Formations 11.13.2022: Back in Business

Ezra 5:1-2; 6:14-22

An aerial look at Fort Myers Beach one month after Hurricane Ian stormed through the area, destroying buildings and devastating neighborhoods. Thomas Bender, Wochlit

A month after Hurricane Ian ravaged southwestern Florida, communities are getting back in business. Tamara Pigott of the Fort Myers News-Press reports that “an amazing rebound” is taking place in her city, especially in terms of its crucial tourism industry. Hotels and attractions are reopening as well as local parks and the city’s free concert series. By Thanksgiving week, both men’s and women’s college basketball will return to Florida SouthWestern State College.

Pigott describes the rebound as testimonies to the city’s hope and resiliency. “A spirit of generosity, help, and support has given us much encouragement as we work through these tough days,” she writes. “I keep saying, don’t count us out. We will be back.”

Despite unimaginable damage, Fort Myers has demonstrated the strength and determination to move forward. Each day brings further signs of hope.

In Ezra 6, the temple is finally rebuilt thanks to the efforts of two prophets, a high priest, the Persian-appointed governor, and the donations and physical labor of countless unnamed Jerusalemites.

Southwestern Florida continues to rebuild after a month and a half, and these efforts will continue for some time. For the Jewish people returning from Babylonian exile, the work of renewal took much longer: some fifty years of waiting in a foreign land (587–539 BC), followed by another twenty-four years until early 515 BC, when the temple is rebuilt, and the Passover is once again observed.

When the building project is completed, the people celebrate the temple’s dedication. They offer sin offerings, install priests and Levites to perform their duties, and finally observe the Passover “with joy” (v. 22). When they first arrived from Babylonia, the people offered their sacrifices amid the ruins of a destroyed temple. Now they joyfully worship in a completed building.

To be sure, there were obstacles along the way. The enthusiasm they had at first waned for several years until the prophets Zechariah and especially Haggai called them to take up once again the task of renewal (Ezra 5:1-2; Hag 1). Now, however, they had found hope, resiliency, generosity, and determination.

Renewal is a welcome word for the Jews of sixth-century Jerusalem, the storm-ravaged Floridians of Fort Myers, and likely for us. When life has been upended and all the old sources of comfort and stability are gone, what shall we do? That might apply to our city or our nation, but it can just as easily apply to our career, our family, or our spiritual lives. Whatever the case, today’s story of renewal can give us hope that, though the path is hard and there is still work to do, better days lie ahead.

What does renewal look like to you?

Tamara Pigott, “Southwest Florida Is Getting Back in Business a Month after Hurricane Ian,” Fort Myers News-Press, 27 Oct 2022 <https://www.news-press.com/story/entertainment/2022/10/27/after-hurricane-ian-swfl-getting-back-business/10615908002/>.

Discussion

• What tokens of renewal do you find in this passage?
• In what sense might it have been appropriate that the dedication of the second temple coincides with the feast of Passover?
• How do the Passover themes of liberation, nationhood, and divine providence speak to the people’s experience at this time?
• What part of your life most needs renewal?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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