May 24, 2007

Take care of Number One

God gave us good friends in D & M. We talked non-stop last night about our many mutual interests, including our relationship with God. At one point, my husband shared how the Lord was speaking to him about the essence of Matthew 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” He said many Christian tend to think about life backwards, putting the need to have work and make a living first, not God.

M said that was the second time this week someone said that to her. She noted how difficult it is since we are raised all our lives to think a certain way, and live in a world that encourages us to take care of our own needs. Then along comes God and asks us to think the opposite.

This morning I’m hearing a similar thing, only this time from the Old Testament. Ezra records an incident that is also historically documented in other places. A Persian official challenged the Jews who were rebuilding their temple in Jerusalem. He sent a letter to King Darius thinking his complaint would stop their efforts. His plan backfired.

King Darius searched for an original document issued by King Cyrus before him, and found that not only did Cyrus order the rebuilding, but he gave the Jews directions about its size, said that the project was to be financed by funds from the royal treasury, and ordered all the gold and silver articles taken from them to be restored for their temple.

So Darius responded to this official with three instructions. He told them to leave the Jews alone and not interfere with the reconstruction; supply tax money to finance the project and animals for the daily sacrifices to God; and anyone who disobeyed this decree was to be impaled on a beam taken from his own house.

Why would a pagan king do this? Darius may have simply wanted peace in his realm, and thought the God of the Jews was a local deity without knowing the significance of the temple being built in Jerusalem. In any case, the plan to stop it was overthrown. This enemy even had to supply “whatever they need—young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem—let it be given them day by day without fail” (Ezra 6:9).

This event illustrates God’s order: put Him first and build the temple, and He will take care of everything else.

Today, the temple where God dwells is not a building but the lives of each one who believes in Christ; “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God . . . ?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) God says build it, focus on our spiritual lives, and He will take care of the other things that tend to worry us.

As I read Ezra and reflect on our conversation with our friends, I can see the need for faith. Do I trust God to take care of all my needs? Do I believe that by occupying myself with the building of His kingdom, both in the world and within my own life (my temple), that He will supply whatever I need?

I’ve been a Christian for nearly forty years, most of my adult life. I can’t help but reflect on God’s faithfulness. From those early days of poverty to the plenty we have right now, God has supplied every need. He has always supplied my daily bread, both physical and spiritual, and all things necessary to live and to serve Him. He has never let me down.

Today I’m grateful for good friends, a great time of visiting with them, and most of all, for the reminder that I can safely and joyfully put Him first because He takes care of me.

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