Sunday, February 10, 2008

The ART of JOY

Ezra 6:12-22
16 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. 17 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. 18 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.
19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. 20 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. 21 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. 22 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.

What is it that makes you filled with Joy? A hot cup of tea by a fireplace? A long walk in the woods? Quite time away from the busy lifestyle? A deepening relationship with someone/God? To be understood? To understand? Enjoy seeing your family live up to God’s best for them? What elements or situations get higher priority? In Chapter 6:16-22, we will see what gives these men and women joy. Can we relate with that?

Q: What is the “then” in verse 16? A: The temple was completed. Now that they are finished doing His will, what next? 

Coming to an end of a road-an experience, how do you feel? With some transitions ahead of you- how do you deal with them? You ask the questions: What next? How do I continue? Why continue? Do I repeat past failures—again? How do I keep my way pure? Not all answered here this morning.

The will of the Father was realized in the finishing of the Temple. Joy is the result of such willingness to do His Things—to agree with Him. Even in today’s society, with the choices we make to do what He has given to us to do, or speak the things He wants us to speak or even think the thoughts He wants us to think, joy can be the result. Our response is our responsibility.

These people celebrated! Ever do it that way? No, maybe not but how do you celebrate God’s blessings to your self? You may say, Well, I guess I deserve that! Thanks.” Or “Wow, until you told me, I did not even think it was a blessing!”

In come cultures, people cry, dance, sing, yell, bang drums, scream, all sorts of outside expressions. Some say, “Hum, that was great.” “Nice.”

These people really got into it. “celebrated the dedication of the house of God with joy”
• Offered 100 bulls • 200 rams • 400 male lambs • 12 male goats

They installed the priest in their divisions. They installed the Levites in their groups for the service SO they would be empowered to minister •••• All according to what was written in the Book of Moses.

They were people of the Word. The Word effected their lives…for a long time. (At least for seven days, they kept themselves pure.) That alone needs to be celebrated but they did it because they were at the very center of worship—in His presence…but we could not do that, could we?  

(Again, if you don’t read the Word, you will never know what it says. If you only read it once, you will miss a lot. If you read it as a textbook, you miss the point. If it is read as part of a work related way to find favor with God, the result would most likely be guilt and disfavor.)

These people had an advantage you and I do not have. They had been slaves in a foreign land for 70 years. They had time to get themselves together. You might be saying:  I’m too busy to get that serious with my relationship with God. And besides, it is a personal thing, right? Just me and Him! He has promised never to leave me, so He’d better not—or I will be in hot water—or worst.

Then, the Remnant (a small part of something that remains after the rest has gone), on the 14th day of the first month, celebrated the Passover—right after the big celebration they had before. Too much emotion? Not really! But, God was pleased! He met them in their joy.  

The people got clean. They got ready to be in His Presence. They separated themselves from the world. They made it a matter of a heart change. They USED to be slaves in a pagan land with more idols than they had ever seen. The idolatry there was sickening to their souls. Now, they were in Jerusalem, the very City of David!  

This is what they had been waiting for. They were made for this! Some had only heard about the greatness of the Temple worship, while others remembered the old place with it’s gold stones, long halls, Strong cedar beams, silver and bronze articles, and the places where they could worship the Living God of their Father Abraham. Some remembered hearing of the Holy of Holies and the wonder of having His Spirit THERE!

How different is this today? Outside the very visible absence of no bloody sacrifice and hundreds of burnt offerings, how do we come to worship? What do we bring? Baggage. And what is inside? Our responses…

My response is my responsibility.

There needs to be a sense of the Holy. A re-awakening of our inner soul to the touch of God on our life. That He is real and that He loves us and that His desire is to have us in His presence. Thus the psalmist’s cry to be in His Throne Room. To hear His voice; to behold His Glory!

Please understand that it is not the job of the worship leader to get you there. He or she can help but it is something that is found inside of our own hearts—to do more than sing a song. As the song goes by Tim Hughes: And here I am to worship, Here I am to bow down, Here I am to say that you're my God, You're altogether lovely, Altogether worthy, Altogether wonderful to me.

The Levites killed one Passover Lamb for all. Even with 10 tribes missing. Looking for a whole assembly as promised by the Father. This was a foretaste of Christ.

Paul said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4.

This was a time of major transition for the Jewish Nation. They once were a world power-now brought low thru disobedience and sin. The nation became a people of enslavement. They were taken away by force into a beastly pagan land. All hope was lost—except to those who knew His Word.

In 2 Chronicles 36:21. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

Jeremiah 25:11-12. This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. "But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt," declares the LORD, "and will make it desolate forever. 

Jeremiah 29:10 This is what the LORD says: "When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill My gracious promise to bring you back to this place.

This action of the Lord was not only predicted years before, it was also His way of getting both their attention and their hearts in the right place. The old refined by fire approach—which it did work well—even in your life.

Think of how the Lord makes Himself known to you. Many times it is thru the fire of adversity or pain or disappointment or loss. And it usually last for a while.

A clean heart is a wonderful thing to possess. Do you know anyone who could be called a person who has a pure heart? A sincere mind? 
David describes it as:

Psalm 24:4. He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false.

Psalm 51:10. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

1 Tim 1:5. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

2 Tim 2:22. Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

With clear understanding. 
1 Chronicles 12:32 men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—.

Know where you are. Some need a map-that shows were you area in relation to things around you, others need a compass-to find direction, a gauge-to determine your judgment, or a relationship with God works.

The Bible is that kind of help/life line. Use it!

Ezra 6:22 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.

Let us celebrate together with the joy that was set before us. Go to Him in prayer.

Next Sunday, we will have a worship service in both English and Japanese.  After the service, please plan to stay for our monthly Covered Dish.  Bring some food to share with others at ICCS.  If you have any questions about what is written here in this blog or with anything concerning Faith in Jesus, please contact us directly.  The address is found on the last 'page'.  

Under His Grace.
Pastor Stan