Summary: When we make what is important to God trivial, God will try to wake us up to get us back on track!
• SLIDE #1
• The return home! What an awesome event! Seventy years in captivity and now it is time for the Israelites to go home!
• God turns the heart of Cyrus, the Persian king, toward the Jews and Cyrus releases the Jews to return to Jerusalem and build their temple.
• God once again keeps His promises.
• When God opened the door for the captives to return to their homeland, God asked them to do something. This was something that was important to God.
• God wanted the nation to rebuild the temple. Cyrus was going to foot the bill to see the reconstruction and he returned all the gold and silver that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken when he ransacked Jerusalem.
• We need to understand that not ALL of the captives went home. There was three stages to the return, this first one in 538 BC, then a second one in 458 when Ezra was Priest, then a final one in 444 under Nehemiah when the city walls were rebuilt.
• The Jews did nothing to cause their return to their homeland, it was all God. God inspired Cyrus and future Persian leaders to allow the return.
• God had been so good to the nation even in the midst of their constant disobedience. God loves them and He is always pursuing them with His love.
• Have you ever gotten to the point where you maybe forget or overlook the blessing you have from God?
• Have you ever been in a situation where His priorities are no longer yours? Life gets busy, and over time what is important to God becomes trivial for you? It can happen so easily.
• This is what will happen to those who were blessed to return back home.
• The question becomes this, what does God do when we make what is important to God, trivial.
• Now let’s begin our journey by looking at Ezra 1:1-3. Chapters 1-6 Ezra’s book is historical while the final chapters 7-10 are biographical.
• SLIDE #2
• Ezra 1:1–3 (NIV) 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 also to put it in writing: “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. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.
• SLIDE #3
I. Why was the temple so important to God?
• Notice that it is God who moved the heart of Cyrus to allow the people to go back to Jerusalem. God also had a driving purpose for wanting them to go home. God wanted the temple to be rebuilt.
• HE allowed Nebuchadnezzar to come in and destroy the temple in 586. Now He wants it rebuilt!
• God had a passion to see the temple restored. Why?
• It seems there are three overarching issues as to why God was so passionate about the restoration of the temple.
• First. God has a passion to dwell among His people. The temple was a picture of that passion.
• The temple represented God dwelling among His people.
• This passion has been there from the beginning.
• SLIDE #4
• Genesis 3:8 (NIV) Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
• The second reason the temple was important was God’s Problem. The problem God faces is that He is 100% holy and sin free, but mankind is far from that.
• God loves mankind but the dilemma is our sin separates His people and the world from Him.
• Free-will allows us to accept or reject God. Sin is the issue that causes us to be out of tune with God. So because of sin, this leads to the third reason the temple was so important to God.
• This leads to God’s solution.
• God requires a blood sacrifice so we can regain access to His presence. Ultimately that came from Jesus, but until Jesus’ ministry the blood of goats and bulls put a cover of the sins until Jesus would come and become the ultimate sacrifice.
• SLIDE #5
• Hebrews 9:13–14 (NIV) The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!