The Blues Brothers
– movie from 1000 years ago.
Plot – a story of redemption. Two jailbirds suddenly find themselves “on a mission from God” and nothing would stop that mission.
“We’re on a mission from God” became a cultural reference for a generation. I saw an idea for our name tags …
What does being on a mission from God look like for us?
For most of us it won’t be a fedora and sunglasses.
But it will … Shape our ministry here. Give us direction and confidence. Picture of what life as a follower of Jesus will look like.
And Ezra 4-6 helps us in that direction.
– in case you missed it … Because of idolatry and disobedience God sent the 12 tribes of Israel into exile. 722BC 10 northern tribes – scattered by Assyria 586BC 2 Southern tribes, Benjamin and Judah intact but deported to Babylon. Ezra-Nehemiah the account of the return from Babylon, return from exile.
4-6 deals with the rebuilding of the temple. The people’s mission from God. Their mission is different from our mission; different period in God’s unfolding plan of salvation; but it does inform our mission.
Opposition. Orientation. Outcome.
When you are on mission from God …
EXPECT OPPOSITION (4:1-24)
In chapter 4 God’s people, engaged in God’s mission run up against opposition.
Read v1 When the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were building a temple for the LORD, the God of Israel, … they spring into action they offer help.
v2 they offer help v3 the leaders of God’s people rightly refuse their help.
Despite their claims these people do not serve God with all their heart and soul and mind and strength. Check out 2 Kings 17:24-33
. They have managed to combine the beliefs of their society with their version of worshipping God.
I was confronted by this as I was preparing this talk. Is it true that I love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength? I am so thankful for Jesus, that through faith in him I am declared right with God, but I am convicted that I am called to live to his glory too.
Right from the start of the Ezra (1:1) very clear that God is at work: – Cyrus – people – finances.
Clear that the people are where they are suppose to be and they doing what God wants them to do.
Yet, there is still opposition. What the author communicates in v6-23 … this true in every age/generation.
v1-5 Cyrus period v6 Xerxes period v7-23 Artaxerxes period (v12).
Like watching the Back to the Future trilogy – flitting ahead to the future and back.
There will always be opposition to God’s people as they are on God’s mission. Paul’s advice to Timothy:
all who seek to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted 2 Tim 3:12.
Following Jesus does not magically make your life easier. In many instances it will make your life more complicated, less comfortable, less at home in this world.
The church the world adores is the one the Lord abhors. Spurgeon.
If we take our mission seriously we will be at odds with the world.
Podcast “Recorded” Episode “Escape from Kabul” Account of an Afghan Christian – Following Jesus made his life very difficult. Pressure from family, arrested by the police, jailed, threats on his life and his family. But he does not shy away, or back down. In fact he is actively engaged in ministry. He is prepared to face such persecution on behalf of Jesus. Because he knows that, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
It’s good to remember that we should expect opposition. The gospel is offensive. – You can’t be good enough. – You need Jesus; no other way of being right with God.
The response of the enemies of God’s people (v4-5) is if you can’t join them beat them …
They make life very hard and The work stopped for about 20 years (v24). – it seems everything just got too hard. – ministry was such an effort. – life so full of distractions (Haggai 1); getting a family home, trying to make ends meet.
It seems that opposition caught them off guard and diverted them from their mission. Even after such a big and exciting move in the face of constant discouragement and frustration the mission faded.
How does God reinvigorate His call to mission?
EMBRACE ORIENTATION (5:1-17)
God gives orientation to His people through His Word.
There was an old series of movies about Ma and Pa Kettle (on the farm). There are kids everywhere and everything is falling apart and all Pa seems to say as he wanders around is … “I’ll have to fix that one of these days!”
He says it in such a way that it’s obvious he never will get around to it.
Pretty clear by chapter 5 that unless God does something nothing will get done. It’s been 20 years since the work has stopped. But God does do something, he reorients His people through His Word.
Read v1-2. Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.
God works through his word to stir the spirit
of his people that they would be active in their calling, in their God given mission
Haggai 1:13-14. Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, gave this message of the LORD to the people: “I am with you,” declares the LORD. So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the LORD Almighty, their God
After 20 years of nothing God awakens his people by his word. By a work of God through the Word of God the people of God are once again moved to mission.
