Get the Treasure Home Safely
Get the Treasure Safely Home (Ezra 8:21-35)
Stories of capture and escape always excite interest. This interest increases when the captives escape with great treasures. The Jewish escape from Babylon is one of the most dramatic in history. Taken captive in 597 B.C., the Jews were released in groups from 538 to 458 B.C. The last group was led by Ezra, the great priest and scribe. His group escaped with an enormous treasure. They carried that treasure across 900 miles of desert for four months. Their goal was to get the treasure to God's house in Jerusalem. Upon arriving, they gave one of the greatest offerings in history.
Harvest Day marks the great yearly offering at Travis. There are instructive biblical parallels between Ezra's great offering in Jerusalem at the temple and our offering in Fort Worth at Travis Avenue. Both offerings demand preparation. In both instances God's people must protect the treasure that belongs to Him. On both occasions there is a solemn presentation in God's house. Next Sunday at Travis Avenue it is essential that we get God's treasure safely home. The work of God here depends on that.
Make Preparation to Get God's Treasure Safely Home
Our preparation begins with a recognition of God's protection. Nothing prepares us to give like a careful reflection of God's goodness. Ezra was about to make a tremendous trip across a difficult desert. He acknowledged his absolute dependence on God's protection. "The gracious hand of our God is upon everyone who looks to him" (v. 22). He recognized and renounced ultimate dependence on anyone other than God. This preparation led the people to an act of deliberate self-denial, a time of fasting. This preparation led the people to a time of intense prayer for God's guidance. The preparation to get God's treasure home rested on their past experience and future certainty of God's protection.
As you prepare for Harvest Day 1990, can you not also confess the protection of God across the year since the last Harvest Day? Could you not say with Ezra, "The hand of our God was on us, and he protected us from enemies and bandits along the way"? (v. 31). The only ultimate protection that any of us has is the protection that God gives. As you prepare to give on Harvest Day, let it be with a careful reflection on God's protection across the last year. Next Sunday we will come to God's treasury certain of His protection across the year.
Provide Protection to Get God's Treasure Safely Home
At the heart of this story is the careful provision made to protect God's treasure until it was safely home. This year God has provided for most of us some treasure. He expects us to protect that part of the treasure that is His until it is safely home on His altar. Ezra's people protected the treasure God gave them until it rested on God's altar. May we do the same with the treasure God has given us.
God does make provision to give His people a treasure. God enriched His captive Jewish people incredibly. Even the pagan Persians gave an offering to them (7:15-17). Added to the gifts of the Jews themselves, this made an enormous treasure. Today, who could say that God has not enriched His Baptist people? Most of us live at a far higher standard of living than our parents or grandparents did at the same age.
God makes an evaluation of the treasure He gives us. Crucial to this story is the careful weighing out of the treasure God gave His people. The treasure was weighed at the beginning of their journey, and it was weighed at the end of their journey (vv. 25, 33). God expects us to show up at the end of the journey with the treasure He gave us at the beginning. Next Sunday we will bring our treasure to the altar. There will not be a visible pair of scales, but there will certainly be an invisible pair of scales. Jesus Himself made it clear that God will measure what we have done with our treasure (Matt. 25:19).
We have a responsibility for the protection of the treasure until it rests in God's house. "Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem" (v. 29). What an enormous responsibility to protect a treasure across 900 miles of desert for four months. Yet God expects us to protect the treasure that belongs to Him across the miles and the months until it rests on His altar. Most of us carefully protect that part of our. treasure which is due for our mortgage, car payment, and utility payment. Do we have the same sense of protection for that part of our treasure which belongs to God?
Plan the Presentation of God's Treasure When Safely Home
We should plan to present God's treasure in His house as an act of worship. "In the house of our God we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles" (v. 33). After months of preparation and protection, they finally came to the moment to present God's treasure at the altar of His temple in Jerusalem. This should be a time of careful presentation. Nothing haphazard characterizes the scene. The treasure is weighed in, receipted, and acknowledged. This is a time of individual responsibility. The very names of those in the process are preserved for all time. The presentation of the treasure is a public act or worship in the house of God.
Next Sunday will be a high day of worship at Travis. By families and individuals we will bring God's treasure home. May there be nothing careless or indifferent about it. Just as they protected their treasure across the miles and the months, so should we. Next Sunday God will weigh in what He has weighed out to us. May all of us get the treasure safely home.