Ezra is about the renewal of God’s people in worship. But in order to bring them to renewal, he brings them through deep sacrifice. The Christian life is one of sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2), because worship requires sacrifice.
1. They sacrificed their homes to worship God
God’s people had to leave the home they knew (Jer. 29:5-7) for one they did not for the sake of God’s worship (Ezra 1:5).
2. They sacrificed their comfort to worship God
Ezra 2:64 tells us 42,360 people made a 1678 mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem on foot in order to give themselves in worship to their God.
3. They sacrificed their wealth to worship God
Israel gave extravagantly in order to give God the worship he deserved (Ezra 2:68-69)
4. They sacrificed their individualism to worship God
They gathered as one man (Ezra 3:1) in order to worship God around his altar and promote the unity of his church.
5. They sacrificed their security to worship God
Jerusalem was not a safe place for God’s people (Ezra 3:3). They gave up safe neighborhoods for a ruined city surrounded by enemies—all so they could worship God!
6. They sacrificed their dignity to worship God
They let their emotions out in a lavish display of worship (Ezra 3:11-13). We can sacrifice in these and countless other ways because “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). Christ died as a sacrifice so we could live as one.
Reflection & Application Questions
Why did God require Israel to sacrifice so much in order to worship him?
Why does he call us to live lives of sacrificial love to him?
What have you sacrificed in worship to God in the past? What are you sacrificing in your life right now?
What has God perhaps called you to sacrifice but that you have not wanted to? What is stopping you from sacrificing? Why?
Which of the things that Israel sacrificed in our passage would be the hardest for your to give up? Ask God to give you the faith required to be able to sacrifice in worship!
Why must Christ’s sacrifice precede our own? Why should our worship begin with what Christ gave up for our sake?