Prayer for the day
O God of hosts, show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.
Scripture for the day
The Israelites were overjoyed to be going back to their home, the place the Lord had given them. They were going not in secrecy but in the full light of day, having received the king’s blessing that they would be prosperous. God had done much to change the heart of the king, to make it favourable to God’s people.
Though they had been instructed to return and to build the temple, Ezra was wise enough to call a halt before they did so. The purpose of this halt was not to ensure that everyone was present or to recoup before entering the land. Rather, this halt was to again set the people apart for the service of God, ensure their humility and their readiness to encounter the presence of God and to work on his dwelling.
It may seem a small or silly thing to fast and pray before entering the land, but this return is more than a trip home for the Israelites. This is the fulfillment of the promise of God to them that they would one day again inhabit the land God had promised to them. This was more than a homecoming…it was a prodigal return to a promise. And they needed to be prepared.
Jesus also had his share of preparing to do before he would ascend to the Father. His discussion with Peter about feeding and caring for sheep has little to do with agriculture and much more to do with the time that was to come, a time when Jesus would no longer be present bodily, and Peter would have to do the hard work of representing Christ to the Jewish community. Jesus wanted to ensure that Peter was ready to live and die in service to Christ, that Peter was ready to lead the church that Christ was establishing, and that Peter was prepared to put his (3x) denial behind him by a triple affirmation. He did indeed love Jesus.