Week 1 | Sept 15/17
We Must Return from Exile | You were made to worship
Value: Loving King Jesus
The Main Point: You were made to worship | Following Jesus is not a solo endeavor.The Bible: Ezra 3:10-13
The exile left God’s people without a home or a temple and wondering if their God had abandoned his promises to them. The exile fulfilled centuries of prophetic warnings, as hundreds of years of tradition, culture, and history was destroyed in just one year.
After spending decades in a foreign land under foreign rule, the Israelites were allowed to return home under Persian rule. But despite their return, the people’s hearts were just as hard. Would they ever be able to be faithful to God?
In the book of Ezra, there is language and a story that helps us navigate the particular season in which we find ourselves: Israel’s return from Exile. They were forcefully ripped out of their places of comfort and plunged into an extended experience of grief as they experienced the loss of familiarity, safety, independence, social ties, religious expression, and wealth. After 70 years (and we’re reeling from just one and a half years), the people of God were able to return to their home following this layered and generation-spanning devastation. Finally, the Lord cleared the way for their return. And further, after years of backbreaking and fearful work, He enabled Zerubbabel and his workers to rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem. At this sacred and familiar place of worship and fellowship with God and His people, there was a new look, a fresh perspective, and a renewed commitment while the phantoms of what used to be haunted the remembrances of the older generation.
There is great joy at this wondrous occasion of dedication. God had been faithful to His promises. He had shown mercy to His people. He had brought them out of exile and brought them home. And yet, joy is not the only emotion– and rightly so. This joy is intermixed with sorrow. A sadness hangs over the older generation and they weep loudly during worship because they “had seen the first temple” – the former temple in its glory before it’s destruction and their exile. The elders remembered what had been while they were experiencing what God had now established. They grieved as they rejoiced. The result was a collaboration of joy and sorrow.
We often think that joy and sorrow don’t go together. We imagine they’re more like oil and water than peanut butter and jelly. From Scripture, however, we get a very different take. Over and over again, joy and sorrow exist alongside each other. This reality could not find a clearer expression than the experience of the people of Israel gathered around Zerubbabel’s temple.
As you prepare your core of the message using story and questions keep in mind these points:
- God’s people were exiled from their “church” for 70 years, yet came back and began with worship.
- Humans are worshippers. We all worship something. What do you worship?
- There is something important about remembering the past but also praising God for the present and the future. How do we do both?
- Worship brings healing.
As you think of a call to action or challenge for your listeners, keep in mind these points:
- We worship out of a response to the salvation of God. Does your listener know God loves them and can make a response to him?
- What may be stopping your listener from worshipping God “with praise and thanks,” and how can you encourage them in your message? “We must return from exile.”
- What are they worshipping? Who or what is getting their attention and heart?