Ezra 3:4


In connection with the worship of the first year after the return of the children of Israel from Babylon, we notice -

I. THAT IT WAS SUCH AS COULD BE CONDUCTED IN THE OPEN AIR.

1. They had their altar rebuilt.

(1) This was the first thing done, because it was essential. Sacrifice is interwoven with all the ceremonies of worship according to the law. The principle of sacrifice is no less essential under the gospel. Ponder the thought that there can be no true worship without sacrifice.

(2) They lost no time in this. They came forth from Babylon in the spring. The journey probably occupied four months (comp. Ezra 7:9). They had therefore barely time to get housed before the seventh month came, upon the first day of which they were "as one man" at Jerusalem. Learn that things essential to worship should have prompt and early attention. Forsaking Babylon - seeking Zion.

2. But the foundation of the temple was not yet laid. This recalls the worship of the patriarchs.

(1) That of the first family eastward of Eden (Genesis 3:24, and Genesis 4:3, etc.).

(2) That of Noah emerging from the ark (Genesis 8:20).

(3) That of the Hebrew patriarchs in Canaan (Genesis 12:6-8; Genesis 13:18; Genesis 15:9-11; Genesis 22:13; Genesis 26:25; Genesis 33:18-20). Learn, worship may be genuine without being elaborate (see John 4:23, 24).

3. There appears to have been no celebration of the ceremonies of the great day of atonement.

(1) The daily sacrifice commenced on the first day of Tisri (ver. 6). The great day of atonement was due on the tenth of the same month, of which there is no mention. The narrative carries us at once to the feast of tabernacles, which followed on the fifteenth day.

(2) The reason of the omission is found in the want of the temple. The sprinkling of the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry would be impossible (see Leviticus 16.). There was no most holy place for the high priest to enter (see Hebrews 9:7, 25). There was no altar of incense (see Exodus 30:10). Lesson: If we cannot worship God as we would, we should worship him as we can.

II. THAT IT COMPREHENDED ALL THE FESTIVALS OF THEIR RELIGION.

2. Foremost amongst these was the feast of tabernacles. This was one of the great annual festivals (Exodus 23:1-6).

(1) The passover. This was held on the first day of Abib - instituted to commemorate the events connected with the exodus from Egypt (Exodus 13:3, 4; Deuteronomy 16:1-8).

(2) The feast of first-fruits. This commenced with the putting in of the sickle for the harvest. Also called the feast of weeks, for it lasted seven weeks, while the fruits of the earth were being gathered. Lesson: We should recognise God in all our blessings. In all this rejoicing the Israelites still kept up the memory of their emancipation from Egypt (see Deuteronomy 16:7-12).

(3) The last was the feast of tabernacles. In the present case this came first. This arose from the accident of its occurring first after the return from Babylon. Yet in this accident there was a providence, for the feast of tabernacles has a peculiar relation to gospel times (see Zechariah 14:18). This feast also called the feast of ingathering, for it was a rejoicing over the garnering of the harvest and vintage (Deuteronomy 16:13-16). Not so called here, for there would be no extensive ingathering in this first year. There was a remembrance of the deliverance from Egypt in this festival also; it called to mind the dwelling in tents in the wilderness. In this celebration the people could not but associate with this their own recent deliverance from Babylon. Lesson: In all our festivities let the grateful remembrance be present with us of our spiritual emancipation from the Egypt and Babylon of sin and error.

(4) Particularly note that they "offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the custom as the duty of every day required." On each of the days during which this feast lasted there was a difference in the custom (see Numbers 29.). "As the duty," etc. Hebrews, "the matter of the day in the day." Learn:

(a) Every day brings its own religious duties.

(b) We must do the work of the day in the day.

2. They offered also the continual burnt offerings.

(1) The daily offerings. These were never interrupted. They continued morning and evening throughout the year.

(2) Those of the Sabbaths (see Numbers 28:9, 10). The word Sabbath is applied not only to the seventh day of the week, but indifferently to all the Jewish festivals (Leviticus 19:3, 30).

(3) Those of the new moons (see Numbers 27:11-15).

(4) Additional to all these were the free-will offerings of the people. Lesson: The services of religion are not to be taken up fitfully, but must be steadily observed. They are not irksome, but delightful to those whose hearts are brought into sympathy with them by the grace of God. This grace should be diligently sought. - J.A.M.







As the duty of every day required.
Time in the hands of many — I use the words of Solomon — is "a price in the hand of fools." They know not its value. It is in the margin, "the matter of the day in his day." This has grown into a proverbial saying among those who love Scripture phraseology; and teaches us that we should do the work of the day in the day.

