The Book of Ezra details the return of the Jews to Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian captivity. They have been in captivity 70 years. Ezra returns in a second wave of sojourners, but chronicles the whole return and in one place tells us about the return of worship in Jerusalem.
Ezra 3:1–3 (NKJV) — 1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and 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. 3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.
The people who have returned to Jerusalem are surrounded by enemies. All the nations around them don’t want them to return and rebuild a nation. The Jews are afraid. Nevertheless, they trust in God and return to worship. Jeshua (Joshua) the high priest, Zerubbabel the governor, and their brethren all come together to rebuild the altar of God. It was destroyed by Babylon 70 years earlier and its destruction, along with the Temple, was very symbolic of the fall of Israel spiritually. But now, God is lifting His people back on their feet and they endeavor to return to true worship. This starts with the altar. For them, they must be able to make sacrifices to God above all things and they need the altar to do it. For us, it’s a little different. Blood sacrifices are not what the Lord wants from us. Jesus is the final blood sacrifice to atone for sin.
Hebrews 7:26–27 (NKJV) — 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.
Jesus died once for all people. There is no longer a sacrifice needed. But God never really desired sacrifice. God has always desired a contrite and faithful heart. King David knew this and wrote of it when confronted with his own sin.
Psalm 51:16–17 (NKJV) — 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.
God wants a broken and contrite spirit. A person humble and following Him. God later speaks through Micah and confirms this.
Micah 6:6–8 (NKJV) — 6 With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? 7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?
What are your sacrifices to the living God? Do you do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly? Do you have a broken and contrite heart?
In His Service, Scott
This Week’s Reading Plan:
- Day 1 – Nehemiah 10-11
- Day 2 – Nehemiah 12-13
- Day 3 – Esther 1-5
- Day 4 – Esther 6-10
- Day 5 – Job 1-4
- Day 6 – Job 5-7
- Day 7 – Job 8-10