Friday, August 23, 2019

Be joyful - be productive

Another source of joy in the Lord is one that we've touched on before: God wants us to experience the joy of productivity in our service for Him.
Let's refresh our memories of chapter 6:
The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.16 Then the people of Israel—the priests, the Levites, and the rest of the exiles—celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. (Ezra 6:15-16)
Ezra goes on to note that the celebrations continued:
For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel. (v 22)
So, the temple was finally finished (I'm putting on my best "I'm-the-narrator" voice here for you) about twenty years after the foundation was laid -- it was about four years after the new, new beginning, when Haggai and Zechariah had begun their ministries. The scholars disagree on the dimensions given in verse three of the chapter -- the dimensions here in Ezra seem to exceed those of Solomon's temple. His was noted as 20 cubits wide, 60 cubits long, and 30 cubits high. (I always wonder about cubits, don't you? I ran the numbers and got this: Solomon's temple was approximately 30 feet wide, 88 feet long, and 44 feet high.  And for y'all who utilize the metric system, Solomon's temple was approximately 9 meters by 27 meters, and 13.5 in height.) It just helps me to visualize the temple. (Grin)

Now, let's turn back around and get out of the weeds here. The reason for the scholars' puzzled looks and head-scratching is that if this temple was larger, it's kinda hard to figure out the disappointment expressed by the old-timers in chapter three. As we stated a couple of weeks ago, it could have been tears because the foundation was being laid and they were remembering the glory of the old temple. The foundation laid was in the midst of a ruined city; they might have been at the point of tears because they wondered if things could ever be like they were before......
Anyway, since the length isn't given in chapter six, some have theorized that the original text has been corrupted.  I kinda discount that theory -- to me it makes more sense that these dimensions were the maximum that Cyrus said he would support and approve. The actual building could have been smaller, and that would account for the older Jews' disappointed faces. Whatever the correct explanation is, we know that the temple was completed -- and that the people rejoiced at its dedication.

In today's world, we can and should rejoice at the completion of a building project, a ministry being established, the completion of a week of backyard Bible studies, etc.  There's even greater joy, however, when we experience the Lord using us in the building of His kingdom.
Are we witnessing?
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. (Luke 15:7)
In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:10)
Are we working to bring the lost in to hear the gospel?
 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. (Luke 15:32)
Are we investing our financial blessings?
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.  (II Corinthians 9:7-8)
Are we investing our time and experience?
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (I Corinthians 15:58)
Working hard for the Lord will mean that we bear fruit in our lives, and that we'll experience joy:
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples....I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.  (John 15:8, 11)
A recipe for service? For the joy that comes from working in God's kingdom? I can't think of a better recipe than that given by Paul to the Philippians:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:(Philippians 2:1-5)
We can not only be joyful because of God's providence in our lives, and not only because of His providing our needs, but also because we are working for Him.

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