By Nancy Stevens
Today's Scripture: Ezra 3:1–4:24
Central Thought: If we decide to obey God regardless of the outcome, He will help us to do so.
When the exiled Jews returned from Babylon, they began 'to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with the Law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2, NIV). They realized that God had sent the Jewish people into exile because of their disobedience and idol worship. Now they had the opportunity to make a fresh start and obey all God's commandments. They generously gave freewill offerings to finance the work.
We might imagine that as the people earnestly tried to obey God, things would go well for them. However, 'the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building” (4:4). They opposed the Jewish people and tried to frustrate their plans for many years!
How did the former exiles respond? Did they give up and say, 'Why bother trying to follow God; it only causes us more problems”?
Ezra 3:3 tells us, 'Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord.” When the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, all the people celebrated with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
How do we respond when we face opposition? Do we trust God and continue to obey Him even when we are afraid? Do we obey only part of what He has told us to do, or give up all together?
If we determine that we will obey God no matter the outcome, He will strengthen us, work His perfect will in our lives, and reward us abundantly in eternity.
Devotional Prayer: Father, we want to obey You and bring glory to Your name. Please strengthen our resolve and help us not to give in to fear.
Today's Bible Reading: Ezra 3:1–4:24; 1 Corinthians 2:6–3:4; Psalm 28:1–9; Proverbs 20:24-25