I. We may apply this TO LIFE IN GENERAL. "To-day if ye will hear His voice harden not your heart." "Behold now is the day of salvation." "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day; the night cometh wherein no man can work."

II. It will apply TO PROSPERITY. This is called a day, and Solomon tells us the duty of it, "In the day of prosperity be joyful." He cannot, we may be assured, intend to countenance extravagance or excess. Those men are to be pitied who possess much and enjoy little; who have the blessings of life in abundance but no heart to use them. These generally promise themselves great enjoyment hereafter when they have obtained so much. We should never sacrifice present happiness to future imaginations. God, like a generous friend, is pleased to see His presents enjoyed — "to enjoy is to obey." Another thing that the duty of this day requires is gratitude. The more you have received from God, the greater is your obligation to Him. And surely the duty of this day requires liberality. He had others in view as well as yourselves in all that He has done for you.

III. It will apply TO ADVERSITY. This also is called a day, and it is said, "In the day of adversity consider." You are to consider the alleviations of your suffering; how much worse it might have been; and to compare your resources with your difficulties. Another part of the duty of this day is submission. The duty of this day also requires prayer. "Call upon Me in the day of trouble."

IV. We may apply it TO THE SABBATH. This is called "the Lord's day," because it is consecrated to the memory of His resurrection, and is employed in His service. But as to advantage it is our day. It "was made for man." Such a season has peculiar claims upon us, and we are commanded "to sanctify it, calling the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord honourable; not doing our own ways, nor finding our own pleasure, nor speaking our own words." Can this be doing all the duty of the day? When once a regard for the Sabbath is gone everything serious goes with it. Have we to learn this?

V. It will apply TO EVERY DAY. No day comes without its appropriate duty. We are to be diligent in our respective callings. And not only so — but we are to do everything in its season; to do the work of the day in the day, and not leave it till to-morrow.

1. Because we may not live till to-morrow. "We know not what a day may bring forth."

2. Each day will have its own engagements; and it is wrong to surcharge one period with the additional work of another.

3. Because by this temporary negligence we have nothing to do, or too much; whereas by doing the work of the day in the day we are never unoccupied, never oppressed; we keep our affairs under easy management, and never suffer them to accumulate into a discouraging mass.

4. Because by this means the mind is kept cool, and tranquil, and cheerful; and we shall know nothing of the perplexities and ill-temper of those who are always in confusion and haste. To verify this important maxim let me lay down three rules. Rise early. Grasp not so much business as to "entangle yourselves in the affairs of this life." If you look abroad into the world you may be satisfied, at the first glance, that a vicious and infidel life is always a life of confusion. Thence it is natural to infer that order is friendly to religion.

(W. Jay.)

