When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Ezra 3:1-3 NIV
As I reflect on this one-word ~way~ I am reminded of a dream I had about 3 years ago. I was in a rain forest leading some of my Bible study friends through branches and vines by chopping a path with a machete. I woke up with the sense God was speaking to me about being a leader, but also that He was asking me to go where there was no path already carved out.
As time went on I have continued to ask the Lord about this dream. Graciously, He has connected many dots for me through that dream. Interestingly, but not coincidentally, my life has been lived off the path for a number of years now. My husband and I are living in the uncharted territory of Parkinson's Disease and unemployment and applying for disability .... and on and on... through pathways being carved one. step. at. a. time.
In a sense, I see my current life as a reflection of that long ago dream. I really don't want to be out front with a machete. As much as I love adventure, I'm not sure how much longer I want to live on a path being cut as I go. And though I know God knit me together from pioneer cloth, I am tired and would love to fall into a safe open space full of sunshine and provision for a while.
I think this is why I am loving the book of Ezra right now. The book of Ezra begins with God making a way where there seemed to be no way. The people of Israel had lived in exile for 70 years when God moved the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to release God's people and build a Temple at Jerusalem in Judah.
“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. Ezra 1:2-3 NIV
Ezra returned to Jerusalem along with some Levites, priests and many other Jewish exiles (everyone whose heart God had moved Ezra 1:5) from Babylonian captivity. The older people returning to their homeland and the younger people moving to a homeland of which they had only heard stories. Surely, it had seemed impossible they would ever see Jerusalem again.
Ezra returned to Jerusalem along with Levites, priests and many other Jewish exiles from Babylonian captivity. The older people returning to their homeland and the younger people moving to a homeland of which they had only heard stories. Surely, it had seemed impossible they would ever see Jerusalem again.
However, God, in His own time, made a way for His people where there seemed to be no way. And God moved on the hearts of particular men to go first. God called men to lead others in the restoration and reconstruction of their land, the Temple of God, and the hearts of God's people by the Word of God through Moses.
Though the welcome mat had not been rolled out for the Jews returning to Jerusalem, they forged ahead to retake their homeland. One step at a time. Doing it scared. The leaders - the pioneers - who answered yes to the Lord's leading settled into the land. They took action and built the foundation of the Temple as they had been commissioned by King Cyrus.
And then they celebrated! The returned exiles gave thanks to God for His goodness to return them to their homeland and to restore their land and His Temple. The older people cried and wept with loud wailing while the younger exiles shouted and sang loudly for JOY.
The Lord is good; His steadfast love for Israel endures forever! Ezra 3:11 NIV
This Word of God gives me hope. God called me out here to pioneer a path where there seems to be none. However, He reminds me I am not alone. About 18 months ago my husband and I attended a conference out in Colorado Springs. One of the speakers at the conference, Dr. Joseph Stowell, gave a devotional in which he talked about Jesus chopping a new path with a machete. With tears streaming down my cheeks and dripping off my chin I looked at my husband and mouthed, "Can you believe this?"
Suddenly my perspective on the dream zoomed out enough so that I could see Jesus in front of me with a machete chopping the path through the rain forest in front of me. He had the big machete making a way for me where there seemed to be no way. And then I could see he had given me the smaller machete to come along behind and cut the smaller vines and branches for the people walking along behind me.
I hope wherever you are on the path - whether open spaces full of sunshine or the rain forest jungle chopping a path - you know you are never alone. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life - Abundant Life. Amen.