UNFINISHED HOPE | Week 3: Restored Worship
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Ezra 3:1–3:13
Christopher Rich – October 1, 2017
UNFINISHED HOPE | EZRA-NEHEMIAH | Wk 3
Restored Worship | Ezra 3
Introduction | Unfinished
Good Morning Welcome to Damascus Road where we are Saved by Jesus Work, Changed by Jesus’ Grace, and Living on Jesus’s Mission. Today we continue UNFINISHED HOPE - Our Ruins His Restoration our sermon series looking at the books of EZRA-NEHEMIAH. The two books of Ezra-Nehemiah are one united text with three accounts of different leaders (Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah) returning to rebuild different aspects of the city (altar/worship, community/law, and walls/structure) facing opposition, overcoming, celebrating but then seeing the efforts backslide and fail. There is great hope when the process is going, but each time that hope is not fully realized it is unfinished. Through these cycles of recognition, return, rebuild, and regression we are reminded of the simple truth that Our efforts on our own will never be sufficient to overcome our ruins. They will always be fragile falling back to decay. The city has been decimated, the temple destroyed, and the people deported, and vessels of worship desecrated. God’s people have been in exile for a few decades. As we open Ezra the journey from exile to Holy city begins as God’ people return to a home they’ve never known. We begin to see the way God designs renewal and restoration in His people. He doesn’t start with the structures or the laws, he starts with the hearts. The first wave was not the builders, but he brought back worshippers. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are at building something if the object of and nature of your worship is distorted. Nehemiah with the structure is LAST. Right worship is first. How God’s people came to their own ruin was from worship problems, not a skill or ability issue. You want renewal, have right worship. What follows the declaration, the walking out of exile back to where they belong is then lives of active response to the freedom they have been granted and mission they have been given. It is essential that we don’t confuse the indicatives (what is true because of the Gospel) with the imperatives of the Gospel (because x is true we will now do y) These are saved, free people no longer in captivity. BECAUSE they are saved they respond with restored worship.
PART I | Restored Worship| v1-6
Ezra 3:1-6 | 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.
Restored Worship is where individuals become a people. Says they gathered as “one man”. There was unity. This a foreign concept in our current culture because we try to unify around things that are too small. We know we cannot unify around politics or a President. So let’s get more general, how about something as simple as flag/anthem or something as benign as sports. Nope, we find division, anger, suspicion, and resentment reign. Attempted unity around the wrong things or even good but lesser thing are insufficient to take broken exiled individual and form them into a united people. Unity can’t be defined down it has to something greater needs to be lifted up that caused individuals to be brought together. For God’s people there is a unity driven by worship that transcends all the ways we try to unify ourselves. Restored worhip has unity of purpose. They were united to worship. Unity of identity. They were one body united by God as a saved people who have journeyed from exile and captivity to a new city for the express purpose of restoring right worship of God’s people. The way they displayed their unity and identity as a covenant gospel community was to gather together as “one man”. Restored worship begins with individuals who have been brought together into a new community. Do you think as an individual or part of a community?
1 Peter 2:4-5 | 4 As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, 5 you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
We are God’s children chosen for a purpose, rejected by “peoples of the land” (those who don’t worship the God of the Bible), but God has said my people are chosen and precious. People are of great value to God because they are made in His image. Because of sin there is separation, distortion, and destruction of humanity. God has intervened. In Ezra it was the human King Cyrus’ decree of freedom, for us it our forever GOD-MAN King Jesus who declares “it is finished” on the cross where he has purchased our freedom. Purchased it for a purpose to live and work on mission as a new city of God’s holy priesthood.
Restored Worship is grounded in God’s Word. Where are we going to find what right worship should look like? What is our source? This wasn’t a group of people saying what should we do next? Let’s get creative and fashion a new form or worship based on our new cultural surrounding we find ourselves in. They started not even with what they thought they needed, they looked at what God has prescribed. Many churches today can start with engaging people with their felt needs. My marriage is a mess, my parenting is abysmal. My finances (or lack of) are drowning me. Help me. Fix me. Ease my pain, or life. Each of these are perfectly fine to discuss and engage with but if your object of worship is still yourself or even you marriage or kids it will eventually fail to satisfy. Restored worship isn’t the worship of something new or helping you better worship your current idols, but of a return to worshipping something eternal and true.
