I. What are some things that can be rebuilt only by the power of God? How are humans sometimes arrogant in thinking that such power belongs to them?
Given the power of our technology, it is tempting to assume that nothing is beyond building or repairing—eventually. Think of all the wonder medications we have today! They hold out the tantalizing promise of repairing human emotions and bodies. Some people have their bodies cryogenically frozen at death, hoping for the day when ultramodern science will resurrect them. But human arrogance is nothing new—see Daniel 4:28-33; Acts 12:21-23. Only God can reclaim sinners and save them for eternity.
2.Cyrus said that God had given him a mission to rebuild the temple, but other decrees from Cyrus gave equal credence to other deities. Is this an early form of “political correctness”?Why, or why not?
Unfortunately, political leaders will refer occasionally to God in more of a manipulative or pandering fashion rather than as an expression of genuine, personal faith. The goal of gaining political support from religious people sometimes is more important than the goal of attaining God’s support. In such cases God may be referred to in a bland, generic way in order to include as many religions as possible and to offend as few as possible. This is sometimes called ceremonial theism. For a politician to attune his or her policies to God’s will and fight the prevailing political winds is a big challenge. But God can ensure that even a politician who isn’t particularly interested in Him will carry out God’s will regardless. There may be no obvious way to know when that is happening at the time—it may take hindsight to tell.
3.Material support for this “second exodus” came from the gifts of fellow Jews. Support for the original exodus came from non-Jews (Exodus12:36).
When should a church rely on support from the world to accomplish a ministry, if ever? Some churches feel very strongly that ministries must be supported only from the offerings of the members. We need to acknowledge, though, that outside support is essential for some ministries to happen.
Church building projects require support from zoning boards and neighbors. After-school programs may require at least tacit support from teachers and school officials. Your church’s reputation within the town can influence how effective it is for ministry in areas like these. But expecting the community to sup-port the church by participating in church fundraisers involving pancake breakfasts, the sale of Christmas trees, etc., may be going too far. The apostle John notes that “because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles” (3 John 7).
4.In what ways can a non-Christian ruler become an agent for God?
Ideally, of course, we would love to see every non-Christian ruler come to Christ. Yet God can use even the most unholy ruler to be His unwilling agent. Pharaoh from the book of Exodus maybe the most obvious example.
Even outside the testimony of Scripture, we can see examples of rulers who seem to be acting as agents for God in at least one area of their leadership. (To avoid politicizing these observations, we won’t suggest names here!) This maybe done actively, with a politician promoting pro-Christian policies intentionally—though per-haps from less-than-holy motives. Other times it can be done unintentionally, through policies enacted for reasons that God uses to achieve His purposes.
5.What special items from your church’s past are worth holding on to because of their legacy value? What things are best discarded as point-less relics of a bygone era? How do you decide which is which?
Symbolically, the temple objects connected the Jews to both the lost glory of Solomon’s temple and God’s favor that allowed that temple to be built in the first place (1 Kings 5:5). The articles reminded the Jews that the God of Solomon was the same God leading them back to the promised land. Objects from your church’s past that serve as reminders of the .changing God in the midst of an ever-changing world may well be worth keeping.