Recently our church has been going through some major transitions. I know that change can be good, but it can also be difficult. Sometimes changes or major transitions can make it seem like everything is falling apart. As God’s children, what are we supposed to do when we look around and it seems like everything we’ve known has been destroyed?
The often overlooked Book of Ezra deals with this issue, and it’s one book I’ve been spending a lot of time with lately.
Here’s some background for you. God punished the Israelites by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar to conquer them. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple in Jerusalem and carried off the Israelites into exile.
The Israelites were in exile for a long time. Nebuchadnezzar died and was replaced by his son; their kingdom was conquered by a larger kingdom and then again by an even larger kingdom. The Israelites were in exile under many kings and changes of government.
Finally, God placed a desire in the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Cyrus agreed to allow any Israelites who wanted to go to return to Jerusalem to assist in rebuilding the temple. He also returned all of the sacred temple objects stolen by Nebuchadnezzar, and ordered everyone else in the kingdom to give gifts of silver and gold to any of their Israelite neighbors as well as voluntary offerings to help with the temple rebuild.
As I read through Ezra, I noticed several things that are required to rebuild things that have been damaged or destroyed in our lives. I’ve listed those things for us to keep in mind.
- Destruction/severe damage: The first thing that’s always required for rebuilding is destruction. If there’s no damage or destruction, then there’s no reason to rebuild.
- Permission from God: Sometimes God allows things to be destroyed because they’re bad or harmful to us and He doesn’t want those things rebuilt (like the pagan altars Solomon built for his pagan wives; 1 Kings 11:7-8). However, Ezra tells us that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia” to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1). The Lord gave permission for the rebuild.
- Don’t allow outside help unless God says so: When the exiles returned to Jerusalem, they made sure that everyone could prove they were part of the nation of Israel; if they weren’t, then they were not permitted to help with the work or serve in the temple (for those claiming to be Levites; Ezra 2:61-63).
I know that sounds harsh, but they were rebuilding something sacred, something for God. What if they had people helping who didn’t even believe in God? How would those people know what God wanted? What if there was an argument about the building between an Israelite and a pagan? The Israelites were making sure that only the people who truly understood the significance were involved in the work. Think of it like having someone who doesn’t even know your family give you advice on how to fix the problems in your family. They don’t know your family and they don’t have any real concern for helping your family, so why would you take their help?
- Volunteers and voluntary offerings: The Israelites were not required to return to Jerusalem. In fact, many of them stayed behind because they preferred their comfortable life in exile. Those who returned did so voluntarily with the understanding that they were returning to work hard. When they arrived in Jerusalem, each family voluntarily gave as much as they could for supplies to help rebuild (Ezra 2:68-69). They couldn’t rebuild without supplies and workers.
- Rebuilding isn’t about you: Rebuilding something that’s been destroyed is never about just one person. It’s always about being unified in one purpose. Rebuilding takes hard work, patience, encouragement and sacrifice. It takes trusting God to see it through.
Girls, these principles of rebuilding aren’t just for applying to things that happen in the church—they are principles that can also apply to our families, friendships and other areas of life. Ezra gives so many more things to include when we’re in the process of rebuilding. I’ve just given you five, but I encourage you to read the book for yourself.
“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.” —Ezra 3:6
Girls, what else would you include if you were rebuilding something that was destroyed?
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