July Reading from The Message
Have you ever been “plunged into a sea of joy”? What happened? How did it feel? How long has it been since then? Here in Ezra 6 the Israelites have finally rebuilt the temple after long years in captivity in Babylon. God had cleared a space for them… and for you.
So the leaders of the Jews continued to build; the work went well under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah son of Iddo. They completed the rebuilding under orders of the God of Israel and authorization by Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. The Temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
16-18 And then the Israelites celebrated—priests, Levites, every last exile, exuberantly celebrated the dedication of The Temple of God. At the dedication of this Temple of God they sacrificed a hundred bulls, two hundred rams, and four hundred lambs—and, as an Absolution-Offering for all Israel, twelve he-goats, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. They placed the priests in their divisions and the Levites in their places for the service of God at Jerusalem—all as written out in the Book of Moses.
19 On the fourteenth day of the first month, the exiles celebrated the Passover.
20 All the priests and Levites had purified themselves—all, no exceptions. They were all ritually clean. The Levites slaughtered the Passover lamb for the exiles, their brother priests, and themselves.
21-22 Then the Israelites who had returned from exile, along with everyone who had removed themselves from the defilements of the nations to join them and seek God, the God of Israel, ate the Passover. With great joy they celebrated the Feast of Unraised Bread for seven days. God had plunged them into a sea of joy; he had changed the mind of the king of Assyria to back them in rebuilding The Temple of God, the God of Israel.
God Will Clear a Space For You
The Passover was the annual attention Israel gave to God’s definitive act of saving love. The Hebrew word for “salvation” means “to become whole again,” “to be delivered out of danger.” At the root of the word is the idea that no matter how closely evil hedges you in, God will clear a space for you, and it will be a big enough space for you to have the freedom you need to live and move about freely. Which is what he did with the Israelites. And it’s also what he does with us.
For Jews, celebrating the Passover helped them remember that. For Christians, celebrating the Eucharist—marking when Christ became our Passover Lamb—is what keeps that memory alive for us. His blood covers not only the closest of priests but also the most distant of exiles; not only the prodigal son in a distant country but also the proud son at home. And that’s why the Passover wasn’t a somber ceremony but a celebration. Rather than being sprinkled in a stoic ritual with smatterings of God’s grace, the Jews were “plunged into a sea of joy” (see Ezra 6:22), coming up from their immersion in God’s grace and splashing gleefully together in the water.
A Devotional Storybook Bible for Kids
Help your child discover the value of God’s Word. The Message translation offers Bible readings that kids can easily understand. Featuring 50 of the Bible’s most cherished stories, My First Message brings their timeless lessons to life with colorful, captivating illustrations. Take a look inside (below) or learn more here.