That every day is enough for its own evil was a word of Jesus Christ. And there is another word that may be grafted on this. It is, that every day is enough for its own duty. It is suited to withdraw the thoughts from a vague futurity and collect them upon a space that can easily be surveyed, judged of, commanded. A day is one of the small circles of time. We can lay out its work though we cannot predict its fortunes. We can remember how it has been spent, whatever may have come to pass in it. It is capable of holding as much duty as our minds can well compass. He who fills each of them well as they pass and are recorded, is wanting in nothing. We hear it often said that life is but a day. It is said to express the shortness of our stay upon the earth. It is said, for the most part, sorrowfully. Let us reverse it and say, with more striking truth, that each day is a life. Every day is a life fresh with reinstated power, setting out on its allotted labour and limited path. Its morning resembles a whole youth. Its eventide its sobering into age. It is rounded at either end by a sleep, unconsciousness at the outset and oblivion at the close. We are born again every time that the sun rises, and lights up the world for man to do his part in it. A day is a complete whole then; a finished piece. It had its tasks and toils, and they have been more or less faithfully gone through with. Or if they have been neglected quite it is too late to fulfil them now, for the opportunity has passed away. You may say, however, that it is by no means so entire, so much a thing by itself, as has now been represented. A day falls in among the accounts of time not as one of its separated fragments, but as strongly connected with portions of it that went before and are to follow. It is bound to the past which it continues. It is full of unfinished performances and projects that have nothing to do with the going down of the sun or the hour for the night's rest. All this is true of it. But is it not true also of life itself? A day is a life. It has all the elements in it of an entire being. It may be fair or foul. It may find us sick or well. But the soul is there that must create its own atmosphere, and that is often the healthiest when the pulses beat languidly and the flesh is in pain. The faculties are there that are to be exercised, and the affections that are to be kept in play. There an inward action is going on with all its responsibility. Again, a day is a life. We do not consider how much is contained within its rapid round. In describing its importance moralists and divines are apt to dwell principally on the uncertainty whether it may not be our last. And yet it would grow into great consequence in our eyes if we supposed that it was absolutely the whole. Reflect for an instant upon these two assertions. The narrow space that intervenes between your rising and your lying down does in the first place present the total sum, the full result of all your preceding experience. It is just what time and you have made it. Whatever you have observed, felt, done, there goes to the making up of what you are. The habits that you have been contracting, there reveal their strength. The dispositions that you cherish, there spread their thicknesses of deepening colour. A long action of forgotten days has been busy in forming to what it is the single day that has been rolling over you. You are prepared, then, to make a right estimate of the moral length of a day when you see it reaching back to infancy, and gathering upon itself the influences of a thousand facts of your history and emotions of your hearts, and reflecting a universe of truth and glory. And then consider further that it not only deserves so much from what is gone, but it extends itself forward also. It contains the germ of what is to be unfolded into far distant consequences. While it shows what the man has gradually become, it indicates with a warning finger what it is likely that he will be. Whatever one day is permitted to do with him, will probably continue to be done; if for good, going up to better: if for bad, going down to worse. The principles it exemplifies, the temper it displays, the bent of mind that traverses it, are not confined to its compass, and do not pass off with its date. Read that little leaf which is turned over so soon, and you may perceive that it is the book of your fate. We are thus brought to the practical application of the sentiment to which your attention has been directed. If a day is a life, let its work be done as its hours are passing. Let it have something of completeness in it. Men err in "despising those little ones." They love to send their thoughts over years and ages. They defer their good intentions to further periods. But these little ones are the chief of all if we will look at them as they are, and if we will make them what they should be. Think of what you have gained or lost in the account that all must render in at the last day. Remember how you have comported yourself towards those who love you and towards those who love you not. Remember what the currents of your inclination have been. Reflect whether the will has gone right, and the heart has been a true one, whatever else may have proved adverse or unjust.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

As the circuits of the earth round the sun gives the year and the seasons, and the revolutions of the moon round the earth our months, so the revolving of our earth on its axis marks out as the condition of human life that it should be divided into days and nights, and these are constituted alternate seasons of labour and repose. So life as a time for work resolves itself into a thing of days (Psalm 104:23).

I. LIFE BEING MADE UP OF DAYS, THE CHARACTER AND COMPLEXION OF LIFE WILL DEPEND ON THE IMPROVE MENT OF DAYS AS THEY SUCCESSIVELY PASS BY. It is more easy to feel the importance of life as a whole, than to be duly impressed with the value of its smaller divisions. If the mind be set on improving life, its distribution into days offers to us many advantages for attaining this end.

1. A day is more easily brought within the grasp of the mind and planned for.

2. There is less difficulty in reviewing it and judging of its character.

3. Every day a new beginning is made and opportunity afforded for correcting to-day by the experience of yesterday.

4. Who can calculate the advantage of the freshness derived from sleep and the new vigour thus imported into life?

(1)Physically.

(2)Mentally.

(3)Morally. The will is endued with new vigour as a manrises to a new day of life and activity.

II. THE DUTY WHICH EVERY DAY REQUIRES. Every day has its appropriate duty.

1. Some duties daily should terminate directly upon God. Such are prayer and praise. Who can tell what our needs may be, what accidents may happen, what decisions we may be called to take and what moral risks may be encountered? Daily petitions should therefore be offered. And how meet it is to mingle with daily petitioning thanksgiving for daily mercies. "Blessed be the Lord who daily leadeth us with benefits."

2. There is all the life-work.

(1)The culture of the mind.

(2)The business of each one's station.

(3)Some direct service for the kingdom of Christ. This serves to hallow the day and to connect time the more distinctly with eternity.

3. Then there is the bearing of the burdens of the day.

III. THE WORK OF EACH DAY IS TO BE DONE, WITH ONLY A MODERATE THOUGHTFULNESS, YET WITHOUT PRESUMPTION AS TO THE MORROW AND DAYS TO COME. Christ discountenanced anxious forecasting as to the possibilities of the future. God is to be trusted to lay upon us burdens as He sees that we have strength, or as He will give strength to sustain them. Still less should there be presumption as to the future. Act as "in the living present," "as the matter of every day requires." "To-morrow," exclaimed a powerful French preacher once, "is the devil's word; God's word is to-day." "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts."

(E. T. Prust.)

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