While traveling to the hospital the other day, I came upon a very familiar sight, men working on the roads. As I neared the site, being in somewhat of a hurry, my main concern was getting to the hospital on time, before the patient went into surgery. Being seemingly unconcerned, or unaware of much else around me, for some reason my attention was seized, and something caught my eye. I had seen it, probably hundreds of times before, however, this time, it just appeared to jump out at me. What I saw was a large, orange, diamond-shaped sign, which read: DANGER: MEN AT WORK! As I meditated on that sign, I immediately thought of how this ought to be the sign over the body of believers today, only this sign ought to read: DANGER: GOD'S PEOPLE AT WORK!
Most of you know the setting of the book of Ezra. The Babylonians had began their conquest of Jerusalem in 606 BC, and had finally destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC However, in 538 BC, Cyrus issued a proclamation allowing the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their temple, and nearly 50,000 returned under the leadership of Zerubbael.
The primary architect of Israel's new identity was Ezra, the priest, the "ready scribe of the law of Moses."(7:6) As a scribe, his primary task was the study and exposition of the law. Through the work of Ezra, Israel had a job to do, and although they faced times of trial, testing, and tribulation, the Lord saw them through. In spite of many obstacles, Israel marched with work to do, and no doubt it may have read at the construction of the temple: DANGER: GOD'S PEOPLE AT WORK!
Briefly, I want you to notice three things that made their work so effective, and want enabled them through much adversity to finally achieve their goal. We see the:
I. UNIFICATION DESCRIBED (v. 1)
In this verse, we see one of the primary reasons that Israel was able to conquer all their obstacles. For they came together, and unified themselves as "one man". However, let's look at this a little closer and see the:
A. MULITITUDE INVOLVED (2:64-67)
2. We've already mentioned that they were together, and unified. However, what's even more amazing than that is the number of people that was involved in this thing:
2. This number does not reflect the servants, and the singers. Including them, almost 50,000 people came together with one purpose, and one mind.
3. Just to have 100 in unity would be a feat in and of itself, but to have 42,360 in unity is a miracle.
4. No doubt, these folks had learned the lesson that UNITY BRINGS THE BLESSINGS OF GOD!!
c.f. Genesis 11----TOWER OF BABEL
**This was something that was done in and of themselves, without
God, but look how much they got done.**
5. It's amazing to see what can happen when God's people come together> I'm not talking about yoking up with anything that comes along, I'm talking about God's people of like faith coming together in unity!!
No doubt many will remember the episode of the Peanuts cartoon when Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. Linus said, "What makes you think you can march in here and take over?"
To which Lucy replied, "These five fingers, individually they're nothing, but when I curl them together like this into a single unit they form a weapon that is terrible to behold." Linus then wisely replied, "Which channel do you want?" Then, turning away, he looked at his fingers, and said, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"
6. It seems as if sometimes the Lord is saying to his church, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?" These folks saw their need, and that it required them to get together, and they unified themselves, all 42,360 of them. That's the Multitude Involved!
G. MEASURE INCLUDED (2:68-69)
8. Not only do we see in their unification the Multitude Involved, but the Measure Included. We see that they solidified their unity by giving from their heart.
9. Notice, in verse 68, it says that they "offered freely for the house of God." In verse 69, it says that "They gave after their ability unto the treasure of their work.."
10. Not only were they committed enough for the multitude to come together, but they proved their commitment by the measure that they gave.
11. Now, I know when the church starts talking about money, immediately someone thinks that that is all they're interested in.
12. However, I submit unto you, friend, that God measures our commitment by the Measure that we give.
**Our Pocketbook is God's Recordbook!!!**
ILLUSTRATION:Many church folks are like the man described in one of Martyn-Lloyd Jones stories. A farmer who went into the house one day to tell his wife the good news. "The cow just gave birth to twin calves, one red and one white," he said. He went on to say, "We must dedicate one of these calves to the Lord. We will bring them up together, and when the time comes, we will sell one and keep the proceeds and we will sell the other and give the proceeds to the Lord." His wife asked him which one he was going to give to the Lord, and he informed her that there was no need to worry about that now.
A few days later, he entered the kitchen looking very unhappy, and his wife asked him what happened. "I have bad news," he said. "The Lord's calf is dead." The wife said, "Wait, you didn't decide which calf was to be the Lord's!" "Yes," he said, "I decided it was the white one, and the white one did. The Lord's calf is dead!"
6. Sad to say, many of us are like that with our giving. Whatever is convenient is what we'll give, and no more. However, these folks were so committed to this thing that they proved it by the measure of their gift. That's the Multitude Involved, the Measure Included, the Unification Described!
