Ezra & Nehemiahby Robert M. Solomon
In his book, Fire in the Fireplace, author Charles Hummel suggests that the fire (renewal by the Holy Spirit) needs a fireplace (church). It is possible to have a fireplace without fire-a church that has not been renewed by the Holy Spirit and is therefore dead and useless. Conversely, fire (spiritual revival and its manifestations) without a fireplace (the church with its proper ordering and accountability) can burn out of control and cause damage.
So, now that the Jews have restored worship, they commence rebuilding the temple so that their worship can have a proper home as stipulated by God's law. They assemble and pay the masons and carpenters to start work on the temple (Ezra 3:7). They also pay, in kind, the people of Sidon and Tyre for good-quality cedar logs to be brought in by sea (v. 7). This is reminiscent of what King Solomon did when he built the first temple (2 Chronicles 2:3-10).
Work on the temple begins in the second month of the second year (Ezra 3:8). Note that the site of the temple was called ″the house of God in Jerusalem″ even before the temple was built; God was already present at the site which He had chosen long ago. Starting the building work in the second month is again reminiscent of Solomon's building of the first temple, which also began in the second month (1 Kings 6:1). These are clues that the Jews, while lacking the kind of resources that Solomon had, want very much to restore the temple to its original glory.
The building work needs close supervision, so the Levites who are well-versed in temple furnishings and worship-and who are 20 years and above-are appointed to be ″site supervisors″ (Ezra 3:8). Under the law of Moses, Levites began serving at the temple at the age of 30 (Numbers 4:3, 23, 30), but King David revised it to 20 (1 Chronicles 23:24). Such careful supervision shows the Israelites' desire to build a temple of quality according to God's instructions. That the Levites ″joined together″ (Ezra 3:9) in their task speaks of close coordination and a sense of unity. How good and pleasant it must have been (Psalm 133:1)!
Today, there is no temple in Jerusalem. Instead, in Christ we are all corporately and individually the temple of God. We are ″God's building″ (1 Corinthians 3:9, 16; 6:19). As a congregation, we are being built up by God to rise up ″to become a holy temple in the Lord″ (Ephesians 2:21-22). We must recognise this as we submit ourselves to the ″rebuilding activity″ of God in our lives as individuals and as a church. This is a glorious project of God, and every one of us is involved in it.
The Bible says that we are God's house (Hebrews 3:6). What lessons can we learn from this passage in Ezra on why it is necessary for us to ensure that in our personal and congregational lives, there is a rebuilding process going on?
Consider your own experience in ″joining together″ (Ezra 3:9) with others to serve God. What are some challenges you have encountered and what are the joys you have experienced?