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July 17, 2013
“Celebrating With Joy / Dedicating the Temple”
13 Then Tatnai, governor on this side the river, Shetharboznai, and their companions, according to that which Darius the king had sent, so they did speedily.
14 And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.
15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
16 And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.
17 And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
18 And they set the priests in their divisions, and the Levites in their courses, for the service of God, which is at Jerusalem; as it is written in the book of Moses.
19 And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth day of the first month.
20 For the priests and the Levites were purified together, all of them were pure, and killed the passover for all the children of the captivity, and for their brethren the priests, and for themselves.
21 And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the Lord God of Israel, did eat,
22 And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with joy: for the Lord had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. (Biblegateway.com)
This is the third lesson when we are discussing building. Two weeks ago an altar was restored and built. In last week’s lesson the foundation of the temple was finished. Now, here we see the entire completion of the temple. And now it’s time to really party. The people are ecstatic at having the work done. Is there a better feeling than to sit back and view a job well done? Especially, if you were in the position of these people. Time and time again they had to face setbacks at getting the show on the road. Enemies would instigate and stir up trouble for the people; anything they could do to halt their progress (Ezra 4).
But, isn’t that what enemies are famous for, halting the progress of God’s people? Never fear, king Darius is here, and he, after much review and investigation reordered Cyrus’s “decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: ‘Let the house be rebuilt’” (Ezra 6:3), and he stated, “Let the cost be paid at the king’s expense from taxes on the region beyond the River,” (Ezra 6:8).
Alas, one of the worse enemies they had to overcome came not from the outside, rather the complacency of the people themselves. They had reached a point of feeling that everything was hunky-dory the way it was, leaving God’s house unfinished they went to work establishing houses and things for themselves. Proving more than patient, God spoke to the prophet Haggai (along with Zechariah) to stir the people back to work (Ezra 5:1; Haggai 1). It was time to get the show on the road once again and finish the work they started. God’s house cannot be the temple it was designed to be with just a foundation. There was way more work to be done. And, with all key players in place, today’s lesson takes us to the final completion and dedication the temple in Jerusalem.
It was time to build and build they did. How exciting this must have been for the elders and the people to see progress. With great zeal and tremendous effort the work was completed. In verses 14 and 15 we see the word “finished.” Oh, the joy that must have flowing through the veins of the people. Happiness had to be at a boiling point and ready to spill over the elation of all that has transpired over these years. Coming back from captivity with nothing but a decree and access to supplies. Arriving home and viewing utter devastation and ruin. The work looks impossible and task seems too long. But, they finally did it!
Put yourselves in their shoes and walk that scene for just a moment. Instead of the “From the pit to the palace” messages we hear from stories like Joseph, we have a “From Tribulation to the Temple.” All the years of trouble and toil have faded away; looking up at the completed temple that they longed to see at their first arrival brings an overwhelming sense of joy. “We never thought we’d see the day, but here it is.” This joy cannot be contained. Tears had to be flowing. Neighbors were probably hugging each other and making a joyful noise in the streets, not being able to wait until the official dedication. “It’s here! It’s really here!”
They were ready to dedicate it, and dedicate it they did. It may not have been the abundance Solomon offered when he dedicated the first temple, but their hearts were just as joyful. They brought to the house of God a sizeable offering, particularly for a sin offering. They had to get this right. So, with the priests and Levites tending their respective places and duties, they people set out to do what was “written in the book of Moses,” (Ezra 6:18).
It wasn’t enough to just rebuild a building. They had to rebuild their worship to God who housed the building. Their worship was the most important thing to get straight because it was their worship of that which is false that led them away. This time would be different. At this dedication they were determined to do it God’s way. As they found out, any other way just won’t work. One can never follow God or worship Him on their own terms. It must be His way through and through.
With that, they kept the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread. Remember that sacred feast that Jesus was determined and glad to share with His disciples one more time before His crucifixion (Luke 22:15)? We call it The Last Supper or The Lord’s Supper, but at the dedication of the temple this was a blessed command for all the people to remember where God brought them from. For the returning captives this would not only take their mind back to the stories of their historical roots and being freed from Egypt, but their own recent deliverance from captivity was very real and very fresh. What a better way to celebrate God and what He has done in bringing about their deliverance than through the keeping of the blessed, holy tradition?
As they did in Egypt, so they did now. There was a separation between the holy and the unholy; between God’s people and the heathen of the other nations. This separation meant more than just physically placing distance between us and them. It meant any of their ways that were not like God; were not written in the book of Moses had to go. They had to be a purified people. Their hearts had rend with the reality of “Let’s do this right for God.” Their mindset was to delineate themselves from the “filthiness of the heathen.” After all, God is holy. This sacred ceremony is holy and nothing should contaminate its prescribed order.
