Summary: In this sermon we learn about the priority of worship and the Word of God.
A. The story is told of a minister who was giving the children’s sermon one day at his church.
1. He had decided to talk to the kids about how to write a good sermon, in hopes of inspiring some to grow up and go into the ministry or become a Sunday School teacher.
2. So he asked the children, “What makes a good sermon?”
3. Of course all the little kids raised their hands high and proud.
4. “Yes Johnny?” the minister said, and Johnny answered, “A good sermon needs a good beginning.”
5. “That’s right, Johnny,” replied the preacher, “We call that the introduction. What else makes a good sermon, kids?”
6. Little Susie raised her hand. “Yes, Susie?” the preacher said. “A good sermon also needs great ending,” said Susie.
7. “You are so right,” the preacher responded, “we call that the conclusion, and it is one of the most important parts. Anyone else?”
8. Little Billy had his hand up, so the preacher called on him. “Yes Billy?”
9. Billy said, “Well, I know you don’t do it this way, but in a good sermon, the introduction and the conclusion should be as close together as possible!”
B. Having a good beginning and a good ending, and having them as close together as possible is not only a good formula for sermons, it is also a good formula for a successful project.
1. As you know, we are in a sermon series on Ezra and Nehemiah called “Restoring and Renewing the People of God.”
2. Since it has been a couple of weeks since our last sermon from the series, let’s do a brief review.
3. God had brought the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses, and had made them into a great nation, with powerful kings like David and Solomon.
4. Unfortunately, God’s people split into two nations – the northern kingdom of Israel, and the southern kingdom, Judah.
5. Both kingdoms became unfaithful, and God warned that their unfaithfulness would lead them to being conquered and being taken into exile.
6. The northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 724 B.C. and then the southern kingdom fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C.
7. Through the prophets, God had not only foretold of the exile of the southern kingdom, which would last for 70 years, but God had also prophesied that Cyrus, king of Persia would allow them to return and rebuild the temple of God in Jerusalem.
8. Soon after Cyrus came to power in 538 B.C., he made an edict that gave the Jews the permission to return and rebuild.
9. In our last sermon, we saw that a little over 42,000 Jews took him up on the offer and returned to Jerusalem.
10. After their 4 month journey, Ezra chapter 2 ends with these words: The priests, the Levites, the singers, the gatekeepers and the temple servants settled in their own towns, along with some of the other people, and the rest of the Israelites settled in their towns (Ezra 2:70).
11. That’s where we want to pick up our story today.
C. Let’s keep in mind what those Jewish pilgrims found when they returned to Jerusalem.
1. The city was in shambles, and the temple lay in ruin.
2. Let me ask you, where would you begin to rebuild if you had been part of the group?
3. Honestly, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start a project, isn’t it?
D. I’m reminded of a restoration project that a friend of mine had undertaken.
1. He had found an old abandoned 1942 Ford in a field and had bought it for almost nothing.
2. He invited me over one day and was excited to show me his progress on the restoration.
a. We went into the garage where he had the whole vehicle disassembled.
b. What little was left of the body was removed from the frame and the motor was sitting by itself.
c. I asked him if the motor worked, and he said he didn’t know yet, but it probably would have to be rebuilt.
3. Then he got so excited and said he has something special to show me.
a. We went into the house and he brought a special box from his bedroom.
b. He opened the box and proceeded to unroll something from its’ careful packing.
4. What he showed me was the 1942 Ford’s dashboard ashtray that had been beautifully chrome-plated.
5. It was indeed lovely, but with all the work that needed to be done on that car, I’m not sure I would have started with the ashtray! (He was a smoker)
6. But perhaps there was some genius in where my friend had started – he chose something small that he could get done quickly that would represent a finished component in this long restoration project. Unfortunately, he died before he could see it through.