The Work Begins
Book of Ezra
Six months have passed since we began our study of the Book of John and now, we will spend some time in the Old Testament.
In 539 BC the Persians and the Medes under King Cyrus had defeated the Babylonians in a fierce battle for world domination just as the Prophet Daniel had predicted.
It was Isaiah that had predicted that Cyrus would do these things about 100 years before Cyrus had been born.
Isa 44:28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Isa 45:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
Isa 45:2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
Isa 45:3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
It was Jeremiah who had said that Jews would only be in captivity for 70 years.
Dan_9:2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolation of Jerusalem.
Jer 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
Jer 25:12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
The Book of Ezra was written by Ezra and Ezra was a Jewish Priest.
There were three groups who returned from Babylon, but not one group included any from the Northern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom had been carried off by the Assyrians and never returned to the Promise Land during this period.
Cyrus had captured all the lands of the Babylonians which included the land of the Assyrians and any of those Jews who had remained could have the same freedom to return to Israel.
*****Ezr 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
Ezr 1:2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Cyrus was the son of Cambyses, king of Persia and Mandane the daughter of Astyages, king of Media.
King Cyrus claimed himself to be the liberator of all peoples.
He allowed any group that were captured by the Babylonians to return to their homeland not just the Jews, after all he now ruled all those homelands.
He had first allowed Zerubbabel to lead the first group of the Jews back to Jerusalem. So many things had happened that were against the Word of God that not much work was done in Jerusalem.
It was Ezra who led the second group charged with the rebuilding of the Temple which was financed by King Cyrus and any free will offerings.
Cyrus also returned to the Jews all the valuables stolen from the Temple of Solomon.
Later Nehemiah would lead a third group of Jews back to Jerusalem charged with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
By all these things we should have no doubt that it is God that puts in place the leaders of this world!
A lot of things are said about the Jews good and bad, but one thing stands out, they are dedicated builders of their nation when they get the opportunity!
They were cured of their idolatry, that had come between them and Jehovah.
If we ask what is wrong with our world today, it should be obvious that all our problems come because of sin.
We see that Cyrus was a king who believed that all his success came because of the Lord God of Heaven and Earth.
Cyrus was no Christian, but he knew where his power came from, he was not an atheist.
To the Jews, Cyrus was Kuresh, the King of Persia.
We should be able to see that God can touch the heart of any ruler at any time as He says in the Book of Isaiah.
Isa 45:13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.
God knows what is going to happen in this world before it happens!
God knows that the Jews want to see Israel survive even if many of them will never make it back home!
What did Cyrus ask the Jewish people?
*****Ezr 1:3 Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.
Ezr 1:4 And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
Cyrus did not demand that all the Jews leave, and many did not, but he did allow anyone who chose to go home and be a part of the rebuilding of the Temple and there homes the freedom to do so.
We should understand that these things were all recorded in the history of Persia and are all true.
The Persia we are familiar with are now the nations of Iraq and Iran.
Any Jew that was alive from the time of captivity would remember the preaching Jeremiah and Isaiah and the other prophets that had come true and they knew it was their sin that had brought on all these things.
All these are lessons for the Church. We can see again that God will always do what He says, and it is God who places rulers into power.
Our Holy God still rules this world!
The date of this proclamation of Cyrus was 538 BC the very first year of his reign over Babylon.
Cyrus had a personal reason for these things he did.
He wanted all people to pray to their god for a long life “for him” even after he had stated that it was it was the Lord God of Heaven who had given him the victory.
Just as so many do today, he had thoughts of all people worshiping the same God which is not true. Jehovah God is a jealous God who will not share His worship with others.
What did Jehovah teach the Jews?
Exo 20:5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
Exo 34:14 For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:
Deu 6:15 (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.
Many of the Jews were ready, for they knew what God had said to the prophets.
*****Ezr 1:5 Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.
Ezr 1:6 And all they that were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, beside all that was willingly offered.
We should clearly understand that the chastening of the Lord is never about punishment it is always about reform. The Jews had been given the task of preserving the Word of God and they could not do this if they ignored the Word of God!
