Wed, Apr 25, 2018

Ezra 5-6

Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible but became two when translated due to their length just as were the books of Samuel and the Kings. The purpose of the book is to tell the story of the return of God’s people into the land He had promised them. Its important because it gives us the account of God’s faithfulness to His people that after they had served their 70 years in Babylon for disobeying the Sabbath regarding allowing the land to rest, they would return from exile to the land of promise.
Duration:54 mins 23 secs

Ezra 4-5


Ezra and Nehemiah were one book in the Hebrew Bible but became two when translated due to their length just as were the books of Samuel and the Kings. The purpose of the book is to tell the story of the return of God’s people into the land He had promised them. Its important because it gives us the account of God’s faithfulness to His people that after they had served their 70 years in Babylon for disobeying the Sabbath regarding allowing the land to rest, they would return from exile to the land of promise. 


In 537 b.c. almost 50,000 captives who have chosen to come have returned to Judah and Jerusalem under the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem. We see in the book of Ezra the sovereignty of God in restoration and how God makes a way for His people to return to Him. Much like the first Exodus where Moses lead the nation out of Egypt to the Promised Land, this second Exodus was led by Ezra from their captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem. 


They traveled some 900 miles, over 4-5 months through the desert to a land most had never seen before that was in ruins. Their city and temple lay in ruin. 


The two main characters of the first six chapters are Joshua who is of the line of  Aaron and Zerubbabel of the line of David. They lead the group back to their heritage and they gather in Jerusalem as one man in the 7th month. The 7th month is an important month in the nation of Israel as its during the 7th month  first day, The feast of Trumpets, 10th day Yom Kippor, the Day of Atonement, then on the 15 through the 21st day they celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles. 


You recall in chapter 3 they built the altar before anything else. They are offering burnt offerings to the Lord. The temple is in shambles and the walls of the city are torn down. They have no security except the presence of God.  


Consecration… Leviticus 1-2, the innocent sacrifice died in your place as its throat was cut and the blood drained out…


The first step in restoration is the shedding of blood on the altar. For us in the New Testament we come back to the Cross where Jesus shed His blood for me! 


The altar was central to worship in the Old Testament just as the Cross is the center of worship in the New Testament. 


Morning and evening sacrifices… a picture of the innocent shedding its blood for the guilty, the consecration offering. 


The safest place to be is in the center of God’s will… 


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


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, 


Hinderances to the building of God’s kingdom are not the exception they are the rule. 


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 (Ezerhadden) king of Assyria, who brought us here." 


What does light have with darkness? Not a thing. God doesn’t nee nor want the church to look to the world for assistance in advancing His kingdom. 


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 of 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. 2 Kings tells us that Mountain lions began to wipe out the Assyrians, so they sent a message back to Assyria, saying, “Send back some of the priests who were not doing their jobs 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. They like we often mistake God’s grace for God’s approval. Just because God hasn’t smote us doesn’t mean He is pleased or approves of what we are doing. 


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. They said we already served time for idolatry. 


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 very day.


How does the devil get us off track? Verse 3 tells us 


1. Compromise. Let us help you! 



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


Their true colors came out… 


Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…


2. Discouragement 


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. 


3. Misrepresentation gossip, slander


Jesus ate with publicans and sinners and was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton. 

James says the tongue is set on fire by hell. 


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 (A-hazurious), 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 (Tabeel), 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… it’s not one or two people who have a problem here, it’s a whole bunch of people. These Persian leaders write a letter to King Artexerxes. 


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, the tactic of the enemy is still to go through the records, find out where you failed, and make sure your failure is advertised. 


We see the same thing in the book of Revelation regarding you and me too…


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. 


He says lets put this on hold and let me look into it. 


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. 


Verse 24 picks back up from verse 5…


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. 



Ezra Chapter 5


Coming back to Jerusalem under an edict of King Cyrus to go and rebuild the temple, first rebuilding the altar so they could make sacrifices to God. 


We are looking at the events surrounding the return of the jewish nation back to Jerusalem after their captivity in Babylon. At this time the Babylonians had been conquered by the Medes and the Persians and Cyrus, king of Persia is now in power. 


The book of Ezra is a lesson in restoration. There is always a pathway. Be it an individual or a church. 


1. Longing

2. Rebuiding the altar of Christ

3. Rebuilding the church to the things the church is called to do

4. Adversity both internal and external.  


The people got discouraged and left off from building for about 20 years now here in chapter 5. 


God raises up two men to speak to the nation


Haggai begins prophesying in August of 520 BC until December 

Zechariah a young priest steps into the ministry of the prophet and prophesies beginning in October lasting over 4 years and as he does the work of the Lord begins again.


God has always used men to bring the word of God to the people and each time the work of God begins again. The church throughout history has become bogged down with lethergy and apathy and God has always raised up men to bring the people back. 


