Ezra 3:11: 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.
For most of us, the New Year is a new beginning; a fresh start, a second chance, a clean slate, a resolution to do better, etc. It is filled with hope and possibilities. After all, we just came through the season of Advent talking about peace, hope, love, faith, and the light of Jesus. And now a reboot seems in order.
We need a new beginning. We need to right the wrongs, fix our broken lives, shed some pounds, break some habits, get our house in order, clean the closets, and be better people.
But no matter how much we want it…how much we need it. In the darkness of winter, we often falter and fail. And we beat ourselves up for it.
The book of Ezra is a time of new beginnings for the people of Judah. They have come out of captivity to the broken ruins of Jerusalem and the temple. They have work to be done. They need a new start. Ezra, and several other men of God, led the people to rebuild the temple to God.
Here are some lessons that we can learn from Ezra.
1. New Beginnings are possible no matter how far we have gone off track. The people of God had been derailed. They just spent 40 years in captivity. Their city was in ruins. Their temple destroyed. Where do you start to rebuild? The job seems too overwhelming to even think about.
For Ezra and the Jews it was just a matter of seeing the need and taking it to the Lord. He was the one who helped them get it all back together.
Think of it. Our God is the God of second changes. How many times did he rescue the ones who had fallen? How many mistakes had Peter made and yet he was still used by God to tell the nations of the love of Jesus. How many times did he tell us to forgive our neighbors?
It doesn’t matter how big the ruins of your life are, God is able to build something out of it.
2. New Beginnings cannot be made off old thinking. The Jews would not have been able to build a temple in the grandeur of the original made by Solomon. They did not have the resources, the labor force, the time, or the preparation.
What they made was a utilitarian temple. It was built for the purpose of worshiping God. It did not have to be impressive. It did not need to details. But it did need the people to have their heart in the right place. They were building something bigger in nature than Solomon’s temple. They were not out to please anyone but God.
It is time to throw away your old thinking and put your heart in the right place. There is nothing that can’t be done with God on your side. But let’s face it… you will never be as young and energetic as you were when you were a teenager. If your expectation is to restore the grandeur of your old temple then you have your heart in the wrong place.
3. New Beginnings must start off humbly. New Beginnings never succeed in a vacuum.
One of my biggest mistakes in my weight loss journey has been to eat up the praises of people for doing good and losing weight. I may have been the one working and trying to eat right but it took a lot of people helping along the way. I had instructors, a weight loss group, my family, and my church family behind me.
You can’t do it alone. You need accountability and encouragement and you need a humble heart.
Can you imagine how the work would have got done if Ezra or any of the people stopped to point out what they had done and have a celebration ever few bricks that were laid? “Look what I did! I put a nail in this board and I didn’t even bend it.” Great… now get back to work and keep going!
It is important to celebrate the victories… but not at the expense of the whole project.
4. New Beginnings must focus on the right start – Jesus. Ezra’s focus from the very beginning to the end was on serving God. It wasn’t as much about building a temple as much as it was about having a place to worship. The focus wasn’t on anything but God.
The Hebrew writer said to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and throw off any sins and bad habits or anything else that can trip us up and keep us from finishing the race. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
You can lose weight and get healthier without Jesus, but doesn’t it make sense to have the one who created your body with you on the journey?
5. New Beginnings must work one step a time. Most of the time the process fails because we try to do everything at once. We clean the house of all the tempting treats, we exercise so much that we can’t walk for days afterwards, and we nibble at our salad while all the while wishing we had something more tasty and substantial.
The Jewish people made a big effort and they laid the foundation of the temple. But they were so happy with their efforts that they quit for 17 years! That is not a success. You can’t worship in a foundation!
The temple had to be rebuilt one brick at a time. Ezra made sure that everyone knew why they were building it and kept them moving forward. Some might say that the temple was built with prayer for mortar and the law for bricks. But the love and devotion of the people were the first sacrifice offered there at the temple.
Your journey will begin one step at a time. Don’t try to rush it. But make sure you finish as strong as you start.
6. New Beginnings must include praise. The people praised God. They sang. They prayed. They worshiped. They read the law. They sang psalms. I would have loved to see the temple being built. Ezra 3:11 says they gave praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
Things happen get done when you have the right attitude of worship and praise. Several verse have the saying, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” I like to remind our congregation of that because it gives us strength to see his love never fails. So every once in a while, I will say, “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good”. And our congregation responds, “His love endures forever.”
God loves you. Praise him every step of your weight loss journey.
Dear Father, I praise you for your unending love and mercy. Help me to start fresh in my weight loss efforts and in my daily walk with you. I need to finish as strong as I start. It is my desire to worship and serve you. Help me to be a temple of worship that it fit for your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ― L.M. Montgomery
“Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.” ― Meister Eckhart