Don’t lose hope and don’t get side tacked.  Jesus must be your first love.

 

A Long Way Home

Ezra 1:1-7

 

The book “A Long Way Home” is about an Indian boy who was separated from his brother and got on the wrong train and could not find his way home.  Twenty-five years later after he was adopted and lived in Australia he found his biological mother.  A long way and a long time to get back home.

 

But our Bible reading this week is about even a longer way home.  The Jews were taken captive to Babylon and now 70 years later almost 50,000 are headed home.  Headed home to a land they had never been to, a land they only heard their parents talk about, some were headed home to a place they can verily remember because they were so young when they were taken away with their family.

 

Ezra 1:1  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

 

This was the Cyrus that Isaiah had prophesied about 160 years earlier.

Isaiah 44:28 [I am the Lord] who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”‘

Isaiah 45:1  “This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:

 

This is what Jerimiah prophesied about 70 years earlier.

Jeremiah 25:11  This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

 

God is a God of Hope

Even in the midst of punishment He promises His goodness.  Jeremiah prophesied right before Judah fell and was taken captive to Babylon. Hear God’s heart.

 

Jeremiah 29:10  This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. 11  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

 

Being taken captive was because of their rebellion.  They refused to worship God and serve Him.  But God wants to prosper them and give them hope.

 

God wants to prosper you and give you hope.

 

1 Peter 1:3  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead

 

Have you experienced the new birth?  Have you repented of your sins and been immersed into Jesus?  When your sins are forgiven and you have received the indwelling gift of God the Holy Spirit you have a living hope because of Jesus’ resurrection.  If you haven’t will you consider accepting Jesus today.

 

Christian, we, have a living hope.

1 Peter 1:4  …an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade

 

That hope is Jesus

Titus 2:13  we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

 

I know life doesn’t always feel like we have hope.  Loved ones die, kids get sick, you are miss treated at work, your marriage isn’t what you dreamed of – will any of this get any better.

We say there is light at the end of the Tunnel; and then joke that the light is light of the oncoming train.

I saw a sign this week that read – “Due to recent budget cuts the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off.”

That is how we feel sometimes – there is no hope

I have felt that way and I guess you have felt that way.  But we have hope, in Christ we have hope, hope is living, hope will appear, hope is stored up for us in Heaven.

 

Our hope is not in this world – our hope is Jesus in the next world, Heaven itself.

 

Colossians 1:5  the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6  that has come to you.

 

In our passage of study today the Jews are about to experience their hope of a return to their home.

In order for the Jews to return with hope they needed to turn to the God.

Jeremiah goes on to write:

Jeremiah 29:12  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14  I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

 

If you want hope – if you want to be freed from your captivity of sin – look to Jesus.

Back to Ezra

 

Ezra 1:1  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:  2  “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3  Anyone of his people among you–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4  And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.'” 5  Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites–everyone whose heart God had moved–prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. 6  All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. 7  Moreover, King Cyrus brought out the articles belonging to the temple of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and had placed in the temple of his god.

 

God called a pagan king to rebuild His temple with gold from the pagan’s kingdom.

This sounds like the favor the Jews received from the people when they left Egypt.  Their neighbors gave them silver and gold as they left (Exodus 12:35, 36).

 

God is in control and He can turn the hearts of others to accomplish His will.  He doesn’t always intervene in this way but He can.

 

The 50,000 Jews are home and ready to rebuild the temple for the glory of God.

They are excited even after the long trek home – they set up their homes and then assembled in Jerusalem to begin the project but they first built the altar so they could begin making the proper sacrifices to God (Ezra 3:1-6).  Opposition came (Ezra 4) and the people eventually abandoned the rebuilding project.

They quit the very thing they had come to do.  For 16 years the temple laid in ruins while the people focused on their lives and making their homes nice.  That is when God raised of Haggai.

 

Haggai 1:2  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.'” 3  Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: 4  “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?” 5  Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways.

 

The remnant went to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple of God and they got side tracked.  More urgent goals needed accomplished.  They needed to eat and have a fancy house to sleep in – they had to tend to their houses and families.  They made excuses – God doesn’t want us to build His temple yet.

Opposition to a project does not mean that God wants us to quit or wait.  Opposition could be a test of our resolve because Satan doesn’t want the project to continue.

God raised up King Cyrus to send His people back and now they people think they know better than God about His timing for rebuilding the Temple.

Who do they think they are?

Who do we think we are?

Don’t we do the same thing?

We are so busy living our lives and taking care of our family that we forget God’s purpose.

Then we get upset when things are not easy – there may be a reason.

God said to the Jews, “Give careful thought to your ways.”

Jesus said,

Matthew 6:25  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? …31  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

  1. S. Lewis wrote, “If we put first things first, we get the second things thrown in; but if we put second things first, we lose both the first and second things.”

 

If we are not seeking the Lord first why would we expect Him to bless what we do?

 

God told the people through Haggai,

 

Haggai 1:6  You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. … 7  This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. …9 …What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the LORD Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house.

 

Whose house are you more concerned about – yours or the Lord’s

 

Jesus said to the church in Ephesus

Revelation 2:2  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, …3  You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. 4  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.

 

Don’t lose hope and don’t get side tacked.  Make sure Jesus is your first love.

Christian continue to seek first God’s Kingdom first.

Maybe you need to come to Jesus today so you can find real hope.

 

Come as you are – come believing in Jesus, come with a humble heart to repent, come ready to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.