Sometimes, some of the brightest gems can be found in the darkest places. I’m reading in Ezra 9 this morning . . . kind of depressing, actually . . . but in the repentant cry of Ezra before His sinned against God, there is something that caught my eye . . . that has me thinking . . . that causes me to get jazzed . . . . to praise God . . . to experience a measure of revival.
Background . . . Ezra has led a second troop of captives back to Jerusalem to assist with the rebuilding of the temple and of the city. He has recognized “the good hand of God” upon him (7:6, 9, 28; 8:18, 31) . . . he is aware of God’s favor shown to him and the other exiles who had been allowed to return . . . knowing for certain that this historic “reunion tour” was all of God’s grace. But when he gets back to the land, he is informed that those who had been part of the first group to return had started intermarrying with “the peoples of the lands.” The people of God had “unequally yoked” themselves with people of idols transgressing the commandment of God. Ezra is mortified . . . he tears his garments . . . he hits his knees . . . and he repents, on behalf of the people, for His Lord (9:4-5). And it is in the midst of his humble, anguished prayer of confession and repentance that a “gem” surfaced.
“But now for a brief moment favor has been shown by the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant and to give us a secure hold within His holy place, that our God may brighten our eyes and grant us a little reviving in our slavery. For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us His steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem.” (Ezra 9:8-9 ESV)
It was that repeated phrase, “grant us a little reviving” that caught my eye. In the NIV it’s “a little relief . . . has granted us new life.” In the NKJV it is translated ” give us a measure of revival . . . to revive us.”
The idea here seems to be that of infusing some energy . . . giving life back to . . . restoring some of the jazz factor. God had “brightened their eyes” . . . He had extended His gracious love and care, giving these slaves of Babylon a kind of “pick me up”. And what was the means of this blessing? How was the favor granted? What was it that provided some “zing” to what had been the monotonous, day-in-day-out-in Babylon routine? The means of revival was found in the privilege given them “to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins.”
What hit me was that revival can come through God graciously moving us and allowing us to serve Him. Enthusiasm for the things of the Lord come through engagement in the work of the Lord. Nothing creates energy like doing God’s work . . . according to God’s will . . . in God’s way . . . for God’s glory.
Was it hard work to rebuild the temple? Was it sweaty . . . maybe back-breaking work? I’m thinkin’! But Ezra saw it as a means of God granting a measure of revival. Being able to put shoulder to God-ordained work was viewed as evidence of the grace of God . . . a reminder of the active presence of God. As such, it brightened eyes . . . provided relief from the ho-hum, hum-drum ways of the world they had been ensnared in . . . primed the pump leading to a gush of fresh flow of water and renewed passion.
Perhaps we think of serving the Lord as the outcome of a “jazzed Christian life” rather than as the means to a passionate, vibrant relationship . . . so maybe we wait until we “feel it” before we “do it.” But I’m wondering if we don’t need to get about doing the Master’s business in order to really get pumped about being part of the Master’s household. That it is in faithful service that we find “a measure of revival.” Maybe the reason for listless Christians has something to do with them not getting in the game . . . not aligning themselves to some aspect of God’s building program . . . not breaking a sweat in some aspect of kingdom construction.
Hmmm . . . a work to be done in a holy place for a holy God . . . a house to be restored . . . a measure of revival to be experienced . . .