In Disney stories, after tragedy, after evil/the villain is defeated then the couple/people go on to live in paradise happily ever after. Real life is not like that. Even after God brings miraculous deliverance and victory, we continue to live in a broken sinful world:
there continues to be obstacles to overcome,
there continues to be sin to repent from and
there continues to be spiritual revival to seek
This is what the book of Ezra is all about. We continue our look at each book of the Bible in order over a six year period.
[image] Quick review of history to date
The books of Ezra and Nehemiah (which comes immediately after Ezra) were originally compiled as one book. Ezra and Nehemiah were contemporaries who helped restore Israel and the temple after the exile.
The book of Ezra (like Nehemiah) is a book of prophetic fulfillment. It records the fulfillment of God’s prophecies that He would take Israel – rejected and exiled because of her sin – and bring her back and restore her to her glory. And in Ezra, we see this miraculous work of God unfold before our eyes (as it were).
Only it doesn’t appear like the glorious deliverance that we might expect – it’s nothing like the ending we see in Disney movies. It’s not like the day of Pentecost when the Spirit fell in mighty ways. It’s nothing like heaven on earth. In fact, it’s more like hard work than miraculous deliverance.
Three things that we see happen when God moves.
1. The Need to Overcome Obstacles 障害を克服する必要性
2. The Need to Confess Sin 罪を告白する必要性
3. The Need for Spiritual Revival 霊的リバイバルの必要性
1. The Need to Overcome Obstacles
When God moves, we expect our lives to become obstacle free. Easier. Breezier. Happier. More Disney.
This is a really immature understanding of God and His way of working.
When God moves, challenges increase.
– We see this here in Ezra, when the exiles return and start building the temple, they meet opposition after opposition. It’s relentless. It’s so relentless that for many years the exiles give up. It’s not until Nehemiah comes along later and gives them a boost that they continue to work on the temple and complete it.
– We see this when Jesus worked amongst his disciples. Remember when He told them to sail the boat to the other side of the lake? A huge storm whipped up. They feared for their lives. Why would that happen? They were doing Jesus’ work. Living faithfully for Jesus doesn’t mean we will always have easy passage.
– We see this after Pentecost. After a great outpouring of the Spirit, a great persecution broke out against the church and it was scattered. Living faithfully for Jesus doesn’t mean we will always have easy passage.
– We see this today in our own lives. Just when we make a decision to live for Christ, just when we make a commitment to follow Him more faithfully, to give more of ourselves, to receive more of His Spirit, we face trouble and persecution. It’s the way of a broken world. It’s the way of the ‘friendly to God’ in a world that is hostile to God.
The closer we get to God, the more we are called to face and overcome obstacles that are in our way. It’s a recurring command and encouragement in Jesus’ words to the churches in Revelation:
The one who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. Rev 2:11
To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. Rev 2:17
To the one who overcomes, I will give authority over the nations. Rev 2:26
The one who overcomes will be dressed in white. Rev 3:5
The one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Rev 3:12
To the one who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne. Rev 3:21
So be strong and ready to overcome as God moves in your life.
2. Confession of sin
One of the first things that happens when God moves is the confession of sin. Not a page 39 prayer book confession of sin but a real deep down anguish over sin and a heartfelt confession of it. This might sound very negative or depressing but it’s not. It’s actually very beautiful because it brings us to a godly perspective on our lives and opens the door for God’s grace to be poured in. Here’s where the joy of revival starts.
I want to read to you the prayer of confession that Ezra prayed. I want to read the whole thing. Today we often pray ‘Twitter prayers’ – no more than 140 characters per prayer. There is a time and a place for Twitter prayers but I fear they are taking over and becoming the norm in our prayer life and what does that say about our relationship with God? There needs be times of waiting, and labour in prayer, and perseverance in prayer and begging and crying out and weeping in prayer.
The sin for us is not just intermarriage with non-believers but any meshing of ourselves with the world. Although we are in the world, we are to stand apart from the world as a people who are holy and different. And we are to confess and repent from any compromise with the world. When God moves we become more aware of the sin in our lives and have a greater desire to get it our of our lives.
3. Spiritual Revival
When God moves there is spiritual revival.
This is something I’m going to be talking about more in the coming weeks and months. Just as the rebuilding of the temple during the time of Ezra was not the same, not as glorious, as the building of the original temple at the time of Solomon, neither is the spiritual life of most churches as dynamic or as glorious as that of the early church. And that is what we need to seek. We need to be labouring in prayer, and begging God for a greater outpouring of His Spirit. We do this with a spirit of thankfulness for the work that God has already done. And we do this with a spirit of praise and expectation for what is yet to be done.
Here at Minoh International Church, we are building a temple.
Expect and overcome opposition to the building of our church temple.
Be humble and repentant as we build so that our work will bring glory to God, not to ourselves.
Seek spiritual revival with all your heart.