It is much like that today, the chastisement we go through is not about punishment it is about keeping us moving in the right direction toward eternal life in God’s Heaven.
God was working on His people all the time they were in captivity! They had been cured of their idolatry! They now rejected all pagan gods!
They longed for the Living God!
They had a new devotion to the Lord’s sanctuary, the Temple.
You see we must have a devotion to the House of God!
Heb 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Heb 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Nebuchadnezzar had captured Jerusalem in 604 BC.
The proclamation of Cyrus was in 538 BC.
Leaving time for the people to gather their belongings and make the long trip to Jerusalem, the work on the Temple began May 534 BC the 70 years had been completed just as Jeremiah had said by the Holy Spirit.
What caused Cyrus to do these things, besides wanting a prayer of thanks from these Jews?
His own advisers had told him of the prophesies of the prophet Isaiah.
If we cannot see the hand of God in all these things, then we do not understand the Lord as much as we think we do!
Just as God had done in Egypt, He had encouraged those who lived among the Jews to make a free will offering to them.
Cyrus would provide the funds for rebuilding the Temple.
Cyrus would provide a military unit for their protection for a time.
These people needed a free will offering in order to sustain themselves until they could get their homes rebuilt and grow their own crops.
We have missions and ministries that cannot survive today without free will offerings.
2Co 9:7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.
2Co 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:
2Co 9:9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.
After a rough start the children of Israel began the work of rebuilding the Temple.
*****Ezr 3:9 Then stood Jeshua with his sons and his brethren, Kadmiel and his sons, the sons of Judah, together, to set forward the workmen in the house of God: the sons of Henadad, with their sons and their brethren the Levites.
Ezr 3:10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.
Verse 9 is not part of our lesson, but it is hard to miss that name Jeshua. In Hebrew it means “he will save”. In reality it is another form of the name Joshua which in the Greek is Jesus.
Jesus is the foundation of the Church and if you cannot accept the work of Jesus for your salvation, you cannot be saved!
For those who use typology, we can see the importance of this man named Jeshua!
In the Book of Nehemiah this same Jeshua was one of the men who gave the meaning of the Laws of Moses.
Neh 8:7 Also Jeshua, and Bani, and Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodijah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites, caused the people to understand the law: and the people stood in their place.
Neh 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
We know that our Lord Jesus Christ has been involved in the safe keeping of the Word of God from the beginning.
Now this man was not Jesus in any way, but he could be considered a type of Jesus.
Even before the foundation of the Temple was laid the altar was repaired and offerings were made to Jehovah God.
A continuous burnt offering was made, and all the feast were kept during the rebuilding of the Temple.
These people had learned by a sad experience that they were dependent upon God!
The materials for the Temple were gathered from many nations such as Tyre and Sidon and the forest of Lebanon.
Have you ever noticed how God utilizes nations to move the Gospel?
The Romans built new roads to move their army quickly, but God used those same roads to proclaim the “Gospel”.
Today we see all sort of modern ways to communication but at the same time these things can be used to spread the “Gospel”.
We must never be afraid of these things. We must send the “Gospel” out in every way we can use because we know that the Word of God will not come back void and the Word of God cannot be stopped.
Christianity must be a uniting force and not be forced upon anyone like it was during the time of the crusades. God’s Word will make a way because it’s He who sends it!
The priests in their apparel blew the trumpets, the Psalmist with the cymbals, there was something going on at God’s House and all were invited to lay a stone on the foundation!
You want to build a Church, this is the best way!
There was singing and shouting, and praise being offered to Jehovah God for His true Word.
*****Ezr 3:11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Psalm 136 which is probably used here, tells of the great power of God but the emphasis is on God’s goodness and God’s mercy.
Mercy can be understood as compassion for those who miserable! These Jews were in captivity for 70 years. Some fared well, but I suppose many of them were no more than slaves.
God had realized these things from His beginning, and He decided, He would be more like a Father than as a Deity who cared not for His creation!
