As I see it, some today want to restore America as a Christian nation. That means creating a judicial, educational and political system favoring Christianity and restoring privileges once enjoyed by Christian churches. It also means limiting the rights of non-Christians already here and limiting others like them from entering our country. Is that a fair summary?
We’re reading this week from Ezra, Nehemiah and Haggai, writers from the Period of Restoration, when some Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile anxious to restore Judaism. (522-486 B.C.). Good readings for today.
Judea was no longer a Jewish province, but a Persian province then. Jewish kings no longer reigned there and the temple was in ruins. A large number of foreigners and some Jews who never went into exile resided in Judea and Jerusalem. The idealistic returnees didn’t have a free hand.
The Prophet Haggai, who only spoke for a few months, in 520 BC, advised the returning exiles to accept the present government, the Messiah will come at a future time we do not know. Until then, continue to rebuild the temple. God will be present there whatever it looks like, Haggai said.
There’s no perfect time or place; God is present in imperfect times and places like ours. The temple and the church are never finished in time, they’re always being built.
Ezra insisted on faithfully reading the scriptures, for him the Torah. The consistent reading of God’s word Ezra promoted gave the people the cohesion they needed; otherwise they would have fallen for the wisdom of the day.
God gives us wisdom day by day. Search for it.
Nehemiah was the brick and mortar figure of the Restoration, the practical person. Perfect buildings and the perfect places don’t exist, he believed, but do what you can day by day. Keep building.
The building of the Temple at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah was associated with the celebration of the Feast of Booths, when the Jews lived in tents for 40 years during their journey through the desert.