My wife knows that I love her. However what if I never told her so, and never did anything to confirm that I still meant what I said when I committed to be her faithful husband? That would not only be pretty stupid on my part (because I think that she’s perfect for me), it would bring into question whether or not I was still living up to my vows. My wife doesn’t need gifts or hugs or service from me to be loved, but these things remind her – and me – that our life together is based on “applied love” (rather than just “stated love”).
In the previous article, the Jewish people of Jerusalem celebrated the rebuilding of God’s temple in the days of Ezra, and put both priests and Levites into roles to serve God. Take a look at what they did shortly thereafter.
On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover.
Ezra 6:19 NIV
Also, skipping down a few verses…
For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
Ezra 6:22 NIV
What better way to commemorate their current situation than to hold a Passover celebration a little bit later?
- Like the Israelites were freed from Egypt after the first Passover, these exiles had been allowed to return.
- Like the Israelites’ exodus was supported by Egyptians, the remnant of people in Jerusalem had been able to rebuild their temple with the support of the king.
- Like the Israelites were allowed to go from Egypt to the Promised Land, these exiles had been sent to the same land.
- Like God provided for the Israelites under Moses, He had provided for them under Haggai and Zechariah.
- And, (sort of) like God changed the mind of Pharaoh to let the people go, He had caused King Cyrus to do the same (perhaps in a different way, though, without all of the plagues).
What better way to renew their covenant with God than to follow some of God’s original instructions to their ancestors through Moses, including both the Passover and the roles of the priests and Levites?
So, what might this look like for us? For one thing, I think that we need to remember that we might be living in various phases of God’s plans.
- Sometimes we’re in the “seventy years”, when we feel like we’re in exile and being punished for things that we – or others – have done wrong,
- Sometimes we are in the building phase, where we are working on what God has planned next, and we need to remain motivated to keep at it.
- Sometimes we are in the times of celebration, where God shows us the results of the “next big thing” that He has been doing around us.
All of these are part of God’s plan, and just as we must not get discouraged during the harder times, we must remember how God got us here in the good times.
In addition, we should prepare for God’s long-term blessings, in the way that He directs us to. When God brings revival, or even a single saved soul, may we find ways to help the members of the family of God grow and mature in their walk with Jesus Christ.
- That may include supporting Christ-like staff and ministry leaders in our church.
- It may include financially supporting missions that are committed to ministry for the long run.
- It may include investing in the spiritual growth of those who have recently committed their lives to Christ, so that they can mature over time to the point where they help others like you do for them.
These choices aren’t just doing whatever we think is a good idea. It’s not about reading the latest book on business or management. Instead, we should listen to God to understand how He wants us to invest. We can hear from Him through His word in the Bible, through the ministry and person of Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.
So, regardless of where you are in God’s plan, take a moment to re-affirm your covenant with Him, and remember His faithfulness. God’s offer – to exchange a broken life of sin for a new life in His family – is a better arrangement than you’ll get anywhere else, and even though we have a role in it, God has done – and is doing – a lot more in it than we ever will.
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.