Read:  Ezra 1:1-2:2 and 2:64-70

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.  All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings.  Ezra 1:5-6

After decades of captivity in Babylon, God’s people, the Israelites, have been freed to go home to Jerusalem! And on top of it, the King who frees them helps fund the venture and the rebuilding of the temple of God (Ezra 1:7-11). This is exciting! A huge event! An act of God on behalf of His people (Ezra 1:1). And if you’ve read Psalm 137 and heard the original devastation of the Israelites being taken captive, it would seem crazy that anyone would stay, when they’ve now been cut loose! But some do. Some stay in Babylon. They don’t go home to Jerusalem.

Turns out that while being held captive, the Israelites were also granted quite a few freedoms. They married, had homes, gained wealth…and this stuff can be hard to walk away from. Especially when the alternative is an arduous journey (700 miles of rough terrain) and when you’re not sure what you’re going to encounter once you get there. Intellectually, they knew that going home to Jerusalem, the earthly place where God’s presence dwelled at the time, was best, but now with a comfortable life in Babylon, why not just stay and enjoy?

It’s not so different for us today. God offers blessings and comforts in this life – and He wants us to enjoy them. But, it can be easy to settle for just His blessings, instead of doing what it takes to seek the blessing of His presence. Especially when seeking Him may mean losing some of our comfort.

We can easily become ‘captives’ to the comforts of this world and miss the Comforter of our soul (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

The Israelites were on a journey. Your journey is happening now. What will you make of it? Have you settled for only the comfort of what this world has to offer? Or are you taking steps to seek the “Jerusalem” of heaven and the presence of God?

Heavenly Father, thank you for having a good plan for my life even while I’m “in captivity” here on earth. Thank you for offering me a journey that includes blessings – and thank you for offering me not only your provision, but your presence… and one day, life with you forever.

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