Originally scheduled for November 4
Most of us are familiar with the story of the
Exodus. Among its other virtues is the fact that it makes great
theater. If you don’t think so, ask Charlton Heston — the guy who
parted the Red Sea. When God called the Jews out of Egypt, the
Exodus was accompanied with numerous and frequent miracles.
But did you know that there’s a second Exodus
in the Bible? It’s found in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah — two
books that you have probably never studied. Should you chance to
read them, you will discover that the miracles so prevalent in
Exodus are completely missing. Yet the Jews shown to us in Ezra and
Nehemiah place their complete confidence in the Providence of God —
even though they have not one miracle to see.
You might well ask why. It’s because the nation
of Israel, coming out of Egypt, felt that they were righteous but
oppressed. The nation of Israel coming out of Babylon knew that, as
a nation, they were sinners. The attitudes were completely
different; coming from Egypt we felt the anger and insecurity they
showed us. Coming out of Babylon we see their sense of guilt.
It is instructive therefore to see what these
Jews did. They had to get permission from the King to do this, but a
small group of them set out for Jerusalem. Their objective was
simple: rebuild the Temple. That something is going to take quite a
while, building techniques being what they were in those days. It
was a journey of several months just to get from Babylon to
Jerusalem. When they arrived, they put first things first. They did
not immediately start upon the building of the temple. Rather, they
built an altar on which to make sacrifices, in accordance with the
Law of Moses. They started celebrating the feasts which were
described there. In short, their first step was to be obedient to
the commands of God — even though they felt very guilty about what
they had done.
There is a lesson for us in this. Many people
will tell you that they can’t come to church, they can’t take
Communion because “they don’t have their act together yet.” This is
an exquisitely wrong attitude. In communion we see the steps by
which the Christian comes back to Christ. It starts with self
examination; what have I done? After this comes confession. God
already knows what you’ve done; he wants you just to admit it. Once
you’ve admitted it, he wants you to try to correct it; it’s called
repentance. In Communion we see the way back to the heart of God.
It came as a surprise to the Prodigal Son that
his father would want him back. Perhaps it surprises you that God
wants you back, also. He doesn’t want you to be perfect before you
come back to him; he just wants you to come back. He doesn’t want
your perfection; he wants to give you his.