Summary: This is the first of a two part series looking at the books of Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah. In this study we'll be looking at the Jews return from Babylon to Jerusalem and their rebuilding God's temple, and some interesting insights to revival.
God’s Call to Revival
Book of Ezra
This morning we’ll be looking at the first of a two part series, “God’s Call to Revival.” Today we’re looking at the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, and God’s tremendous call that necessitated an encounter with Him.
A little historical background, however, is necessary so we can get a feel for what they were encountering at this time.
Approximately 70 years earlier, Babylon took the people of Judah captive and destroying Jerusalem leaving the entire area of Judah practically vacant. After the Medes and Persians defeated Babylon, God moved Cyrus, the Persian king, to issue a proclamation allowing the Jews to return and rebuild the temple.
Before we begin, however, let’s take a look at what the Lord told Jeremiah prior to their captivity.
“If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me.” (Jeremiah 15:19a NLT)
What I’d like to share with you are some interesting insights found in the Book of Ezra concerning this event that we can apply to our lives today.
The first thing we see in God’s call to revival is
1. A Call to Leave the Familiar
“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. And whoever is left in any place where he dwells, let the men of his place help him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, besides the freewill offerings for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:2-4)
The first step in this return was for them to leave the familiar ground of Babylon, the place where they grew up. Few who were taken in captivity 70 years prior would have been alive at this time. Babylon was essentially their home, and they had no real memory of Israel.
So they had to leave their familiar surroundings of Babylon and take a 700-mile trek to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s prophecy and calling.
God’s call to revival tells us to do the same. We need to leave the familiar and what’s holding us back from moving into God’s fullness, and His calling upon our lives.
This involves church as well, because it has become way to familiar. People come to church on Sunday, sing some songs, drop some money into the offering bags, glad hand a few folks, listen to the message, and then they’re off doing their own thing the rest of the week.
God’s call is for us to step out of the familiar and begin to stretch our faith. We need to grow our faith so we can walk in God’s truth.
If we want to experience revival then we must be willing to step away from the familiar and then step deeper into our service and commitment to God. We need to move out of our comfort zones and move by faith into the unknown to accomplish what the Spirit of God desires. But how?
It can only happen when the Holy Spirit moves upon our hearts. Look at this next verse.
“Then the heads of the fathers' houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:5 NKJV)
Notice it says God moved their spirits. Their spirits got all stirred up inside them. They received a stirring of the Holy Spirit to leave their familiar ground and begin to do what God had called them to do.
This is the same thing that we need if we’re ever going to move by faith from the familiar into a new level of spiritual maturity and activity.
After ten years God called me out of pastoring the church in Las Vegas, a church I helped start some 40 years ago, a church that had been my home and where I grew up spiritually. He placed a stirring in my heart to leave telling me that I could go back and still pastor the church in Las Vegas, but His Spirit wouldn’t be there for me any longer, and that once I put my hand to the plow and looked back, I would never draw a straight line for Him again.
The Holy Spirit was preparing Michaela and myself to move from our familiar ground of Las Vegas and Hallelujah Christian Fellowship to Mesquite and a whole new calling.