:5-9 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
Acts 26:26 These things were not done in a corner.
THE GOSPEL DEMANDS
Acts 2:37 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”
And Peter said to them, “Repent” (Luke 24:47)
Acts 3:19 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;
Acts 16:31 31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (John 3:16)
THE GOSPEL PROMISES
FORGIVENESS OF SINS
Acts 10:43 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
Acts 2:38a 38 Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…
Luke 24:44-48 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 “You are witnesses of these things.
A NEW LIFE- through the regenerating and Indwelling Holy Spirit
Acts 2:38b and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 1:13 13 In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise,
Paul speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 2, the third Person of the Trinity who regenerates, illuminates, indwells, empowers, endows, and enables believers to apprehend all that is offered to them in the will of God.
THE GOSPEL AFFIRMATIONS
Romans 10:9 9 that if you confess with your mouth
- Jesus as Lord, (He IS Lord!)
- and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (He IS risen!)
This work of Christ on the cross provides the only true foundation for all of God’s blessings for humankind.
Paul concludes that spiritual men cannot discern spiritual things by natural means, neither can the natural man understand the things of the Spirit by the employment of his own natural capacities. Having the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ.
David cries out to the Lord because of his distress. Was it because of the treachery of his son Absalom who conspired against him and usurped his authority when he took the throne? We don’t know. In the first five verses, we find him struggling with what he believes to be unanswered prayer (v.1-5). But through it all, he grows in a realization that the Lord truly is ‘The Solid Rock’ Whom he could count on.
The Psalmist calls upon ‘His Rock’ and pleads that He would hear and vindicate his cause. But God’s delays are not denials. The Holy Spirit witnesses to the spirit of the worshiper that the Rock does not change. God is forever faithful. The rock is a symbol of reliability. In every case but one in the Bible, the rock is a symbol of deity. The only time a rock is speaking of a man is when there is the God-man in view- the revelation of the Christ (Isaiah 32:2; Matt 16:18)
The second half of the Psalm finds the Psalmist singing rather than sobbing.
Psalm 28:6-7 6 Blessed be the LORD, Because He has heard the voice of my supplication. 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.
In the close of the Psalm, David shares what he learned about Who the Lord is in relationship to those who put their trust in Him:
Psalm 28:8-9 8 The LORD is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed. 9 Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.
TODAY’S READING FROM THE BOOK OF PROVERBS- PROVERBS 20:24-25
Proverbs 20:24-25 24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way? 25 It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry.
We need divine wisdom for our human walk. Don’t make premature judgments about whether something or someone is holy, and don’t make foolish vows.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS
The Korean Church has major spiritual challenges to face if its credibility before the world and effectiveness in ministry are to be at their maximum.
- Stagnation and saturation. Numerical growth has all but stopped despite continued evangelism and prayer. Exaggerated membership claims and double counting are common enough that up to 45% of all ‘claimed’ Christians might be counted by two or more groups. The is especially true of the younger generation, which some claim is drifting away from genuine faith and practice.
- Spiritual pride, including belief in some circles that success and prosperity are indicators of God’s favor. There is often a pride in statistical growth and impressive organizations and buildings, along with exaggerated claims made. It is a constant temptation for Christian leaders to seek success, wealth and academic degrees more than to life up the cross, and to attribute God’s blessings to their own hard work and brilliance.
- Lack of transformational impact on society. The large, influential and affluent church has not yet fulfilled its capacity to have a transforming effect on the social problems affecting Korea today. Poverty, corruption, moral drift and unreached segments of society in particular could be more directly addressed. Christians would have remarkable potential to shape society were the churches mobilized to act in concert.
PRAYER: Lord God, Rock of our Salvation, our steadfast and ever-present help, thank You for providing THE ALTAR of the cross. We humble ourselves afresh before the revelation of Your infinite love that was poured out in the self-giving sacrifice of Your Holy Son Jesus. It is there we find our common altar, our common ground, and see our common need for mercy. It is there that we find forgiveness, peace, and life everlasting. Your Holy Spirit’s indwelling makes real the Psalmist’s claim- You are the strength of our lives. Keep us from pseudo-unity, any pretense of unity that is not based upon the truth of Who You Are and What You have done in Your Son! We endeavor to preserve the unity of the spirit by putting to death the works of the flesh by the power of the Spirit. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.