January 21, 2013
READ: Ezra 3:1-6
Jeshua . . . joined his fellow priests . . . in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses (v.2).
I love knowledge. As a child, after stumbling across a picture Bible in the library, I wanted to read the real Bible. I had the impression that it was simply a thick book with tiny words, full of information like an encyclopedia. But as I read the real Bible I realised that knowledge is good but wisdom is much, much better.
Their first step was not to rebuild the temple. Instead they chose to rebuild the altar (vv.2-3). The altar was the place where God met with His people (Exodus 29:42-43). It was impossible for sinful people to have fellowship with the Holy God. So burnt offerings had to be sacrificed to God as atonement for sins: “the Lord will accept [the animal’s] death in your place to purify you, making you right with Him” (Leviticus 1:3-4). These burnt offerings pointed to God’s perfect ‘once for all’ sacrifice for sins—Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:12-14). The altar was the place of repentance and renewal, cleansing and acceptance by God. His people rebuilt the altar at the beginning of their work, for they first needed to get right with God!
Three times we’re told that they sacrificed burnt offerings “as instructed in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 3:2,4), “as prescribed by the Lord” (v.5). Their new beginning was characterised and evidenced by their obedience to God’s Word.
God graciously offers you the opportunity of a fresh start with Him. But you must return from ‘Babylon’ and come to the cross of Calvary—the altar where Jesus was sacrificed to atone for your sins. That’s the starting point of new beginnings. —K.T. Sim
Read Genesis 8:20-21, 12:7-8, 35:1-4, and 1 Kings 18:30-32 to gain insight into new beginnings with God.
Each New Year promises the opportunity to start afresh—the prospect of a new beginning. The Israelites had been a rebellious and disobedient people. After 70 years of exile they were allowed to return home to Judea. They were also given the necessary help and resources to rebuild their temple (Ezra 1). They could start afresh with God. But how do you start afresh with Him?