Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:5)
The First Thing To Build
Babylon had long disappeared and Persia ruled the world. Cyrus king of Persia made a decree freeing the Jews from the bondage begun seventy years earlier by the Babylonians through the hand of God. As a nation Israel had been decimated because of their rebellion to the will of the Lord suffering punishment by divine will. The time had come for the nation to return as promised by God.
What is amazing about the book of Ezra in contrast to the book of Nehemiah is what was built first. The city of Jerusalem lay in ruin. Its walls were torn down and gates burned. The Temple had been ransacked left to crumble with each passing year. As a whole the spirit of the nation of God was in mourning. But now a renewed feeling had blessed the new generation of captives as they were permitted to return to the land of promise. From a military stand point the first thing to build in Jerusalem would be the walls and gates. This afforded protection from enemies and would give a sense of security to the people to see the city return to its early glory. But this would not be the case.
The first major undertaking was the building of the Temple. It would not be an easy task and would take many years but the lesson is found in what is important to build first. The walls would be the logical answer but while the walls lay in ruin the Temple was the first thing built. Why? Protection from God was paramount. The walls were secondary. Under the leadership of Nehemiah and others the walls would be rebuilt in 52 days but the people understood the protection of God was more important than the protection offered by walls of stone. Seventy years earlier the walls were breached and the nation taken captive because the protection of the Lord had been withdrawn. How could the Babylonian army march into the Temple entering the Holy of Holies without God’s will being done? The Lord had withdrawn His protection.
Today is a day of worship. What is important today is the spirit of the heart more than the trappings of wood and stone. The walls of Jerusalem were necessary and would be built one day but first it was the heart of the people that needed to turn back to God in the days of restoration. We live in the days of restoration where the call of the heart is still directed toward the Lord. Our worship today must be in building the Temple of God in our lives to worship and adore Him first. Before we have Bible study, before we lift our voices in song, before we make pleadings to the Lord, before we commune in the supper of the Lord and before we open the manna of life in His word – we must build the Temple of God to prepare our hearts to worship in spirit and truth. First things call for first things first.
God is of no importance unless He is of supreme importance. (A. J. Heschel, Man Is Not Alone, 1951)