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“We continued to build…”

August 14, 2023

Daily Scripture

Ezra 3:6-12, Nehemiah 4:1-9

Ezra 3
6 … the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid. 7 So they gave money to the masons and carpenters; and food, drink, and oil to the Sidonians and the Tyrians to bring cedarwood by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, according to the authorization given them by Persia’s King Cyrus.
8 In the second month of the second year after their arrival at God’s house in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel’s son, and Jeshua, Jozadak’s son, and the rest of their kin—the priests and the Levites and all who had come from the captivity to Jerusalem—made a beginning. They appointed Levites 20 years old and above to oversee the work on the Lord’s house. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and his kin, Kadmiel and his sons, Binnui and his sons, the sons of Judah, along with the sons of Henadad, the Levites, and their sons and kin, collaborated to supervise the workers in God’s house.
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the Lord’s temple, the priests clothed in their vests and carrying their trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, arose to praise the Lord according to the directions of Israel’s King David. 11 They praised and gave thanks to the Lord, singing responsively, “He is good, his graciousness for Israel lasts forever.” All of the people shouted with praise to the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s house had been laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and heads of families, who had seen the first house, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this house, although many others shouted loudly with joy.

Nehemiah 4
1 When Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he became angry and raged. He mocked the Jews, 2 saying in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria: “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore things themselves? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish it in a day? Will they revive the stones from the piles of rubble, even though they are burned?”
3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was beside him, added: “If even a fox climbs on whatever they build, their wall of stones will crumble.”
4 Listen, God; we are despised! Turn their insults to us back on their heads and make them like plunder in a captive land. 5 Don’t forgive their iniquity or blot out their sins from your sight. They have thrown insults at the builders!
6 We continued to build the wall. All of it was joined together, and it reached
alf of its intended height because the people were eager to work. 7 But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the people of Ashdod heard that the work on the walls was progressing and the gaps were being closed, they were very angry. 8 They plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to create a disturbance in it.
9 So we prayed to our God and set a guard as protection against them day and night.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Sunday’s worship, the short Scripture reading from the book of Nehemiah had a major backstory. “Between 538 and 515 BCE, two waves of exiles from Babylon returned to the ancestral land of Judah…. the Judean community rebuilt the temple in 515 BCE (Ezra 6:15)…. Despite high enthusiasm and the best of intentions, life in Judah was filled with challenges. The political tensions recorded here attest to the obstacles that these community leaders faced.” *

  • These stories are from about 2500 years ago. It’s easy to assume older people carried them out. But Ezra 3:8 said, “they appointed Levites 20 years old and above to oversee the work.” With 800 miles or more between Babylon and Jerusalem, it makes sense that many who made the return journey (on foot) were young. In fact, the older group were at times a source of gloomy nostalgia (Ezra 3:12). How can young people add hope and energy to your church’s mission?
  • The rebuilt Temple was vital. But in that time a city also needed a strong wall for security. Building that wall was one of Nehemiah’s main tasks. Non-Israelites, who’d lived in the area since the Assyrian Empire shipped them there about two centuries earlier, scorned and opposed the builders. But notice: “Nehemiah prioritized prayer. When mocked, he did not shout back; he turned to God.” ** What can Nehemiah teach you about how best to react when faced with obstacles?

Lord God, I face challenges, but none as great as returning to a Jerusalem totally wrecked by the Babylonian army. Guide me to value and enlist youthful energy for today’s challenges as your people did in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Kersee Meyer

Kersee Meyer

Kersee Meyer serves as a Video Production Team Leader on the Resurrection Experience team.

As a 6th grader, I remember lying down in the middle of a field, under the stars, and giving my life to Christ for the first time. The worship leader was playing music and I cried silently, at the end of summer camp with Rezlife. My story isn’t an uncommon one, but it was still something I wasn’t expecting to experience.

It almost feels too cliché. I feel almost embarrassed to share it with you now, but it’s how God provided for me in a moment when I needed it the most. My life is radically different because of that cliché moment.

From that point it felt like my faith was now my own. Which is true, but what I didn’t realize is that God would send so many people to share their legacy with me. My youth pastors, small group leaders and volunteers impacted the trajectory of my life.

What is it…
What legacy are we trying to leave behind?

As an adult I’ve been reflecting on the different ways the church should nurture future generations. I think the first is to show up–connect with the younger generations by volunteering. If time isn’t an option, then considering donating to experiences that could help shape them. Donate to different things so students have the opportunity to go on mission trips, summer camps and fall retreats.

I hope we can all pray about ways to share the legacy that God is calling us to. It can truly change an entire person’s life, just like it did for me.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Kyong-Jin Lee, Introduction to Ezra (and Nehemiah) in The CEB Study Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2013, p. 723-724 OT.
** Mark Roberts, The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 11: Ezra/Nehemiah/Esther. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993, p. 194.