In early autumn, when the Israelites had settled in their towns, all the people assembled in Jerusalem with a unified purpose. Then Jeshua son of Jehozadak joined his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel with his family in rebuilding the altar of the God of Israel. They wanted to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, as instructed in the Law of Moses, the man of God. Even though the people were afraid of the local residents, they rebuilt the altar at its old site. Then they began to sacrifice burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord each morning and evening.
Ezra 3:1-3 New Living Translation
As the people began to settle into the land of their ancestors, they placed a priority on the restoration of their worship over the rebuilding of the Temple, itself. In the 70 years of exile, they would not have been able to continue with many of the festivals and sacrifices prescribed by the law. Many of the men now serving in the role of priests would not have had a demonstration of the specific details of performing the sacrifices. They only had the written instructions from the Book of the Law to go by. They may have been a little nervous about making sure they did everything correctly. They also had a concern about what the current inhabitants of the land would think. The people who lived around Jerusalem during the exile had not seen their worship practices and may not have known their purpose. It is possible they would interpret these actions as an act of rebellion against Persia and seek to stop them. As they reinstituted their worship in Jerusalem, they may have felt some apprehension about what would happen. Still, they knew it was important to do this.
In spite of all the concerns they may have had, this remnant crew of Hebrews also knew that they were in the middle one of the most sacred seasons in their worship calendar. There were three festivals to celebrate during this month, which was the beginning of a new year on their calendar. Because the Holy of Holies was not rebuilt yet, they could not celebrate the Day of Atonement. The Feast of Tabernacles was possible, though. Before they laid a foundation or erected a single wall of the Temple, they rebuilt the altar on its original site and began their celebrations of worship again. They remembered that the purpose of the temple was to worship God. So, they did what they could do from the beginning of this venture to attend to their practice of worship.
Worship is a priority for the followers of Jesus today, as well. We may not always be surrounded by ideal circumstances but we are still called to make the glory of God known through our acts of worship. Our acts of worship show the priority we place on His Kingdom and His ways over anything else.
Father, may Your kingdom come and Your will be done. Help us to always remember the importance of prioritizing our worship of You no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.