Introduction: How we rejoice.
For the past two weeks we have been exploring how God’s people respond to things not going their way. But, while the past few weeks we have been looking at how we handle our disappointments, this week we are going to explore how we are supposed to handle fulfilled hopes and dreams.
Right away here are some questions we should be asking ourselves as we look this passage today: How do we respond when something goes the way we hoped it would? More specifically how do we respond when a relationship that went wrong is finally restored? Do our restored relationships lead others around us to grow in their affections for God? Are you celebrating God when a relationship is restored? Or are you saying, “they finally came around and saw it my way?”
Theme: True deep restoration results in overwhelming joy in God.
1. No one has more influence than God—Ezra 6.13-15.
Last week we saw Darius make really intense threats to the people who were trying to stop the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezra 6.11-12). This week we see how the enemies of God respond immediately to these threats—“did with all diligence what Darius the king had ordered” (Ezra 6.13).
While the enemies of God responded to king Darius, the people of God had also disobeyed their King—God. Ezra 6.14 tells us that the people of God responded to God’s prophets (Haggai and Zechariah). So I think we cannot forget that there are those who are blatantly rebellious toward God and there are those who are subtly rebellious toward God. The second group is the most common in churches. They obey all the rules, but deep down inside they really want things to go their way, not God’s way. We can see this most clearly when we observe how they respond to those circumstances. Many times these people claim something for themselves when Scripture does not promise it to them. They become self-righteous and wrathful toward others around them. But friends do not take this too personal because they are actually more upset with God than you. They may not be wiling to admit that, but that is the deep-down truth.
But what we are supposed to see both here—the blatantly rebellious and subtly rebellious. Both groups are being called to repent. The most amazing to me in the first 3 verses is how God has influence over both of these secular and religious rebels. Look with at the second half of—READ Ezra 6.14b. The building of the Temple was ultimately accomplished by who? GOD! It said, “They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel...” The preeminent decree is the decree of God. All the other decrees submit to His decree. The past decree of Cyrus, the present decree of Darius, and the future decree of Artaxerxes must submit to the decree of God. I mean notice the subtle hint of the author. He inserts the name Artaxerxes because that the king of his time period. He wants the current audience to remember that the God of the past is the same of the present, and the same God of the future. Friends, listen to this reminder for us today—NO ONE has more influence than God. Not you, me, your congressman, or anyone else you can think of.
2. We all need a way to get right with God—Ezra 6.16-18.
If we want the God of the Bible to have influence in our lives we need to realize something. We need to affirm a theme that is all throughout the Bible, and that theme is EVERYONE is sinful. Everyone’s moral compass is off. Let me give you a few verses that help me understand this:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually....The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds”...The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”—Genesis 6.5; Jeremiah 17.9-10; Romans 3.10-11
As the LORD has examined the lives of everyone on earth He consistently comes to the conclusion we are really really sick. Our moral compass is WAY off because we refuse to acknowledge God in our everyday stuff of life. We all consistently ignore the most important Person in the universe. We ignore our Creator. We have offended Him. We have hurt Him.
The reason why all this is important is because if you do not understand this truth you will not understand what the Israelites are doing Ezra 6.16-18. You cannot believe the God of the Bible is for you unless you understand your relationship with Him is good. You will not trust Him, serve Him, or put your hope in Him if you do not believe your relationship with Him is good. God will have little to no influence in your life. Therefore, to make sure the Israelites were good with God they reinstituted the sacrificial system that God gave through the prophet Moses. Ezra 6.17 tells us they offered up a “sin offering”.
But the major problem is this was a temporary system. It was not ultimately sufficient. It was a band-aid for a really deep wound. Once again listen to what the Bible says:
But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins...Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice, that he should live on forever and never see the pit.—Hebrews 10.3-4; Psalm 49.7-9
What this reveals to us friends is our sin deeply, deeply offends God. The way we use our tongues to deeply wound people God created for His glory, people He loves much more than us, offends Him. He sees the injustice of this world and hates it more than you do. He wants to pour out His wrath on it. No one is more offended in the universe by your sin and my sin, or the sin of others, than God. God is more hurt by someone deeply wounding you than you are.
Therefore, we all need a way to get right with God. That is the most important relationship in the universe. If that relationship is not right, then no other relationship will be. The only way anyone can get right with God is through Jesus Christ. That is not my choice, but God’s. This is why the author of Hebrews says:
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified...then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”—Hebrews 10.14, 17
If we accept, appreciate, find our greatest joy in this single sacrifice we will be sanctified. We will be made whole. We will be made right with God and others.
3. The overwhelming joy of restoration—Ezra 6.19-22.
This leads into our last section. When our relationship with God is right it bears fruit. And the most important fruit we will see is JOY! This joy expresses itself in adoration, praise, WORSHIP. Here at Refuge we like to call this GLORY. This is why it is our hope and desire, above all else, to see the glory of God increase. What we mean by this is, we hope to see people have more and more joy in God over time.
In Ezra 6.19-22 we see the Israelites celebrate a VERY famous party, or festival, called the Passover. This was an annual party that everyone in Israel was supposed to celebrate. It celebrated that God heard the cries of His people, keeps His promises from generation to generation, and will rescue His people because of those promises. So, they celebrate the Passover to remind themselves God has done it once again. God has kept His promises. Their relationship with God has been restored. Not by the works of their hands, but His.
I do not want us to miss the simplicity of what is happening here friends. Whenever you have a relationship that you care deeply about, and that relationship is broken, then you are deeply hurt and wounded. But if that relationship is restored, and I mean fully restored, what happens? JOY, worship, adoration, thankfulness!
But who are you supposed to be worshiping? Personally, I think God. Only God can truly restore relationships the way they should be. He is the only One who can objectively look at them and see the injustice, failures, sins on both sides, and make it right.
So let me end today by asking a questions here. Are you seeing restoration happen a lot of your relationships? If not, then it could be because of a couple of reasons. First, you might not really care about people. No one is really that important to you, so when a relationship is broken, you are like, “No worries, I’ll just move on.” I do not think that is how God wants us to live. God wants us to have deep relationships. I have seen far to many people stay on the surface of relationships because they don’t want to deal with the mess of a real deep community. Real relationships require work. You will fight, claw, kick, and scratch to help each other enjoy God. Some of you don’t get to the deep joy of a restored relationship because your relationships are shallow. You don’t care deeply enough about people. And if you are not willing to regularly talk about the depth of your relationship with God, with others, then your relationship are shallow.
Second, you might not realize how sinful you are. You may not be seeing complete restoration because you consistently blame others for the problems. No one wants to be in a relationship with someone who cannot own up to their failures. The one who is confessing their sin and failures will eventually get overwhelmed with always taking the blame. And if you are in a Christian relationship it is even harder, because we know the One who has every right to hold our sin over our heads does not. He is willing to forgive His enemies because His Son paid the cost. If you are not willing to forgive, or take ownership of your sin, in your relationships then you are saying the sacrifice of Jesus is worthless to you. And trust me friends, that is a scary place to be. It is dark and lonely. But if you are willing to probe your heart for deep sin in your relationships you will consistently gain deeper and deeper appreciation for Christ and His sacrifice for your sins. True restoration will result in overwhelming joy in God.