Summary: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest news ever proclaimed - and it does bring Joy to the World!
EXPERIENCE JOY IN GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
Ezra 1:1-4; 3:10-13
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest news ever proclaimed - and it does bring Joy to the World! As Christmas draws nearer, we eagerly await the joyful reminder of that day. In the story of the birth of Christ we do not find a kind of restful lazy joy. Instead the story is tense, uncertain, and impossible except for a miracle. You might find this season to be tense and uncertain. We desire to experience joy, and we can, when our lives are focused on the faithfulness of God. God’s faithfulness becomes evident in times of struggle, disappointment, and uncertainty.
In our series called Christmas Rush we have talked about Embracing hope in the promise of God (Jeremiah), Finding comfort in the love of our God (Isaiah), Experiencing joy in the faithfulness of God (Ezra).
Ezra was a a strong-minded leader, priest, and scribe in the period after the fall of Babylon. He was permitted to lead a group of priests and other Jews back to Jerusalem after the exile ended. Ezra’s goal was to restore the worship of God at the temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. This was a shining moment of trust in God’s Faithfulness. From this account three truths about God’s Faithfulness that can bring light into our Christmas Rush today.
1. GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS PROMISED
(Ezra 1:1 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord roused the spirit of King Cyrus to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and to put it in writing:)
Ezra begins his historic record by reminding us that God Promised a deliverance from the exile. Before the exile Jeremiah begged God’s people to repent of idolatry and wickedness, but they would not. He warned them of consequences. They did not listen. He promised that God would deliver them after a time. Ezra’s account reminds us that God does not forget His promises. I’m sure they wondered through those years if God had abandoned them.
Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you.”
God’s faithfulness is a part of who He is. It is not dependent on our faithfulness. It is not taken away when we fail to follow Him. It is always present, and He always remember. In the Christmas Rush, if God feels far away during times of discouragement - remember He will not forget you.
2. GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS SURPRISING
(Ezra 1:2-4 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of the heavens, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah. 3 Any of his people among you, may his God be with him, and may he go to Jerusalem in Judah and build the house of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 Let every survivor, wherever he resides, be assisted by the men of that region with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, along with a freewill offering for the house of God in Jerusalem.”)
God used King Cyrus of Persia to fulfill his will. In his proclamation he claims that God has given him all the kingdoms of the earth and appointed him to build the temple (God wouldn’t even let David build the temple!) It is surprising that God could use a pagan king to accomplish His will … but he did. As the Israelites leave the exile their neighbors give them treasures - a reminder of the Exodus and the plunder the Egyptians gave to the Children of Israel as they left!
There are many surprises in the story of God redeeming the world. (We forget that they are surprising because we
are familiar with them!) God used a young unmarried couple to bring his son. The king of the universe born in a manger. The first to hear the great news were lowly shepherds.
In the Christmas Rush, be aware that God is at work and watch for ways He is blessing you in unexpected moments or through unexpected people. Every gift, prayer, recognition of beauty, and every time the Christ Child is portrayed we have opportunity to glorify God for us ultimate faithfulness. How many times has God used a smile, a word, some event that normally wouldn’t have caught our attention ….but this time it blessed us?
God’s Faithfulness is Promised, Surprising, and…
3. GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS MOVING (Ezra 3:10–14)
We shouldn’t think this was an easy time. They had to rebuild the foundation of the temple.
-There were people who were threatening them (3:3 They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples.).