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The Altar and the Temple
Ezra 3:2 ; Ezra 3:6
In the opening chapters of this book of Ezra we are among the Jews who have come back from Babylon. God has restored the exiles to their country; and their feet stand in Jerusalem again. But the ravages of war and the silent attacks of time have played strange havoc with the beloved city. It was then that they set to work to restore Jerusalem. God breathed an enthusiasm upon the people. And it was then that they built the altar of the Lord, for the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not laid. Such then is the setting of our text, and it carries three suggestions with it.
I. First, it is good to begin building with an altar. It is wisest and noblest and most rational to begin with the recognition of the Lord. To realize that above our finite will there is the infinite will of the Almighty; to feel that around the purpose we form is the eternal purpose of a Sovereign God; to know that He girds us when we perceive it not, that He loves us even when we have despised Him, that He hath prepared our goings from of old, that He will never leave us or forsake us is not that the secret of an arm that can endure, and of a heart that will not weary in the drought?
II. The second lesson of our text is this. Build your altar till you can start your temple. Now if our life means anything for us, it must be rich in dreams which we cannot realize. A life is very valueless and poor if it can grasp and hold all for which it craves. It is the heart which hungers that is the blessed heart. You cannot do great services for Christ, you cannot make the greatest sacrifices; are you therefore doing nothing at all? Do what you can. Begin your altar now. Do not waste one hour waiting for the temple. Christ never said, 'She hath done mighty things'; Christ's praise was, 'She hath done what she could'.
III. Thirdly, have the temple clearly before you all the time. It takes the vision of the perfect temple if we are to build well the humblest altar. It takes the assurance that striving shall not be in vain, and the certainty that ideals shall yet be realized, if we are to toil cheerfully and bravely at the task that is given to us today. It is at that point (with an emphasis which is Divine) that the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaims its message. For the golden age of Christ is on ahead of us, ana the best, for the followers of the Lord, is still to be.
G. H. Morrison, The Unlightened Lustre, p. 38.
References. III. 8. G. Morrison, The Scottish Review, vol. i. p. 309. R. S. Candlish, Sermons, p. 284. VI. 14. W. H. Fremantle, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1869, p. 169. VII. 22. C. Heap, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 121. VII. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in a Religious House, vol. ii. p. 440. VIII. 22. Ibid. p. 625. VIII. 28, 29. J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. ii. p. 154. VIII. 29. A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 45. IX. 3. J. Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. i. p. 159. IX. 13, 14. J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii. p. 168.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ezra 3". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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