Friday, June 28, 2013

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary

For Sunday June 30, 2013
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JOYFUL WORSHIP RESTORED
(Worship requires sacrifice)
(Ezra 3:1-7)

Tishri, the seventh month on the Jewish calendar was a great month for the Israelites in terms of their observances of religious rites and celebrations. In the month of Tishri, which is correlated by September-October on our calendar, are no less than three religious festivals that are highlighted in the Holy Bible because they were imposed by GOD HIMSELF.
·         First, on the very first day of the month, the “Feast of Trumpets”, also known as “Rosh Hashanah” takes place (Leviticus 23:23-25). It is a celebration of “complete rest” (a Sabbath Day) and all regular work must cease. All the people were called together into a sacred assembly with a loud blast from a trumpet, and they presented offerings to the LORD by fire all day long.
·         On the tenth day of the month, exactly nine days after the Feast of Trumpets, came the “Day of Atonement” (Leviticus 23:26-32). It was another day of “complete rest and fasting”, and, atonement for sins was performed, in total humility, by burning offerings to GOD by fire on the altar. This day was considered to be a “Sabbath Day” also.
·         And then finally on the fifth day following the Day of Atonement, the Israelites would begin a “Festival of Shelters”, or, “Feast of Tabernacles” (Leviticus 23:33-43), which would continue for eight days. This feast began with a day of complete rest, and a sacred assembly by the people. On each of the seven festival days burnt offerings were presented to the LORD by fire. On the eighth day they again gathered for a sacred assembly. It was also a work-free day, and one of presenting still more sacrificial burnt offerings and grain offerings to the LORD.
In the book of Ezra, taking up at chapter 3, we see a re-instating of these great observances following the release of the captured Israelites from Babylon. The people had now taken about three months to re-settle in their new homes, and despite their fear of local residents, they began to rebuild GOD’s sacred altar on the old site, where it stood prior to the Babylonian Invasion in 586 B.C. Immediately they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the new altar of the LORD, every morning, and every evening (Vs. 1-3), a full fifteen days before the Festival of Shelters began.
That month the Festival of Shelters was celebrated on time, just as it was prescribed by Moses, the man of GOD, and they offered the burnt offerings that were specified for each day of the festival. They also offered the regular burnt offerings, offerings required for the new moon celebrations, their “freewill offerings”, and, they also observed all the other annual festivals to the LORD during that year. And this was all before they began laying the foundation for the LORD’s temple (Vs.4-6).
Later on the people, with help from King Cyrus, hired masons and carpenters, and bought cedar logs from Tyre and Sidon (modern-day Lebanon), paying for them with food, wine, and olive oil, and they floated the logs down from the Lebanon mountains, along the Mediterranean Sea to Joppa (v.7). These cedar logs were the same as those that were used by King Solomon to build the original temple at Jerusalem. They were massive trees that grew up to 120 feet in height, and had a circumference of 30-40 feet. The wood was the most fragrant in the world and resisted rot, and repelled insects very well.
The people of Israel had learned the valuable lesson that, GOD is their only protector. That is why they rebuilt the altar of praise and worship before they rebuilt the wall. GOD had proven HIMSELF to be their “protector and sustainer” in exile, while they were surrounded by the enemy, and they were sure that GOD would be their “wall of protection” during this reconstruction period.
They also wanted to send a message to the surrounding community that they didn’t need a temple in order to worship and praise GOD. The leaders also clearly wanted to establish a precedent for their own people, that, the first reconstruction efforts should be a place of “dedication to GOD”, and for “repentance of sin”. And by putting GOD first, they would be able to succeed in the rest of their efforts.
It is GOD, WHO will bring us through the trials and tribulations of this world, and, it is the “true Christian” who faithfully ascribes salvation to GOD. The salvation GOD gives us is not a deliverance of escape, but rather, it is a deliverance of conquest. When one escapes, he has to constantly look over his shoulder to see if what he escaped from is gaining on him. But when one is able to conquer that which bothers, threatens, or controls him, he becomes free from all such frets and worries. He can then have that measure of peace and protection that we all seek. And it is that kind of protection, a person can only receive through faith in, and obedience to, the Almighty GOD, our SAVIOR, through JESUS CHRIST.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander





                                 
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