Sermons

Summary: God had faithfully restored everything required for the remnant to start building the temple. Now the only thing left for them to do was to start building. But they were satisfied, so they delayed.

1. The first setback is satisfaction with religious activities

2. The second setback is satisfaction with raw materials

3. The third setback is satisfaction with royal grants

Let me tell you a story about a 33-year old California man named Larry Walters. Several years ago, Larry had an idea. He wanted to get a birds-eye view of his neighborhood. So Larry went to the nearest Army surplus store and bought 45 used weather balloons. Somehow he and his buddies got hold of enough helium to fill them after they tied them to his favorite lawn chair. You had to give him credit—Larry was a planner. He took a six-pack of pop, a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a BB gun with him. He knew he would have to come down sometime, so the BB gun was to shoot the balloons one at a time when he was ready to land. Well, apparently aeronautical engineering wasn’t offered at his school. Because instead of the balloons lifting him 100 feet in the air like he assumed—they lifted him to more than 11,000 feet. By the way, 11,000 feet is right in the air traffic pattern of Los Angeles International Airport. Needless to say, he was too scared to shoot any of his balloons. So he just stayed up there. They had to shut down the LA Airport for more than two hours which caused nationwide air traffic delays. When officials finally got him down, a reporter on the scene asked him three questions. “Were you scared?” “Yes!” “Would you do it again?” “No!” “Why did you do it?” “Because it beats just sitting there.” I think there are other alternatives to just sitting there, don’t you? But you have to admire him for one thing. He had some gumption. He did something. Even though it was the wrong thing, he got up out of his comfy chair and he did something. And he didn’t just stop with gathering the materials. He didn’t just stop with building his contraption. He didn’t just stop with packing supplies. As crazy as it was, Larry Walters got in the thing and took off. Even though his was a very poor plan—you’ve got to give him credit for following through and doing it. This morning, we talked about patience. Make no mistake about it, as Christians we are called to have patience. We are called to patiently wait on the Lord. But patience doesn’t mean the same thing as inactivity. Listen to how G. Campbell Morgan put it. G. Campbell Morgan was one of the greatest expository preachers of the early 20th century. This is what he said about patiently waiting on the Lord, “Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command. Second, readiness for any new command that may come. Third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.” In our passage tonight, the remnant is caught in a period of waiting. God has faithfully restored everything required for them to start building the temple foundations. He has restored His resources. He has restored His remnant. He has restored the people’s responsibility. And He has restored His worship. Now, the only thing left for the people to do was start building. But there was a delay. Once they built the altar and started worship in the seventh month of the first year, they were satisfied. They were satisfied, so they delayed. They had completed all the preparations, but didn’t start the work. I don’t want us to be satisfied with preparations. We must not be content with the Lord’s preparation. After all, preparation is just that—it is getting ready to do something. I want us to start the work when we’re supposed to. Once the Lord finishes preparing us, I want us to get busy. In order to do that, we’re going to look at three setbacks of satisfaction. The first setback is satisfaction with religious activities. Look with me at verse 6:

EZRA 3:6

Remember where the people are at this point. They had been in Jerusalem for a while before God restored them to the point where they could worship. It was that busy seventh month, the month of the Jewish New Year when they finally got the altar built. And from that point on, they did all the worship ceremonies that they were supposed to according to the Law. They had their worship services down. They were fairly few in number and didn’t really have all the people it took to do all the stuff the right way. But they did it all the right way anyway. What an accomplishment. If that isn’t enough to make you want to sit back and rest in your accomplishments, I don’t know what is. And that’s exactly what they did. In a relatively short period of time, they became satisfied with what they were doing. They lost the vision of what God had called them to do. Remember what He had called them to do. He had called them to rebuild the temple. That was the kind of worship He had called them to. Yes, He wanted them to do all the sacrifices and ceremonies and festivals. But He wanted them to do it in the context of temple worship. So why was the temple so important? Surely God didn’t need it for a place to dwell in. Why wasn’t He just as satisfied as the people were with their worship, there in the rubbles? Why was His focus on His people building a building rather than just practicing religion? Because His temple was to be His witness to other nations. Do you remember back to when King Solomon built the first temple? Remember that God didn’t allow David to build it, but He allowed David’s son Solomon to build it. And that temple was magnificent. It was one of the most beautiful structures ever built by human hands. 2 Chronicles 6 recalls Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the completed temple. He starts by recognizing God for who He is and for the promises He makes and keeps. And then he goes on to pray that God will hear the prayers that are lifted up toward His temple. So many times we think this just applied to the Jews. But in verses 32-33, Solomon points out the effect of the temple on the other nations. He said, “Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name’s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.” Of course, God pointed out to Solomon the reverse witness His temple would have if Israel was unfaithful to Him. In 2 Chronicles 7:19-22 God says to Solomon, “But if ye turn away, and forsake my statutes and my commandments, which I have set before you, and shall go and serve other gods, and worship them; Then will I pluck them up by the roots out of my land which I have given them; and this house, which I have sanctified for my name, will I cast out of my sight, and will make it to be a proverb and a byword among all nations. And this house, which is high, shall be an astonishment to every one that passeth by it; so that he shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and unto this house? And it shall be answered, Because they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshipped them, and served them: therefore hath he brought all this evil upon them.” And that’s why it was God’s will for them to rebuild His house. The worship and the offerings and sacrifices were for them. The house was for the nations. It was as a witness to the watching world of the God who has kept His promises to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, when the remnant sat back and were satisfied with only the worship, what did that mean? It meant they weren’t being a witness. Does that ever happen to us? Do we ever get so caught up in all the work and worship in the church and fail to take it outside? Yes, we are called to be faithful and active in church work. We are called to teach and learn and serve and give. But, like the remnant that was huddled around the open-air altar there in Jerusalem—all that stuff is just preparation. It’s preparation for the work outside these walls that will exalt the name of Jesus to the watching world. Are you setback in your satisfaction with religious activities? Or are you ready to start building? The first setback is satisfaction with religious activities. The second setback is satisfaction with raw materials. Look at all the stuff listed in verse 7:

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