In the second and third chapters of Ezra, 42,360 husbands? with their households and animals answered the call to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. Under the instruction of King Cyrus, and the prophetic word of God, Israel was being established again.
This mass migration back to the homeland is a miraculous act of patriotism and worship. (Patriotism is corollary to worship in this sense, as Israel was God’s chosen nation.) Forty-two thousand households uprooted themselves toward a land almost all of them had never been to, in order to fulfill the promise of God. Hard work, danger and failure were perils that would surely await them. But they went forward with a worshipful faith in the promise and purpose of God.
Fearful. Once arrived, the danger of reclaiming the kingdom ground became clear. “What if the new neighbours aren’t friendly?” Their response was inspiring; build an altar! Trembling with nervousness about their new neighbourhood, the Israelites found someone bigger and bolder to stand in awe of. YHWH, who had brought them out of they kingdom of captivity into the kingdom of freedom and purpose. They made sacrifices to him with confidence in his power and promise.
Overwhelmed. Once the work had begun another inspiring phenomenon occurred; weeping for what was, and laughing for what is to come! The old men had witnessed the house in good order. To them, the new beginning was a reminder of the failures and dishonour that brought shame to their honourable call in an age passed. Everyone else laughed and sang. God is doing a new work. Restoration is established by the Lord!
And the sound of praise rises above the weeping.
The church learns from Israel’s restorative experience under the prophetic word of God. While there is much to be grieved about when reviewing the state of the church, her purpose remains in the truth of God’s word. “I will build my church,” he says. “Just as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you… And I am with you, even to the end of the age!”
At this point of my life in ministry, church leadership is hard and church-planting sometimes appears to promise nothing but failure. There may be grief over the loss of what was (or what was supposed to be). But grief will not drown out joy! Because God’s promise has been made. And even his own Spirit is laying the foundation through those whom he indwells. The church.
? Taken from Ezra 2:44. I’m not entirely sure whether this number householding men (father, mother, children and servants) or individuals within each household that are of bonafide Jewish decent. No margin notes were taken for this passage.