During the captivity of Israel in Babylon, things became pretty good for many of the Jews. As a matter of fact, after the 70 years were up, not everyone wanted to return to the land of Israel. Homes had been built, businesses were prospering, and families were comfortable. Returning to their ancestral home meant a long, dangerous journey, after which they would face the tough task of rebuilding Jerusalem. To this very day, there are descendants of Israel who have remained in ancient Babylon.
It could be asked, “Why would anyone leave comfort for a dangerous, uncertain future?” As I reread the Book of Ezra, I didn’t have to look far to find the answer. In Ezra 1:5 we find the reason: “Everyone whose heart God had moved….prepared to go up and build the house of The Lord in Jerusalem.” The return of the Jews from captivity in Babylon to the land of their fathers was first and foremost the work of God.
It was The Lord who seventy years earlier had allowed the Temple of Solomon to be destroyed as a result of the continued sin of the people. When He determined that it was time to rebuild, He placed that task upon the hearts of those who were sensitive to His Spirit. It wasn’t going to be easy, but with His help, the House of God would be rebuilt.
You do know, of course, that the Spirit of God is still at work, calling His people to build His House. One of the clearest teachings of scripture is that God’s House is to be a House of Prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7, Mark 11:17). We are already experiencing this as God breathes upon the generations in such moves of God as the 24-7 prayer movement spreading rapidly across the earth. I believe that when the Church truly becomes that House of Prayer, we will see an amazing movement of the Spirit of God that empowers us to finish the task of world evangelization.
As we consider the task before us of building a House of Prayer, and then look back on the situation in Ezra’s day, dare we ask the question of whether or not the Church today is in a sort of Babylonian captivity? Have we become comfortable with church as it is? Does it seem too daunting a task to leave behind that which is comfortable and truly become a praying people?
Here’s the good news: God’s Spirit is still moving hearts to “go up and build the house of The Lord.” He is at work. The question before you today is: will listen to His voice and allow His Spirit to move your heart? Leaving behind the comfort of the ways you’ve always done it, will you move into uncharted waters and begin to build that which is on the Lord’s heart today?
“For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”(Is.56:7).
(C) Harvest Prayer Ministries