Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:2
It was an invitation to a people who had been in exile for seventy years. It was an invitation given by a King – Cyrus, King of Persia.
For some, the invitation probably went straight into the bin. They had, after seventy years, settled down, made friends, got jobs, married and reproduced. They just didn’t want to go. Jerusalem was some distant memory and had no present reality for them.
For some, the invitation wasn’t meant for them. They were not part of the Israelite nation, but that wasn’t going to stop them. They went anyway.
For some, the invitation was put somewhere they could see it everyday. They were not quite sure. The invitation wasn’t in the bin, granted. But neither were they packing just yet. They were counting the cost of moving. Some days they were sure, other days they were not so sure. Maybe they had drawn out a chart and listed all the pros and cons – I would have done! It could have gone either way.
For some, the invitation was also put where they could see it – and the packing was in full swing. Not only was the best pottery carefully wrapped in paper and the linen washed and ironed, but the first thing packed was a tin containing all the legal documents – the title deeds to property, marriage certificates, death certificates, “O” and “A” level certificates – every piece of paperwork they could find.
The narrative goes on to say that the people that went were the ones that were moved in their hearts by God.
There are times in our lives when we make the big moves. I did it in 1976 when I moved to Durham to start my teacher training course. !980 I moved to London for my first teaching job. I982 I moved to Cyprus. My life is dotted with big moves. !989 and 1992 were very big moves…moving to Inverness and later moving into a blissful married state with Joe.
What came to mind, when I read Ezra’s opening chapter is that Cyrus’ invitation, the invitation of a King…for the exiles in Babylon, the invitation was a one off, once in a life time opportunity.
There is a different King that gives us a slightly different invitation…not once in a life time, but every single day to ”build the Temple of the Lord”. There are many Christians who are concerned to build “Jerusalem” in Jerusalem. I am not one of them. For Christians what does the Temple equate to?
Just as not all the exiles wanted to go back to Jerusalem, or some of them were agonizing over it and others were already packed…within the Christian faith, perhaps some of us are just a little bit too comfortable, a little bit too reluctant to pick up the gauntlet, which God throws down each morning.
Every day we have an opportunity to move out of something “less than” and into something “more than”. Building God’s Kingdom is an every day occupation, demonstrated in so many way…in words spoken, in love shown, in turning the other cheek, in rebuking sickness, in moving mountains with mustard seed faith, in claiming promises…
My invitation? I am thinking about what I need to pack!