SACRIFICE AND SERVICE

by Sep 6, 2023

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

When God calls you to a mission, it often requires leaving things behind. Obedience is not always simple.

In Ezra 1, we learned that the Jews finally had the opportunity to return to their land after a long exile, which lasted nearly seventy years, as Jeremiah 29:10 states. That period is equivalent to an entire lifetime. To put it in perspective, if we went back seventy years from today, we would be in 1953. It’s astonishing to think about how much the world has changed since then, in aspects like the cost of living, gasoline prices, family structure, technology, and more.

What are we trying to convey with this? Imagine returning to a land you only know through stories and legends. Where would your home be? If you were a successful merchant in Babylon, would you venture to open a business in Jerusalem and start anew? Why leave behind the life you’ve known for so long?

Additionally, consider the lives left behind. According to Ezra 7 and Nehemiah 1, not all Jews returned in the first wave. Your family might return, but your closest friends could stay behind. We know from the Bible that the Jews had integrated into Babylonian society. They had careers, homes, and strong friendships. For example, Nehemiah served as the king’s cupbearer (Nehemiah 1:11), and Daniel was a prominent figure in the royal court with his own residence (Daniel 2:17). However, when God called, many of them left everything behind, obedient to His call (Ezra 1:5). This reminds us that obedience is not always easy.

Let’s consider some biblical examples. Moses left Pharaoh’s palace and all its comforts to follow God’s call into the desert. Abraham left his land and family to obey God. Peter, James, and John, among others, left their prosperous fishing business to follow Jesus. Furthermore, Paul declared in Philippians 3:8: “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

So, let’s reflect: What is God calling you to leave behind that might be hindering your fulfillment of His purpose in your life?

Obedience and sacrifice often involve being willing to give up material possessions when necessary.

What did the Jews do when they returned? After providing a summary of the tribes and their leaders (Ezra 2:1–67), we see something remarkable: they offered voluntary donations for the construction of God’s house in Jerusalem. Ezra 2:68–69 states: “Some of the heads of families, when they came to the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem, made freewill offerings for the house of God, to erect it on its site. According to their ability, they gave to the treasury for the work 61,000 darics of gold, 5,000 minas of silver, and 100 priests’ garments.” Here, we see that obedience and sacrifice go hand in hand. Obedience meant that when necessary, these Jewish leaders were willing to sacrifice their own possessions to further the worship of God.

Where does your trust lie, in God or in your material possessions? Do you honor God with your first fruits? Jesus reminded us that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also (Luke 12:33-34). If you’re not willing to give to God from your material possessions, there may be an issue in your heart. Remember that, according to Deuteronomy 8:18, it is God who gives you the ability to generate wealth. Wealth can take the place of God in our lives and become a snare (Jeremiah 9:23-24). We must not make financial success our top priority (Matthew 6:24) because we cannot serve two masters, God and wealth.

The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10), and greed can also be detrimental (James 4:1-2). God’s strategy involves investing in the kingdom of heaven (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Having more money does not guarantee happiness; instead, God encourages us to return the tithe (as it belongs to Him) and make offerings, promising His blessing in return.

Serving God is an honor. One of the best ways to serve God is through three categories: time, talent, and treasure (material possessions). All of these are offerings we can present to God. In Ezra 2, we see the people making a significant sacrifice of their treasures. In Nehemiah 3, we observe individuals and families offering their talents and time. This chapter provides a detailed record of the work that people and families contributed. It even includes precise geographical references, such as: “Nehemiah, son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth-zur, repaired in front of the tombs of David, to the artificial pool” (Nehemiah 3:16). Additionally, someone named Binnui is mentioned working on houses up to the “buttress and the corner” (Nehemiah 3:24). Yet, amid all these details, we find a surprising statement: “Beside them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord” (Nehemiah 3:5). In Ezra 2 and Nehemiah 3, the Tekoite nobles stand out for their lack of willingness to serve the Lord. A scholar notes that these nobles were aristocrats who despised manual labor and refused to actively participate in the work.

When we serve God, we are building something that does not fade with time (Matthew 6:19-21). Furthermore, we are creating a legacy that will endure through generations (Colossians 3:11). No task is insignificant. No labor is too small to be done in service to the Lord. I want to be remembered as someone who loved God, served Him until the end of my life, and dedicated my material possessions to the kingdom of God. Sometimes, we may think about what we could have had if we hadn’t consistently tithed throughout our lives, but I wouldn’t change my decision to invest in heavenly treasures for anything in this world.

May the love of our Lord Jesus fill your heart.

Pastor Guillermo Ayala

Ezra 2

Nehemiah 3

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