Ezra 3:3—And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries: and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the LORD, even burnt offerings morning and evening.
Over 40,000 of the captives returned with that first group, led by Jeshua and Zerubbabel. The amazing thing is they returned with over 7000 servants and animals, personal possessions of gold and silver. Captivity had not been that hard on them. Many had prospered. When they arrived, the first thing they began to do was to build the altar. The temple footings had not been laid. The walls of the city lay in ruins, but they focused first on the altar. It had been 70 years or more since a priest had offered the morning and evening sacrifices. As they studied the Law and saw the need for the lamb to be slain for their sins, they were most anxious for the sacrifice to begin again. Before we can do anything of value, we need to be right with God. The blood of the lambs did not wash away their sin but looked forward to the Lamb of God who would be the perfect sacrifice. They wanted to be obedient to the Word of God and do as they were instructed. Unlike most of the world today, they had a fear of God and His wrath upon sin. In fact, they feared God more than they did the people around them that threatened to rob and destroy them. Perhaps this was one good lesson from the captivity. Is the sacrifice more important than your temple and city walls? Is the cross and all that it means more important than your church building, appearances, and physical security? If you understand God’s attitude toward sin, His hatred of evil, then it should be. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)