Ezra and Nehemiah are both books that tell the story of the restoration of Jerusalem. I admire Ezra and Nehemiah’s heart for their city, for their people. It didn’t just start and end with them, it started with them and changed the way of life for the Israelites because the temple was restored and eventually, the wall of Jerusalem was restored as well.
Restoration takes time. It takes hard work. I don’t know if you have ever had to restore anything, but one Christmas break my sister, her husband, my brother and I decided to remodel our mom’s kitchen, and one part of the remodel was restoring the cabinets to their original state. I am not sure what possessed us to do it, it might have been an assortment of reasons, but I’ll say for the sake of the argument, that it was definitely because we were extremely thoughtful kids! :-)
All the tasks were relatively easy, except the cabinets. We had made the decision to refinish the cabinets, stain them, and restore the wood to its original state. The process began with stripping the cabinets of their current finish, their current paint. It wasn’t just a little sanding, but it was getting the wood to where it was just wood, and no finish, no paint. It required an innate amount of fine dust flying around for hours!!
It wasn’t until the stripping of the cabinets was finished, before we could stain the wood, and let alone put a varnish on the cabinets. I remember thinking about hour one into the stripping/sanding process how I was ready to be done, and ready to quit. What had I gotten myself into? Why did the kitchen have so many cabinets? Why couldn’t I just arrange and re-arrange the kitchen? I am good at organization, but no, I am stripping the cabinets of their paint. (I think I might have gotten more paint dust in my eyes and up my nose than off the cabinets, but that’s besides the point…)
That was the situation that Ezra found himself in, he came to Jerusalem, was completely broken about the condition of his people. The temple had been rebuilt, yet the wall had not been completed, leaving the people vulnerable. Vulnerable not just physically but spiritually. Ezra’s heart is broken for his people, he sees the sin, calls out to God, and basically God gives him a message. Ezra tells all the people of their sins and calls them to change.
They need to be restored to their original state. The Israelites had allowed themselves to intermarry with pagans and “polluted the holy race”. I honestly don’t know how to reconcile the intermarriage, divorce, the listing out of all those who intermarried (yikes!), the pollution of the holy race except for the fact that I love that both God’s grace and justice is acknowledged.
“But now we have been given a brief moment of grace, for the Lord our God has allowed a few of us to survive as a remnant.” (Ezra 9:8)
“O Lord, God of Israel you are just. We come before you in our guilt as nothing but an escaped remnant, through in such condition none of us can stand in your presence.” (Ezra 9:15)
We are all in a restoration process. Being restored to our original state of being in Christ’s image. We are all being stripped to the bare minimum. Whatever the stripping away process is for you, I’m sure its tedious and not a fun process (like those cabinets)! How is God’s grace and justice being demonstrated in your life? Can you see how God’s grace is evident in the purification process? In what ways are you bringing honor to our Heavenly Father through your restoration process?
Don’t give up on the process. Don’t get discouraged. Remember God is just, and God is gracious!
We ended up finishing Mom’s kitchen in record time, and the cabinets look fabulous, if I don’t say so myself. :-)