SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- The Jews had been forced to live in another country for 70 years. Now they were allowed to come back, and their first priority is to rebuild the temple. They made God their priority, and wanted to have a place that symbolized His presence with them and gave them a place to worship and sacrifice to them.
- The "Festival of Shelters" (verse 4) was a celebration when the people lived in temporary dwellings (like tents) to remember what their ancestors did years before when they traveled through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land.
- The Israelites (verse 5) made the sacrifices prescribed back in the time of Moses (see Leviticus 1 and 6:8-13).
- As the foundation of the Temple was completed, many people rejoiced and worshipped God. Some of the older leaders were sad (verse 12), probably because they could remember the old Temple and realized the new one would not be as glorious. The old and new were both the same size, but the old Temple was far more ornate.
- Building a temple for God was their priority, and before they were able to do that the people built an altar (verse 5) so they could start worshipping God immediately. We'll see in the next Old Testament book (Nehemiah) that they re-built the temple even before re-building the wall around the city that was so necessary for their protection. They knew that God had to be their top priority. We should follow that example.
- The Jews were afraid (see verse 3) that they would be attacked by the surrounding people for rebuilding the temple, but they did it anyway. Sometimes fear stands in the way of us doing what we know we need to do to follow and honor God. This is probably why the most repeated command to us, from God, in the Bible is, "Do not fear." We need to trust God, and not let fear stop us from obeying Him and living for Him.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- If someone were to examine and investigate your life, would they come to the conclusion that God is your priority? Why or why not?
- One way we can make God the priority of our week is by showing up at church to worship Him. Do you show up every week?
- We can make God the priority of each day by spending quality/quantity time reading the Bible and praying. Do you do that every day?
- We can make God the priority of our finances by giving to Him generously as the first thing we do when we get paid (not waiting to see how much we have leftover from our paycheck after we pay our bills). Do you do that every paycheck?
- Where do you let fear hold you back from following and obeying God? Maybe you don't talk about Jesus with people who don't believe? Or perhaps you won't give generously to Him? Or maybe you haven't gotten into a Verve Group or started volunteering on a Verve Team? Hear God whisper to you, "Do not fear" and find the courage in Him to do what you need to do.