SPIRITUAL HOT SPOTS
Week 2: How to be a walking WIFI receptor of God’s presence
This five-week series addresses what God did for the Jewish people throughout the events recorded in the book of Ezra. Through failure, forgetting what is important, and sin, we may become exiles attempting to return to God. However, just as in the book of Ezra God reclaimed his people according to his promises, he also reclaims and redeems our lives for his purpose in this world.
Read the sermon summary below.
SPIRITUAL HOT STOPS
How to be a walking WIFI receptor of God’s presence
“In the Old Testament, God dealt with His people as a nation…Their relationship was completely external. But in the New Covenant, the presence of God moved out of the temple and into our hearts.” John Chisum
Millennials, and those who have always known a world of fast internet connection, will never experience the anxiety that their parents feel when they hear the sound of dial up. This pre-Y2K generation appreciates our modern day internet connection more than their younger peers because they remember what it was like to have slow or no connection at all. Regardless of your interaction with the internet, we all share one thing in common today. No one likes it when their connection is dropped or when it slows down because of lack of data or technical services. We love to be connected rather than being disconnected.
Ezra’s generation understood this feeling well. They had lost their connection to God and were overjoyed to know that God was allowing them return to their lost homeland and reclaim His promises for them. Throughout this moment in Israel’s history, God was trying to remind His people an important reality. This is a lesson that Christians today need to understand because many can feel disconnected from God, while others feel far from God unless they are in a Church service on the weekend. The lesson is this. Ultimately our connection to God was never meant to be bound to a location. It had always been a matter of a connection of the heart. This means that we don’t have to wait for a service in order to experience the presence of God!
“When the seventh month came, and the children of Israel were in the towns, the people gathered as one man to Jerusalem. 2 Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 3 They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord, burnt offerings morning and evening. 4 And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required, 5 and after that the regular burnt offerings, the offerings at the new moon and at all the appointed feasts of the Lord, and the offerings of everyone who made a freewill offering to the Lord. 6 From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.” Ezra 3:1-6 ESV
It is no coincidence that Ezra and the returning exiled Israelites decided to rebuild the altar and restore the foundation of the temple as their first act. The to-do-list was massive. Houses, building, roads, farm lands, and the city’s surrounding wall had all to be rebuilt from the ground up after all those years. Why start at the temple? That’s where everything went wrong.
God had instituted rituals, festivals, decrees, and sacrifices in order to teach His people about who He is and how they as an unholy people were able to have a relationship with a Holy God. Each and every one of those ordinances was a symbol of a spiritual reality. There was a deeper meaning behind everything God commanded. Israel had been conquered and exiled by her enemies because they had allowed their relationship with God to be reduced to mundane rituals that was void of understanding and love.
The altar was important to the process of accessing the presence of God in the Holy of Holies in first the Tabernacle and then in the Temple. It was the first piece of furniture at the gate. Without an acceptable sacrifice no one could go any further. After years and years of sacrificing animals and other required offerings, the people stopped giving God their best, settling to give Him to rest of their leftovers, if any remained at all. The grew tired of sacrifice after sacrifice and not closing the gap between themselves and God. They began to realize that their best wasn’t enough. This was the beginning of their end. Any relationship is doomed when one side fails to invest in the other. The people’s act of restoring the altar and relaying the foundation of the Temple was them recognizing their faults and reestablishing the foundation of their nation and lives; their relationship with God.
The sacrificial system taught the Jews two important things. First, there was a cost to access God’s presence. Second, their sacrifices were never enough to pay that price fully. All of these things were symbols that all pointed to Jesus being the ultimate fulfillment.
“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” Colossians 2:16-17 ESV
“He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption “. Hebrews 9:12
“For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV
You and I have a debt that we owe called sin. We were born with this debt that none of us can pay off because our efforts are not enough. It’s like trying to pay off a large credit card debt by paying the minimum every month. The interest charges outweigh our measly payments, causing us to fall further and further into debt. This is why Christ came, in order to pay the price for our restoration and unlimited connection with our Heavenly Father. He declared Himself as payment when He shouted on the cross with His dying breath, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The price to access the entirety of God’s presence has been paid and made available to you and me.
Now all who believe in Christ get their names included into Jesus’ account, and now we all have access to the presence of God. The account ID is “Jesus Christ” and the password is “faith in Him”. Access to God is no longer regulated to specific locations. Yes, the church building where we meet in are important, but it does not function as a spiritual Hot Spot for the Holy Spirit. When you log in spiritually to God through Christ, you become a walking and breathing hot stop for the presence of God wherever you go. The artist Matisyahu spoke of this in his song “Jerusalem” when he said, “Don’t you see, it’s not about the land or the sea / Not about the country, but the dwelling of His majesty”.
Sacrifices are still needed but they have changed because Jesus is our perfect sacrifice. The required sacrifices now are sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving, gratitude, humility, surrender, and love! This is service that will never stop, drop, or fail you. So go now and enjoy your 24/7 access to the presence of God. Binge on His goodness and share it with those who lack a connection themselves.