So we start at with God’s word and remain focused around the word of God. “as it is written” From God’s word we see Restored Worship is specific and prescribed. The “Altar set in in it’s place.” What we mixed it up what if we didn’t worship God the way He prescribes what we do what works for us? No. This saved people brought from captivity and exile to a new city of worship are a people who are changed, conformed, shaped in the ways that bring God glory. Where worship of God is rightly placed in the center of individual and communal life for God’s people. What is the center piece of your worship?
Restored Worship has regular individual and corporate rhythms. Worship of God was active and daily. This is regular time of pray to God. Regular patterns of reading, ingesting, mediating on His word for the purpose of sustained remembrance and renewal. This could lead to box checking, and half hearted worship. Better to have no plan and only read and pray when you get all the feels right. No. It’s is in these ordinary routines (not legalistic) and rhythms that lay frim foundations for and create space to experience the presence of God in more extraordinary ways. There were also regular celebrations. For them it was the feast of Booths (tabernacles) where they celebrated God’s provision to them in caring and leading them through the wilderness after rescue from Egypt. There are reasons the church calendar hits Christmas, Good Friday, Easter each and every year. We need these times of remembrance of what God had done in History to redeem, rescue, and restore us. To shape our year of worship around the truth of the Gospel.
Restored Worship includes Sacrificial living/giving- Offerings, regular offerings. Sacrificial giving happens in response to God’s work in our lives. Restored worshippers recognize that EVERYTHING they have been given has been given to them by God for you to steward for His purposes. That includes your provision and enjoyment, but it ALSO includes giving generously to the mission of God. There were daily, weekly, offerings as well as “freewill” offerings. When you have been given freedom by God you will freely give back to God. Regularly, cheerfully, and sacrificially. This is an act of Restored Worship. We have been perfectly equipped by God with favor, influence, blessing, so each of us is called to give cheerfully to fund the mission God has called us to be on. We give because we’ve been given much and we are motivated by the mission we’ve been called to. Where have you been blessed or equipped by God that according to your ability you should be directing to His mission?
PART II | Renewed Mission | v7-9
EZRA 3:7-9 | 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.
Restored Worship leads to renewed mission. They have started with the altar, God’s word, rhythms of worship and devotion, finally self-sacrificial giving/living. But the temple foundation had not been laid. God had more for them than the altar, he had a temple to be built. Restored Worship is the beginning of the mission, not the end of it. God had saved them to renew the advance of His mission.
Restored Worship Remembers and honors the history of what God has done and hopes for what he will do. We see Historic ties to how God has chosen to work in the past – The mission of God is not of reinvention but of restoration, returning to what was. Verse 7 shows the temple was beginning to be restored following the pattern of the past. The shipments form Joppa, the wood from Lebanon, they payments to Sidon and Tyre are intentional shadows and allusion to precisely how Solomon got materials and built the first temple.
Our church, and other gospel centered churches are not a brand new creative idea to grab market share, we are constantly looking back to the way church history has unfolded. For example, at the end of this month Jesus people will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This is significant as a time when God’s people faced corruption and distortion of the truth and met it not with something new but a return to something old and historic. A reformation of return not a reformation of reinvention.
Restored Worship means training, equipping, and empowering young leaders. Verse 8, a new generation takes ownership and leadership. If there is to be a lasting renewal and restoration the older generations have to be encouraging and equipping the younger generations. The younger generations need to set up in accountability and responsibility. We have been exceedingly blessed to gather in this space and be granted stewardship of a facility but the purpose of this is not so we can coast and be comfortable. Generations have proceeded us who have contributed, built, maintained, and worked in Gospel ministry and tangible stewardship. It is our/your turn to get to work. Who needs to step up to invest, own or work?
Restored Worship requires work and contribution from everyone in the body. Verse 8 it says there was work done by who? A few serious folks? Just the leaders? No. it says “all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity.” Saved, freed, people who have been brought into this new community are to live on mission and work as a team for the restoration of worship. We are not on an individual mission. Our mission to make disciples (restored worshippers) who trust, worship, and follow Jesus, a mission that takes participation, investment, and engagement from everyone who has been taken from captivity and brought into this city.
PART III | Rejoicing Celebration | v10-11
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.
