Talk given at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 4 February 2018.
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Reference: Ezra 1 v 5 – 2 v 70
You can’t beat a good story. Whether it’s in the form of a book, a TV series, a movie or simply listening to someone telling a story, people love a good story well told. And of course God is the master story teller. I want to suggest that there a six related but different stories being told in our passage today. We are looking at Ezra 1v4 to the end of chapter 2.
1. A Story from History
God is giving us the factual narrative of how a people enslaved in a foreign land, with a hope that one day they would return, miraculously were enabled to return to their homeland and pick up their history as God’s people. Even if it were nothing more, this is a dramatic story that would make a marvellous movie. Epic stuff!
2. A Story of Salvation
When God tells a story it is far more than it appears at first sight. The story is one of a people lost in sin, just as the human race has been lost since the garden of Eden. The story is one of how God made it possible for people to be set free, and points us to the sacrifice of Jesus, that makes it possible for us to be set free. It is the story of our liberation from the city of sin (Babylon) and being transferred to the city of God (Jerusalem)
3. A Story of the Christian Life
As Augustine made clear in his epic “City of God” and John Bunyon in “Pilgrim’s Progress”, we are on a journey. Having been born on Babylon, we have been set free, and spend the rest of our lives journeying on our way to Jerusalem. It is the story of the Christian life as a pilgrimage, full of danger, challenge and opportunity, where the destination is the city of God, the celestial city, which we shall reach when we die.
4. A story of willing workers
As we have seen in both the last two weeks, the story is one of a God who has a job to be done, and who calls people to work with Him. Here we see the response. 50,000 people obey the call to come: family heads, priests, musicians – everyone is needed. All skills, and those with no skills are invited to come and to play their part. In the same way, Jesus builds his church and calls all his family to come and to be involved.
5. A Story of God’s Provision
Hudson Taylor said that God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s provision. Here we see it in action. If we do what God has told us to do, we shall never be without the means to do it. Here we see God provide in miraculous ways:
- In making the Babylonians well disposed to the Jews so that they gave them help (mirrors what happened at the Exodus)
- In releasing the captured valuables for the temple
- In providing a full range of people to do the work
- In opening the hearts of His people to give
God is able to provide supernaturally, yet he decides to use you and me to help!. That is true of every area of service, God is the only one who can convert people, yet he chooses to use our feeble efforts to do so. So it is with financial resource. We get to help by giving some of God’s resources back to Him. Not that he needs it. But we need to do it in order to be disciples of Jesus.
Just as with every discipline we are at different stages, so we are at different stages in or giving.
- “Never given”
- First –time giver
- Occasional giver
- Regular Giver
- Proportionate giver
- Extravagant giver
Let’s have a sober assessment of where we are…and let God challenge us to move onto the next level.
6. A Story of Building with God
Chapter 2 ends with the story poised. The great construction project is about to start Everyone that has returned is poised. They are back in their homeland and ready to go. How will they get on?