June 13 | Daily Devotion

Lectio Continua: a continuous reading of every verse

Lectio Semi-continua: shorter reading selections from the passages

Lectio Divina

“With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.” ~Ezra 3:11

Some 50, 000 people return to the city of Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64), encamping like Bedouins in makeshift structures in and around the crumbling city. Only a handful of them are old enough to hold memories of the land of their fathers (Ezra 3:12), but this new generation of God-worshippers has learned an important lesson from the previous generations. Notice that the first thing they do is rebuild the altar so that priests can make regular sacrifices to God again. They don’t wait until the temple is complete. Worship begins immediately—outdoors even—because this remnant is determined to remain faithful to God rain and shine. Where modern people would likely say, “Sure, the temple is important, but first we need houses to live in,” the repatriated Israelites choose to rebuild their community with the worship of God at the very center!

Opposition falls on them soon after the foundation of the temple is laid. Consequently, the work is carried out in fits and starts, but the worship of God remains a priority. The gathering of the community at the place of worship, the observance of the God Fests, and the offering of the daily sacrifices goes on—a sign that God, and the worship He calls them to, is vitally important to these people.

What this new generation of Israelites recognized is that worship must be a priority because God is THE priority. No matter what we have to do, no matter what sacrifices we have to make, no matter what opposition we face—the worship of God must have its rightful place in our lives. I know we have revisited this theme again and again in our story, but that is because the theme is repeated so often in God’s story. At the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart—the call to love God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:5). Gathering for worship reveals (and renews) the heart!

Lectio Divina is written by F. Lionel Young III, who serves as the senior pastor of Calvary Church in Valparaiso, Indiana. He is the author of A New Kind of Missionary, a popular introduction to global Christianity.