Return to Zion
The Return to Zion from exile in Babylon began in 539 BC under a decree by Cyrus, King of Persia. The exile, the duration thereof and the release of the Jews had been prophesied by Jeremiah, Isaiah and Daniel. Isaiah even named King Cyrus as the liberator some 150 years before the event took place.
Many Jews elected not to return. Some, including Daniel, were too old to make the difficult journey. Some were too young and many were satisfied with their lives in Babylon. There was also the matter of an order to rebuild the Temple which had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Cyrus even sent back with them gold, silver and the temple treasures which had been removed to Babylon. The returnees would face stiff opposition, particularly from Samaritans, who weren't keen on the idea of the Levites taking over. After many problems and work stoppages, the Temple was finally completed more than 20 years later. Much credit is due to the direction and encouragement of prophets Zechariah and Haggai.
For the Jews, the Temple was God's dwelling place on earth. They did not have statues and idols like competing religions. The Temple was sacred, holy and housed treasures including the Ark of the Covenant until it disappeared. It was a place of sacrifice, prayer, pilgrimage and atonement. It was on Holy Ground, the site where Abraham bound Isaac. King David wanted to honor the Lord with a permanent monument to take the place of a roving tabernacle. But God told him that as he'd spent his life in violence, the privilege of erecting the temple would pass to his son, Solomon.
The Second Temple was not as grand as Solomon's Temple, but it would last until 70 AD when it was completely destroyed by the Romans. It was expanded by Herod, and is sometimes referred to as Herod's Temple. But to most it remains the Second Temple. Amazingly, it was destroyed on the same day as Solomon's Temple, 656 years apart. There is no Third Temple, only a temple mount at the Holy site.
From Solomon's prayer. "Yet have regard to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplication, O LORD my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Your servant prays before You today; that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place." - I Kings 8:28-29.
From Pastor Sandra
It’s August and it's hot, muggy, uncomfortable. Think of the people in the 1st century without amenities as we know today. If a person consistently and deliberately missed opportunities to join with others as church, the assumption was that person had chosen to abandon following Jesus and was no longer a part of the local church. Early Christians saw meeting together to worship as a privilege, a priority and a duty to God.
When we come together in faith, meet together as church, we glorify God together, we demonstrate our unity in Christ, we share, care and support each other. We motivate and encourage each other to be the people that God has saved us and called us to be – together.
Together we are to worship God and enter into His presence. Our motivation to come to church is not just to listen to a message. It is not just to sing and enjoy the music. Or to have fellowship with others or to make our offering. Our motivation to meet together must be for us, by faith, to draw near to Jesus together.
It’s easy to say, "I can worship Christ alone." Yes, we can worship Christ alone; but corporate worship is taught in the Bible. And together in faith, as the body of Christ, we are commanded to draw near to him.
We are to meet with God every day, we are to be in a real relationship with Him. We are to take every opportunity, individually and together to meet to draw near to God together without "wavering."
Every time we meet together and come to church, we are professing our faith in Jesus. It is a way of showing that we are moving forward in our faith. It is a way of showing, “Yes, I believe and trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
When we willingly meet together in faith, we show love to each other and to the community of which we are a part. We serve together in faith.
In the Bible, the church is described as a body, a bride, and a building.
As a body, Christ is the head; and we are all parts of the body. The head and other parts of the body are not identical, but they are inseparable. A body cannot function without a head.
Jesus Christ is head of His church and the church is also described as His bride. Thus, we are joined to Christ.
The church is a building. A building rests on a foundation. Our foundation is Christ. A building without foundation will eventually collapse. Our foundation together in faith is Christ.
We are the people of God, we are the church. We need to be faithful to God and to each other.
Church attendance is a part of our testimony that we love Christ. But church attendance should never be the only part of our Christian witness the world sees; but it is a tangible expression of our testimony that we love God. When we are faithful in attendance together, we are proclaiming together that worshipping God is an important part of our lives. We are showing that Jesus Christ is the way to God.
Some may ask: Why do we assemble to worship? Jesus Himself said – "where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them." Jesus is here with us today. There is spiritual power in numbers.
Most people want the presence of God in our church and in our lives. Unity attracts the presence of God. God’s nature is unity in trinity. In Psalm 133 read the psalmist’s words about unity: How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
We are the body of Christ. There is no "I" in body, or church, or heaven. There is only Christ, and the I in Christ is in the middle of a group of letters – we are that group of letters.
Jesus can only be perfected in us and HIS mission fulfilled on this earth as we are worshipping and living our lives together.