From time to time, I have the privilege of writing short meditations on the biblical texts being studied in the quarterly Sunday School lessons that are published in the Mennonite World Review. This summer, the texts focused on the portrayal of worship in a small slice of the Old Testament. My six articles were published in MWR between May 27 and August 5. The first two articles dealt with texts from Isaiah, the middle two with texts from Ezra, and the final two with texts from Nehemiah.
I found it particularly interesting to reflect on the texts from Ezra and Nehemiah. They described the situation in ancient Israel following the return from exile after the Babylonians dealt the kingdom of Judah a devastating defeat. One key theme for me is the contrast between this time of constructing the second temple in the context of being part of a much larger empire (the Persians) that did not allow the Israelites to have political self-determination and the constructing of the first temple as the Israelite nation was settling in for a long but disastrous time of running their own kingdom.