It is election season and we are all thinking much about the future of our nation our collective future as a people. We would like things to turn around. We would like the economy to improve, we would like the moral tenor of our nation to change, we would like to feel secure. We want these things, and it is only natural to want to get them in the easiest possible way with a simple vote. But, the fact is these things cant be delivered that cheaply. Until we change the nation will not change, and each of us has this responsibility before God. God withdraws when He is not wanted, when He is not truly worshipped. When He withdraws, He takes His blessing with Him.
The key here is worship. Worship is the word I use to describe how we love God. It is a life encompassing word not merely a church word. Our commonly spoken definition of worship is much too small. Today, I want to expand your worship box. Jesus says it this way,
an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for these are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks
(John 4:23). When we worship God with our whole heart and whole life, His blessing will flow to us individually and nationally. We are going to look at the book of Ezra to see an example of a nation restored to true worship.
Where is Ezra?
The Book is focused on Israels /Judahs restoration after the Exile. Three other books are closely related; Nehemiah, Haggai and Zechariah.
What are the elements of true worship Ezra shows us?
True worship involves sacrifice (Ezra 3:1-5)
The remnant had to leave a comfortable, civilized, cultured locale for a city and nation decimated by war and not yet rebuilt. The decision to make this move showed without a doubt those who pursued God first. They made sacrifices of hardship and exposure to danger.
The first thing the remnant does is reestablish the daily sacrifice. They have little. Jerusalem is so messed up they cant even live there. They sacrifice some of their very best livestock morning and evening daily. Mind you a burnt offering belongs completely to God. The worshipper doesnt get a portion of the meat. It is all burned up and by doing so it is delivered up into the heavens were God is.
Tithing is worship. Giving to Gods purposes on earth is worship. Your money and time are Gods, if you belong to Jesus. He has every right to tell you what to do with them. We dont give in order to prime the pump of wealth. But, God does promise to bless those who worship Him with their resources. Haggai 1:2-11, Haggai 2:18, 19. In fact, He has in this case begun to oppose His people because they refuse to honor Him properly. Then when they change their way the blessing flows.
True worship is often unpopular (Ezra 3:3)
The people worshipped even though the local people didnt like it, Ezra 3:3 .There are times when your worship will not be appreciated. I am not talking about being a jerk and then claiming persecution. But true heartfelt, appropriate worship will be ridiculed. Our heartfelt worship expressed to God must be more important to us than peoples opinions.
True worship may be openly opposed (Ezra 4:4-5)
True worship rejects the worlds value system (Ezra 10: 1-5)
Ezra forces a choice. Choose today what matters to you. If you are going to remain part of the people of God, then divorce yourself from these non-Jewish, non-proselyte wives. These would be women who could have become followers of God but would not. This is not an issue of ethnicity. Both Rahab, a Canaanite who turned to the Lord and Ruth, a Moabite are listed in Jesus genealogy. These wives, that are being divorced, preferred to worship idols Molech who promised prosperity if you would sacrifice a child, Asherah who promised fertility in people and crops if you would engage in cultic orgies. (Ungers Bible Dictionary)
James says it this way, (James 4:4) dont you know that friendship with the world (its values and preoccupations) is hostility toward God? James also says, a double minded man should not expect anything from God. One foot in the world and one in the Lords kingdom.
Zechariah 7:13-14. We can listen to the Lord or we can suffer. Last line They turned their pleasant land into a desert. The choice is ours.
Are you a true worshipper? Are you all in, even though it costs you, even though some may ridicule you? Have you divorced the world its values and standards?
If you have heard these points and you can honestly say to yourself, I am a true worshipper Praise God. But, if you know in your heart of hearts that you have not taken some of the necessary steps, now is the time. Commit your whole life to worship Jesus.