Ezra 3:1-7

Altar and Sacrifices Restored

Now when the seventh month came, and the sons of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brothers the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brothers 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. So they set up the altar on its foundation, for [a]they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. They celebrated the Feast of [b]Booths, as it is written, and offered [c]the fixed number of burnt offerings daily, according to the ordinance, as each day required; and afterward there was a continual burnt offering, also for the new moons and for all the fixed festivals of the Lord that were consecrated, and from everyone who offered a freewill offering to the Lord. From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, but the foundation of the temple of the Lord had not been laid. Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and food, drink and oil to the Sidonians and to the Tyrians, to bring cedar wood from Lebanon to the sea at Joppa, according to the permission they had [d]from Cyrus king of Persia.

It’s interesting and somewhat fitting that the Feast of Booths was their first celebration and time of sacrifice. This feast was in remembrance of when the Israelites wandered in the wilderness and lived in tents (booths) after they had been in another sort of exile in Egypt. In that day, they were journeying to a new land of promise, and here they were once more restored to the land God had promised them.

Not that all were restored, or that the land was back to its former glory, but at least these sons of Israel were back where they belonged. While most of us have not and never will be taken prisoners to a foreign land, it is easy in this day for our hearts and minds to be taken captive by this world. Especially at this time of year, with all the celebration and beautiful decorations.

Many even talk of hope and joy and peace without acknowledging the true source of those valuable commodities or without recognizing the true reason for Christmas. If you have been “taken captive” by the distractions of this world, look for Jesus in the middle of it all. He’s not just a babe in a manger, He is the Son of God, and God with us, Immanuel.

Find Him, and trust in Him with all your heart and mind, and not only will you find real joy and peace, but you will have all of heaven celebrating your “return” to where you belong. “For God did not send his Son to condemn the world, but so that we might have life, and life abundantly.”

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