II. CONSECRATION DECLARED (v. 3-6)
Not only do we see the Unification of these people, but the Consecration of these people to build the temple, and do the work for the Lord. We see that their consecration was declared by the:
A. PRACTICE THEY FOLLOWED (v. 3-5)
2. As you know, there was no temple as of yet, no altar built. However, this did not stop them from consecrating themselves, and worshipping the Lord.
3. They made no excuses that there was no proper place for them to do this, they simply used the foundation of the original altar to do it.
4. In verse 4, it tells us that "they kept also the feast of tabernacles, and offered the daily burnt offerings.." Now keep in mind, the temple was where these rituals were to take place. However, there is no temple yet, so they made the most of what they had, and worshipped God.
5. How we ought to take note of their consecration. Yes, times were tough, however, they were not so tough that these people couldn't obey the law, and obey God. That's the Practice They Followed!
F. PRIORITY THEY FORMED (v. 6)
7. Not only did they Follow a Practice, but they Formed a Priority.
8. They didn't wait until the middle of the week, or the end of the week. They hadn't developed good Baptist tradition of putting it off.
9. They purposed to establish a priority of worshipping God on the "first day of the seventh month."
10. I just can't help remembering the words of our Lord, at the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:33, when he said,
"But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
5. These folks put first things first, that's the Practice They Followed, the Priority They Followed, that's their Consecration Declared!
III. DEDICATION DISPLAYED (v. 10-12)
We move now to the climax and we see not only their Unification, their Consecration, but their Dedication. Notice after all of the obstacles, hinderances, and troubles, the:
A. ACCOMPLISMENT THEY ENJOYED (v.10)
2. Finally, after everything they had faced, they finally erected the foundation of the temple. Through it all, they persevered, and stuck it out to get it done.
3. It's very interesting to note that the FOUNDATION is the most important part of the building.
4. Not only did they Enjoy the Accomplishment, but they had accomplished building the most important part of the building: THE FOUNDATION!
5. This was accomplished all because of their undying, unswaying DEDICATION!
I'm reminded of David Livingstone, the pioneer missionary to Africa who walked over 29,000 miles. His wife died early in their ministry, and he faced stiff opposition from his Scottish brethren. He ministered half blind. However, the words in his diary ought to spur each of us through difficulties:
"Lord, send me anywhere, only go with me. Lay any burden on me
only sustain me. Sever me from any tie but the tie that binds me to
to your service and your heart!"
B. APATHY THEY ENCOUNTERED (v. 12)
3. They had finally after much difficulty erected the foundation.
4. They had persevered, kept on, and went through.
5. However, even though they had accomplished what many, no doubt said, could not be done, and their moment of satisfaction had come, still not everyone was as thrilled as they ought to have been.
6. The older folks that had seen the first temple, Solomon's Temple, and who remember all of the Size, and Splendor that it had, were saddened because this one wasn't like this one.
7. Instead of praising Him for what he had allowed them to do, they were saddened because it didn't resemble Solomon's Temple.
8. How characteristic of our churches today! Folks, there's nothing wrong with remembering how it used to be, however, God is a God of RIGHT NOW!
9. One writer has so aptly put, "God is not a Duplicator, He's an Originator!!"
10. Through it all there was Unification, Consecration, and Dedication. That's why they did the work for God.
One of my American heroes is our twenty-eighth President of these United States. Wilson, at the age of seven, had to go to work to help support his family. At nine, his mother died. At twenty-two, he went into debt and became a partner in a small store. At twenty-six, his partner died leaving him a huge debt. By the age of thirty-five, he had been defeated twice when running for a seat in Congress. At the age of thirty-seven, he won the election. At thirty-nine, he lost his reelection bid. At forty-one, his four-year old son did. At forty-two, he was rejected for a land officer role, and at forty-five, he ran for the Senate and lost. At forty-seven, he was defeated for the nomination for vice-president. At forty-nine, he ran for Senate again and lost again. At the age of fifty-one, he was elected President of the United States, however, during his second term in office, he was assassinated. But, his name lives on among the greats in U.S history.
What do you want to see God do here, at Concord Baptist Church? How bad do you want to see God do it? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to see that it gets done? The Israelites give a pretty good example to follow. We see their Unification Described, their Consecration Declared, and their Dedication Displayed. When those three ingredients are included, it remains to be seen what God will do. No doubt about it, when those three things are here, they'll be a sign placed over the door of our church, as well as, the door of our hearts which reads: DANGER: GOD'S PEOPLE AT WORK!!!