Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
After dedicating the temple, the worshippers dedicate themselves to God. Three insights can be gleaned from this.
First, there is obedience in the way they observe their first Passover celebration in the rebuilt temple. According to the law of Moses, it is to be observed on the 14th day of the first month (Ezra 6:19; Numbers 28:16). The returnees are careful to obey the law and its stipulations: the priests and Levites ensure that they are ceremonially clean by purifying themselves, thus respecting God and His law (Ezra 6:20). As with the first Passover during the Exodus, Passover lambs are slain and eaten communally (vv. 20–21; Exodus 12:21–28). A week-long Feast of the Unleavened Bread is also celebrated (Ezra 6:22). The Jews who celebrate Passover in the new temple would remember how their forebears were saved by God long ago, and be thankful that He had also saved them from the exile.
What significance does the Passover observance in the Old Testament have for Christians today? We know from the New Testament that the Passover ceremonies point to Christ, “our Passover Lamb” (1 Corinthians 5:7) who was sacrificed for our salvation. Christians commemorate this truth by sharing the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ. When He provided a Passover meal for His disciples, He said, “Take and eat; this is my body” (Matthew 26:26), and “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
Second, the worshippers focus on holiness. Not only do the priests and Levites wash themselves to become ceremonially clean, but the people also separate themselves from the “unclean practices” of their Gentile neighbours (Ezra 6:21). Anyone who wishes to share the Passover meal is to do the same. This means that the door is open to outsiders provided they seek God and become part of the covenant community, committing themselves to godly living; compare this with how some foreigners are allowed to celebrate the Passover in Exodus 12:48–49. The Lord’s Supper in church follows the same principles.
Third, it is a joyful celebration (Ezra 6:22). The worshippers are joyful that God has changed the king’s heart. There is solemnity in keeping an important religious festival, but also deep joy. The early Christians similarly broke bread with joy and sincerity (Acts 2:46). We should do likewise; the joy should come as we remember God and His loving character and actions. The worshippers of God are expected to show obedience, holiness, and joy in their lives.
Why is it important to gather in our places of worship to worship God? What attitudes should there be in our hearts as we do so?
What signs can you find of obedience, holiness, and joy in your life? Which of these do you need more of?