Ezra 6:13-15 – “Then, because of the decree King Darius had sent, Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates carried it out with diligence. So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah, a descendant of Iddo. They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius” (emphasis added).
- God provided both external/political (the king’s decree, Tattenai accountability) and internal/spiritual (Haggai’s and Zechariah’s preaching) motivators to complete the work on God’s Temple in 3 ½ years of sustained effort because the Temple was the central focus of all celebration and worship for the Jews.
Ezra 6:16-18 – “Then the people of Israel--the priests, the Levites and the rest of the exiles--celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy. For the dedication of this house of God they offered a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred male lambs and, as a sin offering for all Israel, twelve male goats, one for each of the tribes of Israel. And they installed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their groups for the service of God at Jerusalem, according to what is written in the Book of Moses” (emphasis added).
- Notice that their celebration was God-focused. They sacrificed and installed priests according to God’s directive. They did it to please Him, not just themselves. That’s true worship; that’s diligent celebration.
Ezra 6:19-20 – “On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their brothers the priests and for themselves.”
- The Temple was completed in the twelfth month (Adar – v. 15), and depending on whether this was a leap year (in which the Jewish calendar adds a thirteenth month), Passover would have been at least one month after the Temple celebration. So often after big events, like Christmas or Easter, churches especially notice a downturn in enthusiasm and service. It’s easy to “letdown” after a celebration, but what’s “easy” isn’t what’s best.
Ezra 6:21-22 – “So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria, so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.”
- Notice that the remnant now included anyone who honestly separated themselves to the LORD. Also, it's also good to refresh our memories on the original purpose of Passover. God commanded that the Israelites celebrate the Passover Feast as a lasting testimony of when God passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and struck down all the firstborn in Egypt. God had delivered the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt, but now this remnant celebrated that they’d been brought back from captivity in Babylon. Suddenly, Passover became personal.
Lord, I remember the first time You, Jesus, became my personal Passover Lamb. Because of Your blood, smeared over the doorframe of my heart, the death angel has passed-over me, and my eternal life with You has already begun. You have delivered me from the captivity of sin. I am no longer a slave to my desires. I am Yours, Father, and someday I will see you face-to-face. Help me to celebrate that deliverance each time one of those sinful desires rises up to ensnare me. And remind me that every day is worth celebrating - because my eternal life with You has already begun.