Wed, Apr 11, 2018

Ezra 3-4

After 70 years of captivity in Babylon just as God had prophesied, king Cyrus has allowed the children of Israel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. After reclaiming their genealogy in chapter 2, here in chapter 3, we’ll see the children of Israel reclaim their theology… The Persians under King Cyrus allowed the deportees to return to their land in hopes they would remain loyal to him as king.
Duration:55 mins 16 secs

The Book of Ezra


Ezra Chapter 3


After 70 years of captivity in Babylon just as God had prophesied, king Cyrus has allowed the children of Israel to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.


After reclaiming their genealogy in chapter 2, here in chapter 3, we’ll see the children of Israel reclaim their theology…


The Persians under King Cyrus allowed the deportees to return to their land in hopes they would remain loyal to him as king. 


The Syrians and Babylonians had a different practice when it came to the people captured in conquests. When the Syrians and Babylonians conquered a land they moved the inhabitants out and a new group of people into the land to keep it destabilized. You might say they knew, “There is no place like home” so they never let people feel at home. 


Ezra 3:1-13 (NKJV) 

1  And when the seventh month had come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem. 


Unity is always at the foundation of restoration and revival. Just like in Acts 2. They were all in one accord. “As one man”… (Pray for that kind of revival). 


2  Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak and his brethren the priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it, as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. 


Picture this scene. There is no temple here but they rebuilt the altar.  


The altar represents the personal relationship with God, not the building.  


The temple means nothing without the sacrifice. The relationship with God is what matters to Him. By building the altar first they are communicating that the Lord desires obedience to His Word.



3  Though fear had come upon them because of the people of those countries, they set the altar on its bases; and they offered burnt offerings on it to the LORD, both the morning and evening burnt offerings. 


There is something special about the morning and evening hours that is to be sanctified in our lives. Morning devotions and evening devotions—beginning your day with the Lord and ending your day with Him, both are key components to a deep and rich walk with God.



4  They also kept the Feast of Tabernacles, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings in the number required by ordinance for each day. 


The Feast of Tabernacles was the week-long celebration where God’s people took time to remember God’s faithfulness to them as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land.



5  Afterwards they offered the regular burnt offering, and those for New Moons and for all the appointed feasts of the LORD that were consecrated, and those of everyone who willingly offered a freewill offering to the LORD. 

6  From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the LORD, although the foundation of the temple of the LORD had not been laid. 


Jon Courson writes in his commentary, The men from Tyre and Sidon floated trees down to Joppa, where they were taken from Joppa to Jerusalem. This was the same procedure used when Solomon built the first temple (2 Chronicles 2:16). In this, we see Jews and Gentiles working together in the building of the temple, which is fitting because the New Testament temple is comprised of Jews and Gentiles brought together into a new entity called the church (Ephesians 2:19–22). 


Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV) 

19  Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 

20  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 

21  in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 

22  in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.  




7  They also gave money to the masons and the carpenters, and food, drink, and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre to bring cedar logs from Lebanon to the sea, to Joppa, according to the permission which they had from Cyrus king of Persia. 



8  Now in the second month of the second year of their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and the rest of their brethren the priests and the Levites, and all those who had come out of the captivity to Jerusalem, began work and appointed the Levites from twenty years old and above to oversee the work of the house of the LORD.


At 20 years of age, here the Levites were ordained to ministry. At first, the law declared that Levites had to be 30 years old to be ordained (Numbers 4). But here, the age of ordination is 20 in accordance with David’s last act as king (1 Chronicles 23:27).



9  Then Jeshua with his sons and brothers, Kadmiel with his sons, and the sons of Judah, arose as one to oversee those working on the house of God: the sons of Henadad with their sons and their brethren the Levites. 

10  When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD, according to the ordinance of David king of Israel. 

11  And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: "For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel." Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. 

12  But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the fathers' houses, old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this temple was laid before their eyes. Yet many shouted aloud for joy, 


The young men were excited and the old men were stuck in the past forgetting that when God restores, He makes things better than they were before. 


