READING: Ezra 1-3, Acts 10:9-33
Fear has a strange way of capturing us and shutting us down. From the person who won’t speak of Jesus for fear of losing a relationship to the Christian who refuses to share the gospel because of the threat of persecution, fear can be debilitating. It grabs us, clings to us, magnifies its existence, extends its power, and diverts us from obedience to God.
On the other hand, fear need not win in our lives. When the Hebrews of Ezra’s day made their way back to Jerusalem to build the Temple, their fear of the people around them could easily have been distracting. The people of God had been out of Jerusalem for 70 years, and those who replaced them, as well as their neighboring countries, may have seen their return as a threat. We know for certain that their enemies make themselves known in Ezra 4. What these enemies could not do in Ezra 3, however, was keep the returning people of God from re-building the altar and offering sacrifices: “They set up the altar on its foundation and offered burnt offerings for the morning and evening on it to the Lord even though they feared the surrounding peoples” (Ezra 3:3). Despite the fear that might have led others to stop the re-building process, God’s people moved forward with their plans.
Apparently, serving God faithfully trumped any fears they had. Indeed, it may be that the people knew they needed God’s protection—and they had learned from experience that not obeying God’s commands was hardly the way to secure His shelter. Step-by-step, they re-built the altar “as it is written in the law of Moses, the man of God” (Ezra 3:2).
I am reminded today that no fear should keep us from serving God. Fear may seek to control us, but our trust must be in the One who is in control. We must obey Him, in spite of our fears.
PRAYER: “Father, grant me trust in You that overcomes any fears I have.”
TOMORROW’S READING: Ezra 4-7, Acts 10:34-48