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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rebuilt, Renewed, and Restored

The heads of the families of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites – everyone, in fact, God prodded – set out to build The Temple of God in Jerusalem. Their neighbors rallied behind them enthusiastically with silver, gold, tools, pack animals, expensive gifts, and over and above these, freewill-offerings. Also, King Cyrus turned over to them all the vessels and utensils from The Temple of God that Nebuchadnezzar had hauled from Jerusalem and put in the temple of his gods. (Ezra 1:5-9)

The nation of Israel was divided into tribes. Within each tribe were multiple families who each had leaders of the households. Judah and Benjamin were the tribes who initially occupied the Southern kingdom of Judah when the Northern tribes split from the Southern. Priests and Levites were necessary because they were needed to oversee the rebuilding of the temple in the right pattern and then to perform the acts of worship that would ensue. The nation of Israel had been taken into captivity and now were being allowed to return to their land to rebuild.

Ezra sets off with a large group of people – perhaps more than 42,000 individuals – all ordered by their genealogy or family. Those who could not prove their direct connection to a particular family were allowed to go with them, but they could not partake of the sacrificial offerings. The company included the priests and Levites, as well as the temple servants that ministered to the needs of the priests. It is not likely that the group of workers included any foreigners of the land who would return with them to do the work. It is important to remember that restoration was occurring here – God would not be calling the foreigner into the work of restoring what they were not originally part of.

Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites, began the work of restoring the temple while others, both Jews and those Gentiles of the nations Cyrus had reign over, rallied the financial support of the efforts. We cannot underestimate the value of how the builders were chosen – God prodded them. He stirred their hearts to action – to produce the results he designed to be accomplished through the actions of a worldly king. God can even use a worldly leader to accomplish his unique plans of restoration. These were people motivated by the Spirit of God. They did not self-select for this mission of rebuilding, but rather were Spirit-selected. Just as God had moved upon the heart of Cyrus to make the original decree to allow the rebuilding, God moved upon and stirred deeply the hearts of those involved in the work.

The people were given the old vessels of worship. When God’s Spirit moves upon his people to perform a new work, there is always a tie between the old and the new – something of the former remains as the new is ushered in with all the intensity of that awakening. God was not re-establishing the old form of worship Israel had previously experienced – he was merely bringing together the old with the new – the former reminding them of the power, love, and mercy of their delivering God. The Southern tribes likely had no idea what lay ahead of them as they began their venture to restore the temple – they simply had the memories of the past glory of the temple to bolster their enthusiasm to rebuild.

Sometimes we allow the enemies of our soul to take captive (bring under servitude) our minds and our actions (our temple). In doing so, we allow the foundations of our first-love worship to be destroyed. Some of us have allowed the foundations of the temple of our lives to lie in ruin long enough. As God prods or stirs our hearts, we set out to rebuild according to what we knew of God in the past. Yet, we can never lose sight of the fact that God usually has a different plan for this precious restored temple of his presence.

He may not rebuild us in exactly the same manner or form that we would interpret as “rebuilt” or “restored”. The process of restoration carries the meaning of restoring to an unimpaired or improved state. In other words, what is rebuilt is a representation or reconstruction of the original – the bringing back or putting into use again of what has been dormant or unused. It is God being put into possession again of what he once had control over – our minds, our spirits, and our emotions – even our relationships. God’s desire is that we recognize the brokenness of our condition. Then we allow him the work of calling us, ordering our lives for the process of rebuilding, and then actually seeing what takes form within us as God does the work of rebuilding what we have lost through compromise in our lives. Our part is obedience – his is to refill, renew, and regenerate.