Restored worship rejoices in new beginnings. Weddings, baptisms, adoption days, the birth of a new baby are all causes for great celebration because we rightly recognize they represent the beginning of a new life for the individuals and the people around them. The planned out an executed a ceremony to intentionally recognize the mark of a new season. It looks a lot like a previous celebration. They are singing a verse from David’s song of celebration when the Ark of the Covenant came back to Jerusalem and he had it place in a tent. It was a song of God’s faithfulness even when it looked like defeat or destruction was going to win over. Over the next two generations a temple would be built in Jerusalem. It wasn’t celebrating an ending, but a new beginning. It is important that we take time and moments to reflect on what God has done. This time last year we were beginning to celebrate 10 years in the life of our church. It was a celebration not focused on what had been completed but on what God had done in and through us over with the hope of what he would continue to do as we seek to build on this foundation.
This celebration is both formal, they had guys walk in, specific songs sung, etc. AND informal there was great shouts. Enthusiasm, abundant joy, energy are all part of a response to God’s work and our involvement. This grounds them as they look at what is only a bit of progress, a bit of celebration that God’s character, His goodness and love remain unchanged. This empowers us to continue forward!
PART IV | Ruined Remembrance | v12-13
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people's weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
This should be a time a great celebration, and renewed joy. Something that appeared to be dead now has new life. Great progress has been made but yet for some (specifically the older generation) it doesn’t measure up to what they remembered and instead of joy and celebration there is sadness and weeping.
Their longing for and weeping for the past is not entirely misplaced. Since the garden fall we have been looking for a return to the time and place where we are in communion with and experience the presence of God. The Garden was glorious. The tabernacle in the wilderness and the temple of Solomon were all designed to echo back to the garden where God dwelt with His people. Good even great things had been experienced, worth of reverence and remembrance. It’s easy for a focus on the past to become idolatry of it. When longing for or holding up things in the past to the present and being displeased or dissatisfied with the contrast can be a form of idolatry that distracts God’s people from what He has for them today and distort the hope he has for them tomorrow. We can ruin and rob the joy of today by focusing too much on yesterday. Idolatry of the past will keep you from seeing God’s grace in the present, working on mission today, and looking ahead to a finished hope of His glorious return and final restoration tomorrow.
Our lives today are not as good as the garden or as good as the future city of Glory. This is not only a generational issue that only those who are older deal with. Nearly all of us who have lived more than a decade or two have times and moments when we look longingly to the past. As disciples of Jesus we have period in our live that are foundational, transformational, and have a great impact. What were the years or times you keep looking back to and say “I felt close to God then….” But not as much now? What characterized those times? What has changed in your life? What your experience with God and His people looks like will be different during various life stages, but God isn’t different. This attitude cannot permeate our body because it will cause us to stop engaging today and keep us from looking forward and forging ahead in what we’ve been called to. The prophet Haggai, contemporary of what was happening said this:
Haggai 2:3-9 | 3 ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,5 according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. 6 For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts.8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’”
Let’s be clear it wasn’t as great a Solomon’s temple. It was as great and triumphant as David bring the ark back from foreign control. Those who had seen what was looked at was is and are disappointed. Yet they are admonished to respond differently. People who are experience renewal that can only come from God in Jesus are to “be strong”. To “work” continue the mission don’t give up or wallow in the past. Why? Because God says “I am with you.” The Holy Spirit dwells in us so we can “fear not” As we work as we continue on mission we look ahead towards a finished hope brought by a powerful God who will “shake the heavens and earth” the nations! Who will “fill this house with glory” so much so it will far exceed the “former glory” stop worshipping the past and mourning the present because the future is so much greater than either. It is a place where God will give peace (rest, wholeness, restoration) in His presence.
As lame a shadow as this temple was from the first one and how disappointed they were that it was not filled with the presence of the Lord as the previous one had. Something greater still happened here. God did show up. Over 500 years later….. Jesus God in the flesh (God’s presence) would come to this temple. For those who he said he would tear it down and raise up in three days. In Jesus death on the cross the temple as a place of sacrifice was made obsolete as Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. In Jesus Resurrection, the dwelling place of God with man is raised. In His Holy Spirit we are able to have restored worship.
As God stirs our hearts with His Spirit He leads us home to Jesus who makes us to be his home - his temple. So restored worship is not a lame copy of the past but continual mission advance towards a final glorious future of abundant life and peace for all those who Trust Jesus.