Haggai 1:2-4 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the LORD’s house.’” Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your panelled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
Panelled houses challenge. Ballina
Has the focus of my life drifted from mission to makeover; from gospel ministry to better homes and gardens?
That was my thought. Maybe that’s not you. But the message is to give careful thought to your ways.
Haggai 1:7-8 This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored, ” says the LORD.
Give careful thought to your ways that you are doing what God has asked you to do. Not go to the mountains and chop down trees. But go … make disciples.
God’s plans will be achieved but He has ordained that his plans are implemented by his people as they are informed and corrected and encouraged and trained and directed by and moved by His Word.
Sense of identity and purpose from God’s Word v11-17 Helps to anchor God’s people in this world; what we are here for.
From the first day I started at MPC (a whole 3 months) I asked that you be praying for me … because I need it. I do find that at times I need to reorientate may thinking – I get confused about my role as a pastor (so many people/authors with so many theories), – I can grow cold in my spiritual life.
Keep praying that I would be diligent and faithful in all of this, I really do covert your prayers. You might not need this advice at the moment, but incase you do …
Read the Word and pray the Word. My ministry
: 1 and 2 Tim; Titus My spiritual health
: Psalms, Proverbs, (+ Mark and Ezra)
Seeking God’s work in my life through His Word. His Word informs and shapes my prayers; gives me direction and conviction and courage; and ensures that I am actually on about what I am called to be on about.
We honour God when we do as he asks. We display our love for Jesus as we do as he commands. We are orientated to mission by God’s Word.
Be orientated by God’s Word.
ENVISAGE OUTCOME (6:1-22)
Obedience to God has outcomes in this world too, not all future.
God’s people see that God proves trustworthy. That by His power amazing things unfold according to his plan.
Israel take their stand as God directs and God opens the way for the temple to be completed. Darius decrees that public funds pay for the construction and running of the temple and writes it into law.
Proverbs 21:1 In the LORD’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water that he channels toward all who please him.
Look at the conclusion of Darius’ decree
v11-12 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble (ESV dunghill). May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem. I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.
I read that and think no way would I disobey the king’s command. Would you? There is conjecture about what it means to be impaled on a beam but none of the options are pleasant. And I’d make sure my neighbours obeyed too! I don’t want to live next door to an execution site or a public toilet .
Why would we pay less attention to God’s warning of what disobedience will mean for us and our neighbours? That apart from faith in Jesus there is only weeping and gnashing of teeth away from his glory and in the darkness and torment of his wrath.
You see God’s will is that no one would perish but all would turn and be saved. But how can they do that if they do not hear? And how can they hear if we do not go?
For in restored relationship with God His mission is accomplished. That’s what we see in this passage.
When God’s people are faithful to their calling there is Glory to God. Mission to the nations. Joy among his people.
Ezra 6:19-22 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. The priests and Levites had purified themselves and were all ceremonially clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for all the exiles, for their relatives the priests and for themselves. So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of their Gentile neighbors in order to seek the LORD, the God of Israel. For seven days they celebrated with joy the Festival of Unleavened Bread, because the LORD had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria so that he assisted them in the work on the house of God, the God of Israel.
Glorifying God because of His goodness and mercy to them.
There is an invitation for those outside of the people of Israel (v21b). Those who separated themselves from the peoples around them, those who wanted to be identified with the people of God were invited to join in. To be counted among the people of God.
God’s obedient people being a blessing to the nations around them and experiencing great joy from God.
Wouldn’t that be a great mindset for MPC? Sharing the good news. Being a field hospital along the way to destruction so that others might find life.
And as God was obeyed and celebrated the Lord filled them with joy (v22). Joy in God’s reversing the consequences of their sin and rebellion. Joy in the re-established relationship between God and his people.
The fun of watching the Blues Brothers movie was watching them overcoming the adversity and opposition to their mission. And in the end they achieved their goal.
Ezra-Nehemiah written as history for the original readers, delighting in and celebrating God’s faithfulness to his people and power in bringing about his plans; even when there was confusion on the inside and opposition from the outside.
For us it is one more chapter is God’s overarching plan of salvation for all his people achieve ultimately and finally in Jesus.
A plan which Glorifies God Promotes mission to the nations And Joy in God’s people.
Will you join the mission?