The people had lost sight of the big picture. How is God going to bless you when the best part of your life is spent on the wrong things. You have forgotten who has redeemed you. The reason you are not prospering is because you aren’t doing the things God is blessing. God is always blessing something somewhere. Come to the fountain! 



We must never forget, God is more interested in the Servant than He is the service. 


The Word of God begins to be spoken. As the Word of God is spoken the people are built up and as the people are built up the work goes up too. 


Ezra focuses on the Internal condition where as the prophet Zechariah and Haggai focus on the heart, the internal condition of the people being . 


The name Zechariah means “The Lord Remembers and is so fitting. God never forgets His promises. 




Ezra Chapter 5


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. 


Haggai and Zechariah are the first words of a prophet since Jeremiah then when will come Malachi and then after 400 years John the Baptist…


Its been 15-16 years since the work of the temple had stopped…


In Haggai 1:2-10 we see that the prophet rebuked the people for their attitude towards the building of the temple. They said, “The time has not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” In saying this, the people made their excuse sound spiritual. They couldn’t speak against the idea of building the temple, so they spoke against it’s timing. “It isn’t God’s timing to rebuild the temple.”



Haggai 1:1-9 

1  In the second year of King Darius, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, saying, 

2  "Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying: 'This people says, "The time has not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built." ' " 

3  Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, 

4  "Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?" 

5  Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! 

6  "You have sown much, and bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but you are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; And he who earns wages, Earns wages to put into a bag with holes." 

7  Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways! 

8  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified," says the LORD. 

9  "You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?" says the LORD of hosts. "Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house. 



Zechariah 4:6-7  

6  So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 

7  'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' " 




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. 


Everybody is helping out!


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.” 


Within 4 years the temple was completed and dedicated as we read in chapter 6. 


3  At the same time Tattenai the governor of the region beyond the River and Shethar-Boznai and their companions came to them and spoke thus to them: "Who has commanded you to build this temple and finish this wall?" 


This was the man appointed by the King of Persia to govern the province that included Judea. He and his companions wanted to know why the work of building both the temple and the wall had resumed.


4  Then, accordingly, we told them the names of the men who were constructing this building.


He asks two questions. 1. Who gave you permission? What are your names? The Jews gave the information. 


5  But the eye of their God was upon the elders of the Jews, so that they could not make them cease till a report could go to Darius. Then a written answer was returned concerning this matter. 


This time they stand firm in their conviction to continue to work. 


6  This is a copy of the letter that Tattenai sent: The governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and his companions, the Persians who were in the region beyond the River, to Darius the king. 


A copy of the letter that Tattenai sent: As a good administrator, Tattenai not only sent a letter to Darius, he also preserved a copy that made its way into Ezra’s record.


7  (They sent a letter to him, in which was written thus) To Darius the king: All peace. 

8  Let it be known to the king that we went into the province of Judea, to the temple of the great God, which is being built with heavy stones, and timber is being laid in the walls; and this work goes on diligently and prospers in their hands.


In this letter, Tattenai seems to fairly recount the situation from his perspective. Without prejudice or malice he explains the matter to King Darius.


The heavy stones perhaps aroused suspicion in Tattenai; they made him wonder if the Jews were building a temple or a fortress.


9  Then we asked those elders, and spoke thus to them: "Who commanded you to build this temple and to finish these walls?" 

10  We also asked them their names to inform you, that we might write the names of the men who were chief among them. 

11  And thus they returned us an answer, saying: "We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, which a great king of Israel built and completed. (Solomon)

12  But because our fathers provoked the God of heaven to wrath, He gave them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Chaldean, who destroyed this temple and carried the people away to Babylon.


This an accurate description of their history without revision…


13  However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to build this house of God. 

14  Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple that was in Jerusalem and carried into the temple of Babylon--those King Cyrus took from the temple of Babylon, and they were given to one named Sheshbazzar, whom he had made governor. Is this Babylonian name for Zerubbabel? 

15  And he said to him, 'Take these articles; go, carry them to the temple site that is in Jerusalem, and let the house of God be rebuilt on its former site.' This was King Cyrus. 

16  Then the same Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundation of the house of God which is in Jerusalem; but from that time even until now it has been under construction, and it is not finished." 

17  Now therefore, if it seems good to the king, let a search be made in the king's treasure house, which is there in Babylon, whether it is so that a decree was issued by King Cyrus to build this house of God at Jerusalem, and let the king send us his pleasure concerning this matter. 


Respectfully, Tattenai asked King Darius to research the matter, to determine if the rebuilding of temple and Jerusalem was royally sanctioned.


God turns the hearts of Kings as He pleases. 


Ezra 6


1  Then King Darius issued a decree, and a search was made in the archives, where the treasures were stored in Babylon. 

2  And at Achmetha, in the palace that is in the province of Media, a scroll was found, and in it a record was written thus: Achmetha is the Capital of the Medes 300 miles north east of Babylon. They were under the Medo-Persian empire.  


