Laying Foundations

Key Verse: “They sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.”
—Ezra 3:11

Lesson Scriptures:
Ezra 3:1-3, 6, 7, 10-13

OVER FORTY-TWO THOUSAND Israelites took advantage of the declaration of Cyrus (see Lesson for June 1), and returned to their homeland. (Ezra 2:64) In the seventh month after their return, they gathered together in Jerusalem. It was here that Jeshua the priest, and Zerubbabel the leader of the tribe of Judah, began to bring the nation back to the proper worship of God. They first “builded the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings thereon, as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God.” (Ezra 3:2) Once the altar was built they began to offer “burnt offerings morning and evening.” (vs. 3) Additionally, they kept the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the three yearly feasts commanded in the Law of Moses, and afterward resumed the keeping of other feasts and offerings given in their Law.

How beautifully the resumption of offerings upon the altar, and the various feasts of Israel, picture for us the fact that the first step of approach to God is recognition of the great sacrifice which the altar represented—the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God. Just as Jeshua and Zerubbabel had to first build the altar before any acceptable offerings could be presented, so God offered his only begotten Son as man’s Redeemer, and Jesus faithfully carried out this mission. This was like building the altar, in order that man might once again have access to God and be able to present their offerings to him. Truly our offerings to God are only possible through Jesus, “wherein he [God] hath made us accepted in the beloved [Jesus].”—Eph. 1:6

Although Israel had begun to worship God properly, one significant thing was lacking. They had no temple in which to worship, not even the foundation of their former Temple was still standing. As Ezra said, “From the first day of the seventh month began they to offer burnt offerings unto the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.” (Ezra 3:6) Again, Jeshua and Zerubbabel took the lead, gathering the masons, the carpenters, and those from twenty years old and upward willing to join in the work, and began “to set forward the work of the house of the Lord.” (vs. 8) Once the Temple foundation was complete, the people all rejoiced. As in the words of the Key Verse, Israel recognized that it was only the goodness and mercy of God that this work had been accomplished.

This rebuilding of the Temple’s foundation expands upon the picture previously given concerning Jesus. Not only was he given by God as man’s Redeemer, and the means by which we might be able to bring acceptable offerings to God, but Jesus is also shown to be the foundation of the spiritual temple. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11) It is upon this foundation of Jesus and his example that we, as his followers, are to build our characters. Apostle Paul continues on this occasion and says, “If any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, … If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. … Know ye not that ye are the temple of God?”—vss. 12,14,16

Dawn Bible Students Association
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