Open Your Bible
Ezra 7:1-28, Psalm 123:1-4, 2 Corinthians 9:6-12
BY Yana Conner
In today’s reading, we transition to the second phase of Israel’s reformation after their Babylonian exile. In phase one of their reformation, under the generosity and encouragement of King Cyrus, Zerubbabel led a group of Israelites back to Jerusalem to rebuild and refurbish the temple. Now, in phase two, under the generosity and encouragement of King Artaxerxes, Ezra leads a group of Israelites to Jerusalem to redirect the hearts of Israel back toward God.
The focus of Ezra’s ministry becomes apparent through his heart’s determination to study, obey, and teach Israel the law as well as the nature of the gifts he received from King Artaxerxes (Ezra 7:10). While King Cyrus’s gifts were designated for rebuilding the kingdom, King Artaxerxes’s gifts were designated for worshiping God through the sacrificial system. Together, the desired outcome of Ezra’s ministry and King Axtraxerxes’s gifts were to ensure that the temple didn’t sit dormant as some kind of Jewish monument to be admired but that it lived up to its God-desired potential.
This second phase of Israel’s reformation reminds us that, as Christians, we haven’t just been saved from something but that we’ve also been saved for something. Through His death, Christ saves us from our spiritual exile—we’re far from God due to our sinful nature and behaviors. By His resurrection, Christ saves us for a relationship with God marked by relational worship and devotion to His ways.
Like the temple, we’ve been rebuilt for a purpose. Unfortunately, depending on the day of the week, I can make that purpose about so many other things than relational worship of God and devotion to His ways. Though I would never say this out loud, my attitude and behaviors often reveal that I believe:
I’ve been saved for a comfortable life where all of my needs are met at all times…
I’ve been saved for an influential life where I use my gifts and follow my dreams…
I’ve been saved for a peaceful life where I’m unbothered by the swirling world around me and can quietly drink my water and mind my business…
But God has saved me (and you) for a qualitatively different kind of life. A life where we welcome discomfort when pursuing comfort would deviate from relational worship of Him and His ways. A life where, yes, we use our gifts, but not for the self-centered purposes of filling our bank accounts or being known, but to, like Ezra, direct the hearts of others towards God. A life where we allow ourselves to be bothered by the swirling world, determining in our hearts to call others to the God who saved them for more than anything in this world alone could offer them.