3  In the first year of King Cyrus, King Cyrus issued a decree concerning the house of God at Jerusalem: "Let the house be rebuilt, the place where they offered sacrifices; and let the foundations of it be firmly laid, its height sixty cubits and its width sixty cubits, 90’ high and 90’ wide. More detail that we didn’t read in chapter 1. 


4  with three rows of heavy stones and one row of new timber. Let the expenses be paid from the king's treasury. 

5  Also let the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple which is in Jerusalem and brought to Babylon, be restored and taken back to the temple which is in Jerusalem, each to its place; and deposit them in the house of God"-- 

King Darius responds very plainly…


6  Now therefore, Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, and Shethar-Boznai, and your companions the Persians who are beyond the River, keep yourselves far from there. 

7  Let the work of this house of God alone; let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews build this house of God on its site. Live them alone, get out of the way, and if they run short take money from the IRS to support the work there.


8  Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God: Let the cost be paid at the king's expense from taxes on the region beyond the River; this is to be given immediately to these men, so that they are not hindered. He was told to take tax money and rebuild the temple… That would be so awesome. God collects money through the IRS to build churches. 



9  And whatever they need--young bulls, rams, and lambs for the burnt offerings of the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem--let it be given them day by day without fail, 

10  that they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king and his sons. The king has an ulterior motive… pray for me..


11  Also I issue a decree that whoever alters this edict, let a timber be pulled from his house and erected, and let him be hanged on it; and let his house be made a refuse heap because of this. 

12  And may the God who causes His name to dwell there destroy any king or people who put their hand to alter it, or to destroy this house of God which is in Jerusalem. I Darius issue a decree; let it be done diligently. 


The kings heart is in His hand and He turns it however He pleases. Darius and Cyrus were powerful kings who had million man armies at their disposal and yet God turns them as He wills. 


God never sleeps nor slumbers. Everything happens according to God’s time table. 


13  Then Tattenai, governor of the region beyond the River, Shethar-Boznai, and their companions diligently did according to what King Darius had sent. 

14  So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the command of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. 

15  Now the temple was finished on the third day of the month of Adar (February-March), which was in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius. 


They finished building the temple 21 years after they started the work

Its been 4 1/2 years since Haggai and Zechariah began prophesying. 


The time now is the end of 515- and the beginning of 516 B.C.  

Its been 70 years since the temple has been torn down in 586 B.C. with the delays and all.


16  Then the children of Israel, the priests and the Levites and the rest of the descendants of the captivity, celebrated the dedication of this house of God with joy. 

17  And they offered sacrifices at the dedication of this house of God, one hundred bulls, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs, and as a sin offering for all Israel twelve male goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel. 


There are no lost tribes. When the northern tribes were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians they were eventually overthrow by the Babylonians who then were overthrown by the Mede’s and the Persians so when Cyrus gives the decree to return and rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, everyone who wanted to go and those with whom the Lord promoted to go went. All the tribes are represented. 


God doesn’t lose tribes, He doesn’t lose people… 


712 animals were sacrificed here

Solomon sacrificed 142,000 animals were sacrificed. 

22,000 oxen

120,000 sheep and goats




18  They assigned the priests to their divisions and the Levites to their divisions, over the service of God in Jerusalem, as it is written in the Book of Moses. 


They paid attention to the Word of God because they understood how they 


Chapter 4:6 verse all the way to verse 18 of chapter 6 were written in Aramaic because Ezra switched to the language of government 


Here he switches back to Hebrew. 900 years since the first Passover. 


19  And the descendants of the captivity kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. 


This doesn’t happen without a miracle. Captivity and Passover


20  For the priests and the Levites had purified themselves; all of them were ritually clean. And they slaughtered the Passover lambs for all the descendants of the captivity, for their brethren the priests, and for themselves. 


They separated themselves… true unity is built around holiness, those who come out from the carnality of the world. The church of Corinth was a mess because they lacked holiness. The people were unified.  


21  Then the children of Israel who had returned from the captivity ate together with all who had separated themselves from the filth of the nations of the land in order to seek the LORD God of Israel. 


Malachi and John the Baptist are the only Old Testament prophets that come after Haggai and Zechariah.


22  And they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the LORD made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel. 


Imagine the Fathers telling their children about the bread, the bitter water, the roasted lamb. 


Leaven is representative of sin, of defilement. They were separating themselves from the world and seeking God. 


God made them joyful… they didn’t have the ark of the covenant and no Shekinah glory. None of those things were noted but God was pleased  


Psalm 126, 



1  When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. 

2  Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them." 

3  The LORD has done great things for us, And we are glad. 

4  Bring back our captivity, O LORD, As the streams in the South. 

5  Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. 

6  He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves with him. 

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