We all work. Some work hard. Some work hard at doing nothing, but we all work. When our work is completed we celebrate. Many times the celebration is about us. As we turn our calendars on another Thanksgiving when our turkey traditions are unfurled in full, oven-roasted glory we need to think about how we can best take time to be thankful.
The story of Ezra can help us. The events in Ezra 3 bring thankfulness in bold relief. God’s people were starting to trickle back to Jerusalem after being exiled and held captive. Even though the city was in shambles and the temple nowhere to be found the leaders made the plans to build and start fresh. After only seven months they worked as one to build the altar and offer sacrifice. Instead of fighting each other, they united to work. After one year they completed the foundation of the temple and planned a celebration of God’s faithful love.
Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
In just a simple telling of how God’s people returned we learn three things:
1) There was unity in working together.
2) There was a clear goal.
3) There was great worship by everyone.
How did this come about? They started to work in unity according to what God had already told them. Twice in Ezra 3 it says, “as it is written”. Then the funding came in as a freewill offering. In other words, they put their money where they mouth was. Voila, expenses paid. Workers hired. Materials supplied. All for one goal: a new temple. But when we read about the progress there is this building surprise. The work is halted. The temple isn’t completed. It’s just the foundation. We would probably not stop but they did. Why? The Lord was worthy of worship. All along the way. This pause to worship was powerful. Look at this response.
But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
There’s a whole sermon right there. Joy, weeping, and volume come together with a crescendo of thankfulness.
This Thanksgiving, take time to reflect on your unity of purpose for God’s great mission and give Him the glory in thanksgiving for what He has accomplished.