Today’s reading: Ezra 3:1–4:24, 1 John 3:11–18, Ps 106:16–29
Today’s Theme: Initiative (step out)
Today’s lesson is the clarion call to step out in faith and take the initiative to work in God’s kingdom, for His glory, our joy and the flourishing of others. Therefore determine today to get started, to lay the foundations of obedience and brace yourself for opposition.
Put The Altar In Place
Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Ezra 3:2 (ESV)
The first order of business for the returned exiles in Jerusalem, is to establish proper worship of the one and only true God, Yahweh.
Jesua and Zerubbabel arose and took the initiative to lead the people in rebuilding the Altar, in accordance with God’s word. They provide us a good example.
We must be willing to take the initiative in building a spiritual altar to the Lord, in our own lives and family. One type of altar that we need to build is a devotional altar, we should have a set time for worship, prayer, reading, studying and thinking about God’s word, this is commonly called devotional time or quiet time. Mark 1:35
Other altars may include times of corporate worship with the wider church community. Our weekly services are each an altar. An altar is often a definitive place and time where we come and make offerings to the Lord. Colossians 3:16
Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 2:5 “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
The altars in our lives should change us to the glory of God. Set your heart to rebuild broken down altars in your life today.
Just Get Started
Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. They appointed the Levites, from twenty years old and upward, to supervise the work of the house of the LORD. Ezra 3:8 (ESV)
It is so important that we take initiative as we are led by God the Holy Spirit. Jeshua and Zerubbabel give us another good example, they “made a beginning”.
We need to take a step in the right direction. Is there a project God has put on your heart to do? If so, put pen to paper and start to write out a plan, send an email or set up a meeting. Hebrews 11:6
Maybe God is speaking to you about your devotional life and wants the quality of the time that you spend in prayer and the word, to improve. Don’t think of this or any other thing the Lord has put on your heart, as insurmountable and too hard to do, just “make a beginning”, take a step in the right direction in faith. Matthew 14:29
Maybe it involves the restoration of a relationship or even embarking on a new career, whatever it is, do not be crippled by fear, move forward in faith to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Step out in faith today, do not put it off any longer, just get started!
Lay the Foundations
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, Ezra 3:12 (ESV)
Jesus told us that the laying of foundations in our lives is the hearing and obeying of His word.
Matthew 7:24–25 reads “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.”
In the passage, the older generation were disappointed with the loss of the original, glorious foundation, in believing that the new one was not as good. This shows us that we can look back to those who have gone on before, to find inspiration and possibly better ways of laying the foundations of obedience to Christ, in our own lives (the Puritans for example).
Opposition Will Come
Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build. Ezra 4:4 (ESV)
If we repair the altars in our lives, launch out in faith and lay the foundations of obedience to Christ, we can be sure that opposition will come. The enemy does not mind when you are inactive and ineffective, but when you start to step out in faith, you are actively taking part in the war and fire will be drawn in your direction.
Despite discouragement coming from those around us, our own fears and spiritual opponents (evil spirits), we must take courage in the Lord and not allow ourselves to be discouraged in the work of the Lord.
Paul encourages us in Ephesians 6:16 “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one”
1 John 3:11–18
The Evidence of Love
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 1 John 3:14 (ESV)
Love is an indicator that we have truly passed from death to life. We can use this to examine ourselves. Do we love our brothers and sisters in Christ if the answer is ‘no’? Then we need to seek the Lord for restoration.
This does not mean that we are not saved, it is more of an indicator that we are not walking as we should. John’s point is that if we are in Jesus who is life itself, then that life will be expressed through love for one another.
The love we have for one another is not just human affection, it is a supernatural love born of God the Holy Spirit.
Lay Our Lives Down
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 1 John 3:16 (ESV)
We need to take the initiative in laying our lives down for our brothers, otherwise love in the church community will never work. If we all wait for someone else to lay their lives down then no one will, it starts with us, we must take the initiative.
Jesus was our perfect example, His love for us was demonstrated in the action He took, He laid His life down for us.
Let us follow the example of Jesus, by laying down our own agenda and sacrificially loving and serving one another in the Lord. If we all do it, we will all grow together.
In the next verse an example is given which is to give to those in need. The final verse from this reading says that we should not just love with words and talk, but in deeds and truth.
Obey God’s Voice
Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the LORD. Psalm 106:24–25 (ESV)
We have been called to obedience and as we read earlier, this is the foundation of our lives. Let us respond to God in practical faith today, let us step out and take the land in faith.
Most of the above post is a copy of the original notes from the same date in 2014.
Desiring God on 1 John 3