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Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices. Ezra 3:3

If you’ve been to Walmart or any similar store lately, you’ve surely noticed what time of year we have entered. It’s back-to-school season. I remember the nervous-excitement of the first day of school as a student. Living in the country, I didn’t spend a lot of time with many of my classmates over the summer, so the first day of school  was a reunion of sorts. As a teacher, I loved the first day of school; the chance to smile and greet each student assuring them that this would be the first day of an exciting year (even high schoolers need a little love on the first day). Now, as a parent, the first day comes with yet another perspective. My daughter told me she’s old enough to walk to her classroom on her own, but my kindergarten son is nervous about being at school all day. No matter the perspective or age, the first day of school seems to generate at least a little bit of fear. Fear of changes in friendship or fitting in, fear of tough classes, fear of leaving mom and dad for the entire day, fear of watching my little kids grow up all too fast. Fear is a powerful emotion; it can either control our actions or we can control the fear.

In Ezra 3, we find that the Israelites have completed the journey to their homeland with plans to rebuild the Lord’s temple. In verse 3, it says that “despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord.” The Israelites weren’t just afraid of what the people around them would think; they were afraid of physical attack. They were literally afraid for their lives. However, they did not let that fear control their actions; instead, they built their altar on its foundation. First-day-of-school fears may seem insignificant when we look at the Israelites situation or the endless fears faced today: cancer, unemployment, unpaid debt, or the unknown. No matter how big or small, when we face fears, we should follow the example of the Israelites. Instead of letting fear control our actions and decisions, we should build on our foundation, which is the Lord. We look to God’s word for that foundation. Repeatedly, the phrase “do not be afraid” appears in the Bible. God sends angels and prophets with the message and Jesus himself tells us not to be afraid. When we focus on the words and promises of God, we realize that He is so much stronger than the fears we face. Like the Israelites, despite our fears, we will build on the foundation of the Lord and offer our actions and emotions as sacrifices, allowing him to control our lives instead of fear.

Prayer:

Father, no matter how insignificant or enormous the fear I face feels, help me to turn to you. Help me be strong as I face fear. Help me to allow you to guide my actions and decisions instead of fear. Help me to build on the foundation of your words and truth. Thank you for your words and love and reassurance that I do not need to be afraid.

Amen.

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