Lately I have been reading Ezra in the Old Testament during my quiet time. I have been slowly making my way through the OT, starting at Joshua (I skipped 1 & 2 Chronicles since they are very similar to 1 & 2 Samuel). God has been really speaking to me about how I approach Him- getting myself ready to hear from God.
In Ezra 3, the first thing the men started to rebuild in the temple was the altar for burnt offerings. This altar was located outside the temple- it would have been the first duty the priests performed before they entered the temple. This is also the place where the Israelites would have bought their sin offerings to present to God to atone for their sins. I think it is so cool that Ezra and his group of rebuilders knew that they needed to start with the burnt offering altar first before attempting to make anything else right in God's eyes.
In Ezra 6, the Israelites were ready to consecrate and dedicate the temple. This included a celebration of the Passover Feast. Most of these people had been in exile in Babylon for 70 years so many might have been celebrating Passover for the first time- definitely for the first time in Jerusalem. In Ezra 6:21 it says "So the Israelites who had returned from the exile ate it, together with all who had separated themselves from the unclean practices of the Gentile neighbors in order to seek the Lord, the God of Israel". So they "separated themselves from the unclean practices of the Gentile neighbors in order to seek God"- they didn't separate themselves from the Gentile neighbors, just their unclean practices. Having unclean practices is another way to clog up the communication line between you and God. One question I am asking myself is "What unclean practices do I need to separate myself from?" I made a list and glory to God, some of my practices I am seeing victory over while some are still a struggle. Thanks be to God that He will not leave you where you are- that He is interested in moving you forward in your walk with Him as long as you are willing.
What are you studying right now? Has God been speaking a certain message to your heart?
Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all things will be given to you as well."