For many years, God’s people had been living in a strange land.
Because they disobeyed God’s rules, God let the Babylonians capture them. Even in Babylon, God’s eyes watched His special people, and after a while, He let His people come back home. Everyone was happy to return, but something sad had happened while they were away—they forgot how to worship God. God didn’t want them stuck in forgetfulness, so He sent Ezra to help them remember.
Ezra blew the dust off the heavy book of God’s laws and shouted to the crowd of people, “Let’s remember how God has told us to live!” Ears leaned in as Ezra started reading. As the people listened, hearts sank at hearing how much they had disobeyed God. Smiles turned to frowns and tears began to drop. Ezra gently spoke, “God knows you haven’t been obeying. Giving you these rules again shows how much He loves you! Be happy!” The people dried their eyes and wiped their noses. God still loved them?!
A happy laugh sounded, followed quickly by more, and then clapping and hurrays! Yummy food was shared as they celebrated God’s great love. Their parties lasted many days until Ezra gathered them to say a few more things.
He said, “Out of all the earth, God picked Abraham and promised him a special forever home. Many years later, God invaded Egypt and rescued us from Pharaoh. Even after all this, we chose to disobey Him. Still, He loved us! For forty years, He cared for us in the wilderness and brought us to this amazing home, but again we ignored Him and were taken as prisoners to Babylon. Even there, God didn’t give up on us! He won’t stop loving us!” Hearts nearly burst with happiness as Ezra told story after story of how God chased after His rule-breaking people with His powerful love. Remembering all these things, the people wanted to promise God that they would follow His rules. In their hearts, they knew they would probably fail again. Yet they weren’t placing their big hopes in themselves but in their God and His forever love.
Do you ever fail to obey God? Do you look at His rules and think, Geez, I broke another one! What if we fail a hundred times? Or ten-thousand times? Will He still love us? Yes! During the time of Ezra, God’s people looked at His rules and remembered that He loved them, but now something better than God’s law has come. We look at Jesus, God’s Word to us, for with His life He told us how to worship God. Jesus is the perfect worshiper who died for our failures and rose so that He could make our worship perfect, too. When we break God’s rules and our hearts become sad, we can look at Jesus, trust in Him, and remember that God hasn’t given up on us. He loves us with an unstoppable love. That’s a reason to celebrate!
Our hearts often quickly forget all the ways that God wants us to worship Him. What are some ways that God helps us remember?
Is it good for us to feel sad or guilty about our sin?
This Advent devotional resource was produced by The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. The original resource can be found here.