Sunday School Lessons

After the Work is Done

Have you ever gotten to the end of a big work effort (like building something, or graduating from school, or getting a big project done), and found that you didn’t know what to do with yourself once it was completed?  Sometimes, I know that I can get so focused on the finish line that I don’t think about what comes after it.  Still, even the runner who wins a race needs to figure out what’s next, like making her way to the awards podium or planning to train for her next race.

Following up with the response that King Darius sent back to Tattenai, Ezra 6:13-15 confirms that God’s plan for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem continued, through the efforts of the Jewish people and the support of the Persian empire.  In fact, the rebuilt temple was completed:

The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
Ezra 6:15 NIV

In the larger context here (including Ezra 6:13-15), it is important to see who gets the credit.  The earthly kings Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes of Persia are mentioned, as well as Tattenai and others who followed Darius’s orders.  Ultimately, though, God is identified as the one who gave the original command.  (I’m not sure if this verse is saying that God told them to build the temple, or He was the ones who told them how to build it, but my guess is that there may be elements of both.)

What do the people do when the temple is finished?  What’s next after completing it?

Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy.
Ezra 6:16 NIV

For one thing, they celebrate!  (See Ezra 6:16-18 for more context.)   These sacrifices might not be as lavish as when Solomon dedicated the previous temple (the Lookout references 1 Kings 8:5, to remind us what that was like), but remember that the people aren’t in the same situation as Solomon.  Instead of ruling over all of Israel and Judah (like Solomon), both the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom had been overthrown.  In Ezra’s time, people in Jerusalem were exiles who had been allowed to return.  Although their work was sponsored by the king’s decree, they weren’t in charge.  Still, this is a pretty significant sacrifice, in order to dedicate the temple of God.

In fact (per Schoville, p.93-94), the word for dedication here is hanukkah, which we may recognize as a similar celebration of another temple dedication some centuries later.

However, there is something else important that the people do.  In verse 18, they appoint priests and Levites to continue the service to God.  This construction project wasn’t a one-time event, where everyone gets excited and then goes home.  Instead, the people put people and processes in place (based on how the Law of Moses had instructed them) to keep the worship of God going in Jerusalem.

I think that this is important for us when we receive a new ministry, service, or worship opportunity.  We can – and should – celebrate when God provides us with blessings and new chances to build His kingdom.  However, in many cases, it’s wise to ensure that the ministry can continue as long as God wants it to.

About 15 years ago, the church congregation that I am part of built a new building.  Can you imagine what would have happened if the leadership of the congregation had built that new building, but didn’t bother hiring any ministry or maintenance staff?   Sure, some volunteers might have picked up the work at first, but I’m not sure how long it would have been until the building fell into disrepair and became ineffective for ministry, if someone wasn’t organizing things and keeping it going.

In the same way, if you are part of a kickoff event or enjoy the inaugural instance of a new Bible study or service opportunity, consider what you can do to keep it going.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to run things forever (although God may call you to leadership), nor that the opportunity should continue longer than God wants it to, but following God’s instructions for ongoing success is important.  He can – and does – do miracles, but sometimes He just calls on us to follow logical directions.

(And, don’t forget to celebrate successes within God’s family, too!)

From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 8, 2023


  • The Lookout, January 8, 2023, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary – Ezra-Nehemiah, by Keith Schoville.  © 2001 College Press Publishing Co.

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