Titus 2

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Prioritize Worship

Illustration: Riding down the river all day and arriving at a camp site just as the sun is setting on a 30 degree night in September. One of the first priorities is finding some firewood in order to build a fire to keep you warm. This is a first step, a small step, necessary step, and a repeated step.
“Prioritize” and “worship” are familiar words. I don’t think “prioritize” needs any clarification; however defining “worship” can be like defining the word “the.” We use it many times in our communication, but struggle defining it. We will seek to add clarification to the meaning here in a minute.
Ezra is writing this account about 80 years beyond the year 538 BC when Cyrus makes a decree that allows Israelites to return back to their homeland. The return signals potential and continuation of God’s promises to His people . However that eagerness has settled to an apathy and shortsightedness. They are still under the power of another nation. They have faced resistance. Ezra is writing to this people with insight into what is really taking place. So far he has emphasized that Cyrus’ decree was God acting according to his promised word to bring the nation of Israel back into their land. God is also the one who moves the hearts of the 42,000 people to the land. Sin is always destructive, but God persists in His plan of redemption with His people. Like the planting of a small seed, the circumstances surrounding the return look meager (remnant, captives, exiles etc), but God is about making a flourishing people.
The call to prioritize worship conveys that other things have taken their place. So to put it back in its proper place one must:

Go back to its original purpose

Illustration/Question: If you are asked to go lead a group of young people in simple kick ball game and you walk out into the field and see them throwing the bases around like frisbees and pelting each other with the kick ball what would you do?
As we read Ezra 3:1-5, look for words or phrases that indicate that their worship had an original pattern that it was to copy.
Ezra 3:1–5 NKJV
1 And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. 4 They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. 5 Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the Lord that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the Lord.

Worship is a regular expression of dependence and gratitude

The seventh month was highlight in the calendar year of Israel
This was a harvest time of grapes and olives that occurred from mid- September to mid-October
It began on the first day with the trumpet blasts.
The day of atonement was on the 10th day of the month
The Feast of booths was on the 15th of the month
This month had great solemnity in it as the people reflected on the cost of sin and God’s substitute provision. This month also had great excitement as the people rejoiced in God’s provision for their needs. This counters the human tendency to live independent of God.

Worship is tethered to God’s instruction

Ezra 3:2–3 NKJV
2 Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening burnt offerings.
The exiles were coming into a land where there was no altar or an altar could have been built in the wrong manner or place.
The construction of the altar took place according the instruction of the Law of Moses and they made sure to put it in the place that God had chosen previously.
We get hints of tension developing in the land between the exiles and the people who were living there. We will hear more about these people in the next chapter. This careful building in light of the enemy could be expressing their fear of God and dependence on Him in the face of enemies.

Worship is a voluntary response for all

This was a unified effort of the people (v.1)
It wasn’t just the priests (v. 2)
This is third time that freewill offerings have been named.
Transition/ Illustration: When you hear the words prioritize worship, you may be tying it to a setting which involves singing, preaching, and giving. We may treat it like the young person who finishes his chores and runs out the back door so his parents don’t see him and ask him to do something else.
Listen to God’s purposes for His nation
Exodus 19:5–6 NKJV
5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
There are special seasons for corporate worship, but all of life is a service to God.

Do the next obedient action

“Next” actions always face the resistance of the lack of arrival. When we don’t get to our desired destination right away, it is easy to give up.
After the building of the altar, the author draw attention to the fact the foundation of the temple was not laid. As we read the next section, you can note the action steps that they took, but look for the hints that the author gives for what motivated or provided for them to do so.
Ezra 3:7–11 NKJV
7 They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 8 Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the Lord. 9 Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. 10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 11 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.
Provision is sought the same way that Solomon and David did.
Reference is made to starting in the second month just like Solomon did with the temple.
1 Chron. 23:4 speaks of David’s organization efforts for the temple.
They carry out the worship in the manner that David prescribed.
We also see the note of Cyrus being the one who made the approval for the acquiring of the help from those in Tyre and Sidon.
The theme of the song is the covenant faithfulness of God.

Allow God’s former action to provide the thrust for today’s action

Illustration of the large weight on a catapult creating a strong thrust
However, God’s former action ended up being the reason for discouragement in others
Ezra 3:12–13 ESV
12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
What do you do when the former glory seems greater than today?

Don’t despise the day of small things

Jesus speaks of and provides for a worship that is fuller. (John 4:23) He made it possible for you to be his Spiritual house, to offer sacrifices to God, and proclaim His greatness (1 Peter 2) Illustration of doing laundry in your own house
For those with new beginnings or anticipated new beginnings: marriage, college, grandchildren, new jobs, new girl friend or boy friend, it is easy to get consumed in all the busy and enjoyable details. When you are a rookie may you see the opportunities God has given you as gifts that you are inexperienced in using. Read good books together, fellowship with God’s people, serve Christ’s body. Don’t do it as the devotional part of your day. The new job is the way to serve Christ. Your are extending Christ’s love to the new relationship you are experiencing.
We all need to have a routine of worshiping God together. To young people who are starting jobs or anyone trying to figure out out to get more income, make this a priority. To do this well takes many priority decisions. To be prepared you have to get good sleep, plan a time to get up, get everyone dressed and out the door. You have to put others needs first. There is also the priority choice to take extra time in the day to interact with your God on what you have heard.
How do you worship when you make selfish choices? you go to God with daily requests of forgiveness, mercy, and grace- yes. A next step could be going to a brother and saying I am struggling, would you help or pray with me.
For those who are beat down, how do you prioritize worship. Worship voices the questions of howl long. It pleads for God to answer. It affirms trust. It sings knowing that the final conclusion will be: God had dealt extremely well with me. (Ps. 13)
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