In Ezra Chapters 1 and 2, Israel returns home to Jerusalem, chastised by God’s judgment, but sustained by his never-ending love. In Chapter 3, the people flock to Jerusalem, gathering "as one" in perfect unity to rebuild the house of the Lord (3:1).
But they don’t do bricks and mortar first. They worship so powerfully as to be heard far away:
- Worship strictly according to the Law of Moses.
- Keep all feasts and celebrations, to the letter of the Law.
- Come with trumpets and cymbals in praise according to the word of David.
- Sing “He is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
- Shout in victory because the foundation of the Lord had been laid.
- Weep alongside shouting, so a great noise thunders.
If the completely divided Church of Jesus Christ were to suffer the ultimate judgment of God for disobedience and disunity as Israel did, where and how would we “gather as one” after God has seen enough and his never-ending love comes shining through?
What would the end of our “captivity” look like?
How would we celebrate in perfect unity with Jesus as consistently as Israel did by following the Law of Moses? The answer is that we would want to tangibly demonstrate obedience to the commands of Jesus, as now written in the Bible, as the fulfillment of the Law of Moses. Jesus did not abolish the Law; he fulfilled it! For a comprehensive treatment of the commands and promises of Jesus, see Part 3 of Streamside – Finding Peace through Perfect Unity.
What would our celebration look like? The contrast is challenging. Israel is drawn “as one” to Jerusalem like a powerful gravitational force. But Jesus established the church exactly the opposite, driven by his great commission to reach the entire world, exploding outward as it has done for two thousand years. So where is the center of Christianity? It is not in Rome or any other single geographical location (although when Jesus returns, it will be in the “New Jerusalem” descending from heaven). It is in the hearts of individual believers.
It is in the basement of a house church in China as much as it is in the cathedrals of major cities.
What does Jesus see from heaven when he looks down on all his children? What kind of light beams from every believing heart in perfect unity with him?
I am not sure. But here is a metaphor that I dream about.
Remember Y2K? As midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999 ticked closer, one time zone at a time across the world, no one knew whether the world would descend into chaos because all the world’s computers might shut down. At the same time, though, the world wanted to celebrate the new millennium. It was like a contest between faith and fear.
I will never forget watching the fireworks explode on the bridge in Sydney, Australia, twelve hours before our own stroke of midnight. What I saw was a celebration of human unity, as the party spread across Asia, Africa and Europe to South and North America. It was the first time in history that the entire population of the world shared a common problem and solved it.
Christians around the world share a single problem – disunity. Jesus calls us to gather as one, in perfect unity, even if it is by satellite, to proclaim his Word, his commands and promises to all the nations.
Keep dreaming about how this might look as we continue our journey through the Old Testament.