Devotional Reading: Psalm 136
Lesson Scripture: Ezra 3:8-13
Lesson Aims: To summarize the lesson; recognize how God restores; and persevere with thanksgiving to God, no matter the circumstance.
Background: Sacrifices were a key component of Jewish worship. It dated back to the days of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). The Jews didn’t start the practice but were given specifics by God on Mt. Sinai. In Genesis 22, God told them not to sacrifice humans to Him. According to Echoes Adult Teacher’s Commentary, there were five basic types of sacrifices (also found in Leviticus), Burnt offerings were given daily where the entire animals were completely consumed on the Altar; Grain offerings were usually fine flour in various forms with olive oil.
The priests got a portion of this; Peace/Fellowship offerings were to express gratitude and obligation to God; the Sin offering was for the entire congregation, especially on the Day of Atonement; and the Guilt/Trespass offering rights a wrong. Blood was poured on the Altar, not sprinkled. In a nutshell, the sacrifices represented their dependence on God alone for their existence.
They were once again in right covenant relationship with God (last week). The returnees could testify to God’s redemptive acts! After all, look where He brought them from (Judgment to restoration)! The Altar was essential for their worship as they faced rebuilding the Temple.
Lesson: After all of the resources were in place, Zerubbabel (civil leader) and Jeshua (spiritual leader) summon the Levites to supervise laying the Temple foundation in the second month of the second year after their return. This is the same month that Solomon began the construction of the original Temple. Three groups of Levites are mentioned for the task. “The returnees are experiencing meager times, so they frequently request assistance from Jews who remain in Babylon” (The New International Dictionary of the Bible). When the foundation is laid, the priests blow the trumpets, and the Levites play the cymbals while praises go up to God. The elders from all classes cry out for two reasons.
First, this Temple will not be as grand as the original one they remember. Their voices go up because God brought them back after the Babylonians destroyed Judah. The younger generation (born in exile) raises their voices out of sheer joy, for they knew nothing of the old days. The praises are so loud that the surrounding people far away could hear.
Application: Worship is sacred, bottom line, end of story! When we are in the midst of worship, we must always remember that praises go up for different reasons. For that reason, we should not belittle others because their praise doesn’t look like ours! I’m sure that all of us can identify with the praises of the elders and the youth. The elders recall the past while the youth rejoice the present. Anytime an individual or group gets back in right relationship with God, rejoicing in on the table whether it is in worship, at family reunion, a wedding, funeral, graduation, or some other occasion that brings people together.
No matter the circumstances, praise is always appropriate because as believers, we know God can and will keep His promises. Can you share with someone who is going through hardship today? Everything will be alright.