Ezra 3:3 “So they set up the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the land.”
Because of their sin, the people of Israel had been taken into captivity. Just as
God had said, they remained in captivity for seventy years, and just as God had said, Cyrus released the exiles to return home if they desired. On their return to Israel, the people committed themselves to repairing and restoring the temple. They began by building an altar and reinstituting sacrifices.
After all God had done for them, you would think that love would motivate their sacrifices. You might even think that fear of this God who had once again demonstrated His ability to deliver would be a motivator for obedience. Not so. These returning captives built the altar
“because they were terrified of the people around them.” They were not obeying because of their great love for their Lord. They were not obeying because they feared the God who had delivered them. They were obeying because they were afraid of the people around them. They simply wanted what God could do for them and the insurance of His protection from the people around them. There was nothing of love or relationship in their service.
There are many reasons for service to God. Sometimes we attend church services, give our time and our money, and serve in a variety of ways because it is how we were reared and we've always done it. Sometimes our motivation for service is the community standing it affords. Serving God can easily become more about habit than about love or relationship, and periodically we should do a motivation check. Why do we do the things we do for the Kingdom of God? Does love motivate our service?
The Apostle Paul wrote sobering words about our service, saying that our works will be tried by fire. Only those that remain will merit a reward.
Read his words here:
Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NASB)
Dear ones, let us so order our heart and our motivations that the service we render is done with a pure heart of love and surrender to our Lord. May we render works that stand the test of fire and yield a harvest of fruit that lasts.