Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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Lessons Learned from the Remnant

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The book of Ezra records a remnant of Judah returning to the homeland after 70 years spent in Babylonian captivity. The reason they had been conquered by the Babylonians was their rejection of God. As Jeremiah put it, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet My people have forgotten Me days without number” (Jeremiah 2:32).

However, after 70 years (prophesied in Jeremiah 29:10), God stirred up the heart of King Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to their homeland (cf. Ezra 1:1). Not all were interested in leaving the place where they had lived for two generations. But, a remnant was moved by God (1:5), and returned to the land. Here the Jews reestablished their worship to God, and ultimately rebuilt the temple.

There are a number of important lessons that can be learned from the Jews during this period. For example, the consequences of sin against God! The nation had been called to repent time and again, but had refused the Lord. As a result, God’s judgment came upon them. In this case, the judgment was physical. They lost their land and their sovereignty.

Today there are also temporal repercussions when man sins against God. Many of God’s laws are also the laws of our land. Murder, theft, slander, etc. all violate civil law and are punished by imprisonment, or even death. More commonly, sins have social or physical consequences. Consider all the homes and bodies that have been destroyed by drunkenness. Gluttony, sexual immorality, covetousness — all these leave a mark on the life of the sinner, and upon the lives of his friends and family as well. As the wise man observed, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

Just as the Jews who returned to the land were blessed by a renewed relationship with the Lord, we note that God blesses all who turn to Him! As Peter told Cornelius and his household, “But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35). Part of that blessing from God is obtained in the act of worship itself. Our souls are truly refreshed and strengthened when we offer up the fruit of our lips in adoration to Him. It is difficult to imagine the joy found in Judah when the remnant stood in the ancient city of Jerusalem and again worshiped the Lord. The importance of that occasion is recorded in Ezra’s words, “the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem”, as they made burnt offerings to the Lord (Ezra 3:1). The entire 63rd Psalm is a wonderful poem expressing the joy of the ardent worshipper of Jehovah. Consider these words, “O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You” (vs. 1-3).

An interesting aspect of the Jews return from captivity was the mixed response of the people to the laying of the temple’s foundation. Ezra 3 records the joy of the occasion, “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord: ‘For He is good, for His mercy endures forever toward Israel.’ Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid” (vs. 11). However, the joy was not complete. Older Jews, who remembered the glory of Solomon’s temple, wept. “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes” (vs. 12). They knew the new foundation fell far short of the glory of old. It is almost universally acknowledged that with age and experience there is inevitably reason for sadness and disappointment. In every life there is a time for death, loss, weeping and mourning.

This is why we keep our eye on the prize! The difficulties of this life are real, but they are momentary. Imagine the joy of a people, 70 years in exile, when the rebuilding of their temple was completed. “Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy” (Ezra 6:16). Joy is the ultimate end of the redeemed of God. “‘No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is from Me,’ says the Lord” (Isaiah 54:17). Or, as Paul told the Thessalonian Christians, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy” (2 Thessalonians 3:19-20).

So, if your sins have found you out (cf. Numbers 32:23), repent and return to God! If you have experienced trial and disappointment in your life, recognize that such is the lot of all men here on earth! If you desire a perspective that will help you to deal with the trials of this earth, keep your eyes on eternity! “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).