Today, believers have a similar command from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament where he says:
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive,” (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)
The people at the dedication didn’t know that Paul would write this in the future, but one thing is for sure, they wanted to be “received” by God. Anything that would bring a hindrance to their worship had to be removed. God is their priority.
They dedicated, they kept their feasts and they depart from all filthiness. Verse 22 says, “For the LORD had made them joyful.” They reaped the worse of life, captivity because of their sins. But, thank God that was not the end of the story. Because of His love and determination to have them as His to worship and fellowship once again, their story ended with “joy” that came from the Lord. Looking at all He did in keeping His promise to an unfaithful people, how could they experience anything other than joy.
They have a reason to celebrate and so do we. God has not only provided them a way to restore worship but He has for us, too. It is through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ that we can be reconciled back into a love relationship with God, to a place of true worship once again. We may not be dedicating a great edifice, and yet, we are. As the above portion of Scriptures states, “Ye are the temple of the living God . . . I will dwell in them . . . I will be their God.” Tell me that’s not a reason for “Celebrating With Joy!”
(Click here for a print out in Word of today’s Lesson Summary: Celebrating With Joy Lesson Summary or simply click the print button below. Below you will find activities and resources to help with the reinforcement of this week’s lesson. Enjoy!)
“Celebrating With Joy”:
Draw the Scene: Celebrating With Joy Draw the Scene
“Dedicating the Temple”:
Draw the Scene: Dedicating the Temple Draw the Scene
“Party Time”: Since we are talking about celebrating I thought it would be great to bring back the party hats. You can print the PDF: Celebrate With Joy Hat onto cardstock, decorate, cut out and celebrate with those in the lesson! Don’t forget to punch two holes on the side and use yarn or string to tie. Enjoy your party!
“Marshmallow Temple/Church”: Yup!!! That’s what I said. Give students some marshmallows and some toothpicks and let them at it!!! They can build their own temple/church, and when they are done – YUMMY TREAT!!!! How cool is that! This is sooo easy (something teachers need) and your students will love it! Enjoy!
“Solomon’s Temple Craft Project”: This project will give students an opportunity to design and build a temple just as they did in the less. Simply click on the picture and it will take you to that site with full detailed instructions. This is recommended for children that are a little older. Enjoy!
Below you will find even more ideas to reinforce this week’s lesson. Enjoy!
Ezra 6 – “The Bible in Pictures” from Kingjamesbibleonline.org
“Completion, Dedication of the Temple” - Coloring sheets and activities from Calvarycurriculum.com
“I AM With You, I Will Bless You” Coloring sheet for Haggai in encouraging the people to rebuild. Haggai is one of the prophets mentioned in verse 14 and this goes with the lesson.
“Not By Might, Nor By Power” Coloring sheet for Zechariah. The temple of God is built by the power of God and not by human strength. Zechariah was the other prophet mentioned in verse 14 and this also goes with the lesson.
“Haggai Activities” to support the lesson from Missionarlington.org Lesson overview and activities that easy to apply to younger children (including making a temple out of graham crackers and frosting, there’s an idea). Enjoy!
Vs. 19 – “They kept the Passover”: Below you will find activities to help show your students how they celebrated for joy at the dedication of the temple. Enjoy!
“Moses Parting the Sea”: This is a very easy craft to do to remind the students why the celebration of Passover was so important to begin with. Click on the picture below and go to the site. There you will find template to print out and instructions for this project. Enjoy!
“Passover Coloring Sheets and Activities” from Passoverfun.com
“Passover Activities” from Ministry to Children
- “The Temple Restored/Restoring The Temple” Ezra 3:8-13 July 7, 2013 (wordforlifesays.com)
- “Joyful Worship Restored / Restoring Joyful Worship” Ezra 3:1-7 June 30, 2013 (wordforlifesays.com)
- “Meaningless Worship Condemned” Sunday School Lesson for June 16, 2013 (wordforlifesays.com)
- Sunday School Lesson “Sing and Shout!” Isaiah 12:1-6 (wordforlifesays.com)
- “The Glorious New Creation / Worship in the New Creation” Sunday School Lesson, Isaiah 65:17-21, 23-25, June 23, 2013 (wordforlifesays.com)
- Sunday School Lesson “Holy, Holy, Holy” Isaiah 6:1-8 (wordforlifesays.com)
- Sunday School Lesson “The Hope of His Coming” 2 Peter 3:3-15a (wordforlifesays.com)