The simple message God wanted for his people to understand was to seek him with their whole heart. They needed to turn back to God and His ways. So when studying through Ezra and we get to chapter 3 we see that in the seventh month it says they came together as one man, they build an alter, and they offer burnt offerings – why? The explanation is in Numbers 29:1
“On the first day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a day for you to blow the trumpets, and you shall offer a burnt offering, for a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish; also their grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the ram, and one tenth for each of the seven lambs; with one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you; besides the burnt offering of the new moon, and its grain offering, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offering, according to the rule for them, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.” (Numbers 29:1–6, ESV)
Before they could rebuild the Temple, before they could approach the Lord on His terms they had to have a sin offering, in other words they had to Repent and it had to be from the heart as ONE community.
Do we hear that message enough today? I have seen many books and articles now that speak of how the church is becoming more like the world around it and no longer looks separate and holy. So what shall we do? Well we could individually repent, but I think the key is in the first verse of chapter 3 of Ezra – “the people gathered as one man”
Not only was there the opportunity for individual repentance, but there was opportunity for corporate repentance. We need to come together in our local communities and repent as a whole.We need to turn back to God’s ways and walk in obedience to the simple idea of “be holy, for the Lord your God is Holy”
Holiness is not some ethereal quality that is beyond our reach, but it is simply to be separated, set apart, and unique. Remember what Deut. 4:5-8 says?
“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?” (Deuteronomy 4:5–8, ESV)
This is a people that are holy, and reflect a Holy God, so that all the nations will look upon them, and see our Awesome, Amazing God and His Awesome and Amazing ways to LIVE!!
Is it no wonder that the first message we hear from both Jesus and John the Baptist is:
“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”” (Matthew 3:2, ESV)
How about when the Holy Spirit came upon the people at Pentecost:
“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:36–38, ESV)
Paul proclaiming to King Agrippa his mission:
“Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.” (Acts 26:19–21, ESV)
I like how in this verse something is very clear – why are they to repent? To perform deeds in keeping with their repentance. In other words once when we turn back to God, we are to perform deeds that are in alignment with that turning.
In turning back, in repenting and believing into Christ, is obedience not what is desired?
“And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,” (Hebrews 5:9, ESV)
If I really desire to seek Him with all of my Heart, Mind, and Strength, does my repentance reflect that, and does my deeds reveal an obedient heart? So I have to ask the question of myself – How do I know God better – I must first repent personally, and with my community, so we are all in unity before Him as “one man”.