Haggai 2:9 (NKJV) 

In Haggai 2:9 we read that God sent a prophet with a message, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts. 'And in this place I will give peace,' says the LORD of hosts." 


That’s always the way of the Lord. He just takes us from glory to even greater glory as we behold Him.


2 Corinthians 3:18, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 


That means the days we are in right now far exceed the former days. And the days ten years from now, if the Lord tarries, will exceed these days. Therefore, be on guard against longing after the “good old days” as it were as you will miss even better days ahead as the best is always yet to be with Jesus! 


Stay young in the Spirit. Shout for joy at what God is doing now, for He is doing marvelous things indeed.



13  so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard afar off. 


The shout of joy of God’s grace always overshadows the noise of weeping. 


Haggai would say that the glory of the second temple would exceed the glory of the first (Haggai 2:9). Why? Because Jesus Christ Himself would walk in the latter temple, and where Jesus is, the glory is infinitely greater. 


How do we keep from thinking the old days are best? Jesus told us new wine can’t be put into old wineskins because as the wine ferments, it expands and the old wineskins would burst (Matthew 9:17).  “Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved." 


For “new wine,” Jesus used the word neos. Neos means “brand new.” For “wineskin,” He used the word kinos. Kinos means “renewed.” 


In other words, when the Lord wants to do a new work, He pours the new wine of His Spirit into renewed wineskins. 


How were wineskins renewed? By soaking them in water. This is great news for us old skins :) because it means that the Lord doesn’t discard us if we’re old, but He renews us by soaking us again and again as needed in the water of the Word ( Psalm 119:9; John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26). 


Do you want to be useful to God, pliable in His hands? Then stay in the Word, as that is God’s way for us to remain flexible, pliable, and usable in the new work the Lord is doing. 


Ezra 4


Here in chapter 4 the foundation of the temple has been laid and progress is being made. Life is good! It seems when life is going good you get this feeling something is about to happen thats not so goo. Ha! 


Wherever the Lord is seeking to build you can count on the devil to be near by looking to tear down what the Lord is building up. 


1  Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple of the LORD God of Israel, 

2  they came to Zerubbabel and the heads of the fathers' houses, and said to them, "Let us build with you, for we seek your God as you do; and we have sacrificed to Him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria, who brought us here." 


Isn’t it interesting that the adversaries come to Zerubbabel when they were building the temple of the Lord. Step out in obedience and immediately you are going to be found out by the adversaries to the work of God. (It doesn’t stop the work, we just need to know there are always adversaries to the work of God)


Who were these adversaries that wanted to help build? They were Samaritans, Many years earlier, when the ten northern tribes were carried off into Assyria the Assyrians came took up residence in the land vacated by the ten tribes. Mountain lions began to wipe out the Assyrians, so they sent a message back to Assyria, saying, “Send back some of the priests to help us worship the god of this land. We’re getting eaten alive by lions. God is punishing us.” God was sending a clear message. “You might have defeated My people but you have not defeated Me.” So certain priests were sent back who built altars to Jehovah, but who also worshiped the gods of the Assyrians. Intermarriage followed soon after and a new race called “Samaritans” emerged. It was to these people that Zerubbabel said, “You have no part here whatsoever.”


2 Kings 17:24 tells the attitude of the Samaritans: “They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods; according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away.”


According to God we are not called to “Coexist”. They mixed the worship of their gods with the worship of the God of the Bible and thought everything was just fine. 


Some say we are all worshipping the same God and that couldn’t be further from the truth. All religions are not the same. Judaism and Muslim and Christians are monotheistic but thats the only commonality. Each of these religions are mutually exclusive to all other faiths because they all claim to be true and what they claim to be true contradicts what the other religions claim to be true.  


What would the message be if all religions worked together on the building of the temple? The message would be that all religions are equal and that the God of the temple was the God of any and all religions. 



3  But Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the rest of the heads of the fathers' houses of Israel said to them, "You may do nothing with us to build a house for our God; but we alone will build to the LORD God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us." 


