And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Ezra 6:22)
Worship The Lord With Joy
There was much to rejoice as the children of Israel who returned from captivity looked upon the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. Many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. Sixteen years later the finished Temple stood gleaming in the bright sunshine and the heart of the people wept and rejoiced at the completion of the house of God. The Passover marked the beginning of restoring worship in Jerusalem and the Feast of Unleavened bread was kept for seven days with joy because the Lord had given them a purpose for rejoicing. Through the providential mercy of God, the king of Assyria allowed the people to return to Jerusalem. There had been a great revival in the land through the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo fortified by the hand of God moving in the hearts of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, the kings of Persia.
Joy permeated the worship at the dedication of the Temple because the people recognized the hand of God in their lives. Without the power of God, they would remain in bondage and captivity. They could see the will of the Lord working among the nations of the world to bring the Jews back to the land promised to them through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The Temple was the manifestation of God’s grace and they lifted their voices in praise with joy. Worship must come from the understanding of where man is in the scheme of things and how God’s grace overshadows his life. The people knew the new temple was a manifestation of the love of God and without the kindness of the Lord to allow them to return, there would be no hope. Joy filled their hearts because they had a purpose to live in serving the God who had rescued them.
Nearly ninety years had passed when the Temple of Solomon was destroyed. After seventy years in the land of Babylon, the Jews were allowed to return as declared by God through the prophets. After some delay, the second temple was finished. Worship in the early days of the second temple filled the walls with praise, honor, and thanksgiving. The joy that flowed in the hearts of the people came from knowing what God had done for them. Worship has always been true when men realize the source of their blessings. Joy must be a part of worship for without joy there can be no worship. The key to worshiping the Lord is to know that man is dependent upon the grace of God and without it, there would be no hope. Realizing all that God has done turns the heart from pride to humble acceptance of the blessings of a loving Father.
Worship does not come from temples made with hands but hearts formed by the love of God. Standing before the throne of God and realizing without the grace, mercy, and love of a forgiving Father, no one would have any hope. Yet, gathering with the hosts of God’s people in a place of worship and realizing all that God has done, every promise the Lord has made and the hope given through the blood of Jesus Christ; the heart can hardly restrain from bursting forth in eternal praise. It is easy to go through worship without any emotion or feeling of praise. The Lord made the people joyful because of His love for them. True worship comes from the heart of God’s people who reflect upon the price paid for their redemption. Jesus died a miserable and horrible death so that His disciples could worship in joy. God loved the world so much He willingly gave His only begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. How more love can man receive from the hand of God and not desire to sing the praise of joy? Worship is praise and joy.