I have been mulling over Ezra, making time and creating space for the Lord to share His thoughts with me. The third chapter has leapt off the page time and time again. Some of the Jewish exiles from Babylon responded to God’s call and returned to Jerusalem to restore the temple. We read in Ezra 3:3 that “despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices”.

By Ezra 3:6 we know that the altar had been erected even before the foundation of the temple was laid (due to the fear that was upon them): On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord’s temple had not yet been laid.” The conditions caused the Jews to first focus on what’s most important: worship, not the building. Perhaps there’s something we can learn here?

We read on and arrive at verse 12: some wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid [as they remembered the first temple], while many others [seeing the house of the Lord for the first time] shouted for joy” (v. 12b). I wonder, how comparable is this within the UK church today, as we see the reshaping and rebuilding of Christian ministry amid a global pandemic that started to disrupt life as we knew it almost a year ago now?

Are we, like the older priests and Levites and family heads, gripped by sorrow, remembering what was but potentially missing what is and what could be? Or are we overwhelmed with gratitude for present mercies, recognising that something new has been birthed and the glorious name of the Lord will be blessed? Might it be that God is bringing a new thing to our attention (Isaiah 43:19)? Is He urging us to refrain from saying, Why were the old days better than these?” (Ecclesiastes 7:10), lest we miss what He is doing today?


Sadly, when we read on in Ezra we find that the work of the temple quickly fell into inactivity and did not recommence for 17 years: Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia” (4:24). For almost two decades the purpose was paused; it seems the weeping noise and the opposition were successful.

A new thing

I believe that our God would like us to rise above the discouragement and opposition in this season and focus on what He is doing, rather than the circumstances. This will require us to have a new vision, to see the bigger picture, and be united in what we do. We do this remembering that God is good and His mercy endures forever (Ezra 3:11; Psalm 136:1). Like the Jews in Ezra, we have much to praise the Lord for.

"This year, we want to be open to the new things that God is doing."

I praise God for His protection and provision over the last difficult year. I praise Him because we’ve seen and heard innumerable accounts of His church going into communities and homes (physically and digitally) and putting aside differences in order to serve in unity with others, so that His love is within reach, available to all. I praise God because until now His love, carried by us, continues to heal, renew, bless, transform, comfort and help.

We at The Life, a Christian ministry I founded, have seized new opportunities to serve and connect with our community during the pandemic. For Christmas last year, for instance, we asked karaōke singers from my local area, Southall, west London, to sing Christmas carols as part of our carol service. Not a single singer was a Christian; in fact, most were Hindu. Many people in the predominantly South Asian community got involved; and we were encouraged that almost 2,000 people engaged with the service via Facebook, more than the usual 500 who would attend a church-based carol service.

We have many stories like this one – stories of us reaching out into our community. From connecting with City Vision so that we could give children Christmas gifts complete with a cross and Bible verse, to involving children from Muslim, Sikh and Hindu families in drawing competitions to engage, stimulate and entertain them amid school closures. From providing meals for local families, to supplying university students struggling financially in lockdown with meals so that they’re not living on the bare minimum. And so much more, all in the name of Jesus.

This year, we want to be open to the new things that God is doing. We want to follow His lead and His vision. We want to make a joyful noise. As Ezra 3:11 says: With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: He is good; His love toward Israel endures forever’.”

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The Evangelical Alliance’s South Asian Forum equips individual Christians and church communities so that they can confidently engage with South Asians of different faiths and cultures. Find out more and subscribe to SAF’s mailing list.