God not only has “mercy” he also expects us to show mercy even to our enemies.
Mat 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
Mat 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mat 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
When we understand the mercy of God, we can begin our climb out of the miry clay of sin and then we will also praise the Lord for His goodness.
A good man knows the difference in right and wrong and he will choose right every time!
Without God’s goodness and God’s mercy, we would never get to see God’s “GRACE”.
Today the morality level and the goodness level in America, is almost nonexisting!
Being back home was a great feeling for the Jews.
Many of them had never even seen Jerusalem as they were born in captivity, but during those years their parents had continued to share the Word of God with them.
Many of those who had seen the Temple of Solomon knew that this rebuilt Temple would not possess the grandeur of Solomon’s Temple.
The things we will miss if we do look closely are:
1) This became a working church
2) They all worked together
3) They were obedient to the Word of God
4) They worked without ceasing
5) They celebrated singing worship songs
6) They were thankful
We know that today the Bible says we are a Temple of God. How are we working compared to these Jews?
1Pe 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
1Pe 2:3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
1Pe 2:4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
1Pe 2:5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
What did Paul preach?
1Co 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.
1Co 3:10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
We must realize that a Temple that has fallen will never be as grand as it was before it fell and we must remember that today each Christian ia a Temple of God!
The second Temple would not ever reach the splendor of Solomon’s Temple. If we allow our temple to fall back into sin and return to the Lord with full forgiveness, we will never be the witness we could have been!
*****Ezr 3:12 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy:
Ezr 3:13 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 noise was heard afar off.
The first and the second Temple were built in the exact same place, they had nearly the same foundation, they were both built with the same design.
The Temple that we raise, that our forefathers saw, is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets, with Jesus Christ Himself the Chief Corner Stone.
We have the same “gospel”, we have the same Savior, and the same Holy Spirit who lives within us for conversion, edification, support, and comfort!
For the Jews the first Temple surpassed the second Temple because it was built with better materials.
But we today as sinners who were not fit to be a Temple of God, are built into a glorious Temple of God.
As a Temple of God we must be Holy!
1Co_3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Just as the second Temple was dedicated to God. so we are to be dedicated to God.
This is where the Church of today fails the most!
In fact there are so many that have rejected the truth of God, the Church is tarnished.
We must remember Jesus did not say the Word of God was true, Jesus said the Word of God is the “Truth”!
There is no higher authority anywhere on this planet and there never will be, until the Lord returns!
Joh_17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
Ezra is considered to the father of Jewish religion and he gave his life to keep the Jews in line with the Word of God.
This the same period when the Pharisees got started and this began with good intentions to keep the people in line with the Word of God.
It later days, the they begin to add their own interpretation, their own words, making their own words, the words of man, to be greater than the Word of God.
Again this is the same thing happening in our world today. The Church has allowed the world inside the Church and the words of man and politicians to be greater than the Word of God.
Some people today cannot discern the truth from the man-made laws because they refuse to study the Word of God themselves and they depend on some man to lead them in the right way. It is a shame!
When the world gets inside the Church then the work of God will cease.
*****Ezr 4:24 Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
We must understand that the tactics of Satan and those who reject the only God, Jehovah are wicked!
If they cannot bend the goodness of the Church to their own wishes, they will change their tactics and call the good bad and the bad good.
They will hire politicians to frustrate the work of the Church.
They will seek out men with no scruples who will deliberately use their influence and their pocketbooks, in an evil cause for their own gain!
When we get away from the promises of God and listen to the false promises of the world, the Church will cease to exist.
If not for the Holy Spirit this would take place!
As our world removes more and more of the history of our lives, they gain more control.
As the world takes control of the minds of our young people, they gain more control.
As the world tramples on the Word of God, they gain more control.
We must wake up to these tactics, take our stand on the Word of God, and refuse to move until the Lord comes.
We are not to be timid with the Word of God, we are to be bold!
Eph 6:11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Eph 6:13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
When the Church will not take a stand, the world will roll right over us, as we see today!