They exercised strong leadership here. It isn’t popular but we need to be wiling to take a stand for the Lord. God called who He desired to build the temple. And king Cyrus commanded us to build the temple. 


Persecution is one of God’s ways of weeding out the real thing from the imposter. 


Remember back to the book of Acts. The more the early church was persecuted, the more it prospered. The greatest peril to Christianity, therefore, is not persecution. It’s prosperity.


Persecution didn’t succeed in stoping the work of the Lord so Satan changed his strategy to something much more devastating. Instead of fighting the church, he decided to join it. As he attempted here in the book of Ezra, the devil, our adversary seeks to mix religion with culture and compromise. And that has proven to be a very effective tactic to this day.



4  Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah. They troubled them in building, 


Their true colors came out… 


5  and hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia. 


They hired lawyers to frustrate their purposes. 


Verse 6 to verse 23 is a parenthetical passage… Before God continues the chronology He gives more detail about the persecution the children of Israel will endure.


6  In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. 

7  In the days of Artaxerxes also, Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabel, and the rest of their companions wrote to Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the letter was written in Aramaic script, and translated into the Aramaic language. 

8  Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes in this fashion: 

9  From Rehum the commander, Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their companions--representatives of the Dinaites, the Apharsathchites, the Tarpelites, the people of Persia and Erech and Babylon and Shushan, the Dehavites, the Elamites, 

10  and the rest of the nations whom the great and noble Osnapper took captive and settled in the cities of Samaria and the remainder beyond the River--and so forth. 


This is a study in manipulation… its not one or two people who have a problem here, its a whole bunch of people. 


11  (This is a copy of the letter that they sent him) To King Artaxerxes from your servants, the men of the region beyond the River, and so forth: 

12  Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up from you have come to us at Jerusalem, and are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. 

13  Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king's treasury will be diminished. 

14  Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king's dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, 

15  that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed. 

16  We inform the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls are completed, the result will be that you will have no dominion beyond the River. 


The letter said that the very people who were rebuilding had been rebellious and had caused trouble in the past. And, actually, that was correct, for on three occasions, Jerusalem rebelled against the kings seeking to control her. Take note, saint, that the tactic of the enemy is still to go through the records, find out where you failed, and make sure your failure is advertised. 


Revelation 12:10, “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.”


17  The king sent an answer: To Rehum the commander, to Shimshai the scribe, to the rest of their companions who dwell in Samaria, and to the remainder beyond the River: Peace, and so forth. 

18  The letter which you sent to us has been clearly read before me. 

19  And I gave the command, and a search has been made, and it was found that this city in former times has revolted against kings, and rebellion and sedition have been fostered in it. 

20  There have also been mighty kings over Jerusalem, who have ruled over all the region beyond the River; and tax, tribute, and custom were paid to them. 

21  Now give the command to make these men cease, that this city may not be built until the command is given by me. 

22  Take heed now that you do not fail to do this. Why should damage increase to the hurt of the kings? 

23  Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes' letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease. 

24  Thus the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem ceased, and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia. 


Condemnation works… The devil knows when we become disheartened is many times we give up. God never condemns. The Holy Spirit convicts but He never condemns us.


The work ceased for a good amount of time. There is a 15 year gap between the end of chapter 4 and chapter 5. This is a bad reflection on both the Jews and God Himself. God had told them to build and yet with just a little resistance they stopped. 


The message the world saw was that the gods of those resisting the work must be greater than the God of the Jews as they got them to stop the work. Had the children of Israel pressed on God would have given them all they needed to succeed. 


In chapter 5 verses 1-2, we read, 


1  Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 

2  So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them. 


The Word of God always accomplishes His purpose in our lives. The word builds up, stirs up, and lifts us up…


The word of the Lord is “get back to work”… Are you discouraged? Don’t quit, trust God and get back to work. 


What was the message? We will study it more next week but let me suffice it to say the prophets message was, “Finish the work God has called you to do.” 









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