Ezra 3:3 describes how Jeshua and the priests rebuilt the altar of God in Jerusalem: “So they set up the altar on its foundation, for they were terrified because of the peoples of the lands; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, burnt offerings morning and evening”. Though some might question the purity of their motivation, it is a common one which God often allows to draw us back to Him:
These priests were part of the group which returned to Israel from captivity in Babylon, and they were afraid of the inhabitants who were then living in the Promised Land. It is interesting, but revealing, that fear was at least part of their motivation in rebuilding the altar. It seems that they set up the altar hoping that if they did it, God would then protect them from the threat of the surrounding peoples. And in their fear, it seems, they were very diligent to offer those burnt offerings “morning and evening.”
If the truth be known, fear is often a strong motivator in our obedience and seeking God. Many of us have the personal testimony that we have sought God in more active and fervent ways when we were afraid, than we did when we were not. We are much less likely to miss our devotional time when we have a pressing need, or a great fear. When a person is afraid, he is often much more motivated to fulfill the most minute commands, lest they do something to offend God, whom they are counting on to protect or help them.
Unfortunately, of course, the reverse is often also true: when we are comfortable and at ease, we find ourselves — like Israel when they were at ease — often flagging in our devotion and slacking in obedience to God’s commands.
We shouldn’t wonder, then, that the Lord often allows distress to assail us — many times it is the only thing that really gets our attention, and draws us back to Him!