Ezra (Part 2)By Pastor Boffey on Saturday, April 7, 2012.
Ezra: Rebuilding God's Temple I. The Book of Ezra deals with the return of a great number of the Jews from Babylon to rebuild the temple of God at Jerusalem. A. The present age of the gospel was prophesied of as a time of rebuilding old wastes. ISA 61:1-4; ACT 15:15-16. B. The gospel church is the reformation of the existing church which had fallen into gross disrepair. HEB 9:10; ROM 11:11-21. II. Like its counterpart book which deals with the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Nehemiah), Ezra sets forth tactics of the church's adversary to hinder or stop the building (particularly the rebuilding) of God's temple. c/w 2CO 2:11. A. Satan has an eye to frustrating the rebuilding of the temple of God. B. The gospel church is the temple of God. 1CO 3:16-17; 2CO 6:16. 1. Its ministers are given for its edification (building up). EPH 4:11-12. 2. Its members are to edify one another, which includes rebuilding. JUDE 1:20; 1TH 5:11 c/w JAM 5:19-20; GAL 6:1. 3. Churches sometimes fall into disrepair which will require a rebuilding effort on the part of ministers and members. 1CO 4:14-17; GAL 4:19; REV 2:4-5. 4. Satan loves to see churches fall into doctrinal or practical corruption and does whatever he can from outside and inside to frustrate their repentance/rebuilding. 2CO 11:3. C. The believer's personal body is the temple of God. 1CO 6:19. 1. Fornication is a special sin against that temple. 1CO 6:18 c/w ROM 1:24. 2. “Minor” sexual sins tend to devolve into worse uncleanness. ROM 1:26; EPH 4:19; JUDE 1:7. 3. Satan loves to draw God's people down this drain and keep them there. 4. Satan in general does not want our persons to repent of sin since a broken temple is a less formidable testimony to God's existence, power, and right to demand human service and worship. ROM 2:24; 2TI 3:5 ct/w 1PE 2:12; 3:16. D. The body of the Lord Jesus Christ is the temple of God. JOH 2:19-21. 1. Satan sought to corrupt Christ by bodily temptation while He walked. MAT 4:3. 2. Satan sought to corrupt Christ's flesh by death. 3. Satan sought to prevent the “rebuilding” of Christ's body. MAT 27:62-66. 4. Satan sought to prevent the news of the “rebuilding” from affecting others. MAT 28:11-15. 5. Satan's ploys against that temple all failed. HEB 4:15; ACT 13:28-39, 48-49. E. Rebuilding God's temple is pretty important! F. There is one area where Satan does want us to rebuild. GAL 2:18. III. The Book of Ezra also has important historical, hermeneutical, prophetical and eschatological significance and implications. A. It satisfies previous prophecies about Israel's return and rebuilding. B. It links with other O.T. books which shed more light on the circumstances. C. Its temple would one day be graced by the Son of God. HAG 2:3, 6-9 c/w LUK 2:25-32. IV. Consider some principal persons in Ezra. A. Ezra: a Levitical priest descended from Eleazar and a devoutly Bible-oriented scribe and Ezra Page 1teacher who, when he came on the scene, led the people to understanding through fundamentals of Bible study. EZR 7:1-6, 10 c/w NEH 8:4-9. B. Cyrus: the Persian king who decreed the Jewish return to rebuild the temple. EZR 1:2. C. Sheshbazzar/Zerubbabel: the prince of Judah whom Cyrus appointed governor and whom God promised would be honored with the beginning and finishing of the temple. EZR 1:8; 5:14 c/w EZR 2:2; HAG 2:21; ZEC 4:10. D. Jeshua/Joshua: the high priest (EZR 3:2 c/w HAG 1:1), who was crowned with many crowns and advised of a Royal Priest to come. ZEC 6:11-13 c/w REV 19:12. E. Haggai and Zechariah: contemporary prophets who reignited the project and saw it through. EZR 4:24-5:1; 6:14. F. Artaxerxes and Darius: other Persian kings who enabled the project. EZR 6:14. G. Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel: trouble-making lawyers hired by the snubbed Samaritans. EZR 4:4-7. H. Rehum and Shimshai: lackey secretaries who penned the official complaint to present to King Ahasuerus/Artaxerxes. EZR 4:8. I. Tatnai and Shetharboznai: more trouble-makers who tried to stop the reignited building program. EZR 5:3. V. Consider the spirit of the people who signed on to the project. A. There was willingness to materially support it. EZR 1:6; 2:68-70; 3:5 c/w 2CO 8:1-5. B. There was unity. EZR 3:1 c/w ACT 4:32; PHIL 1:27; 2:2. C. There was a zeal for purity. EZR 2:62; 10:14 c/w 2CO 7:11. D. There was godly response to rebuke. EZR 5:2; 10:15-19 c/w 2CO 7:9. E. There was a joyous zeal for proper order according to the Law and keeping of ordinances. EZR 3:2-5, 10; 6:16-22; 10:3 c/w 1CO 11:2; 1JO 5:3. F. There was humility, confession, fasting and prayer. EZR 8:21-23 c/w ACT 13:1-3. G. They made sure that a good foundation was in place. EZR 3:10 c/w 1CO 3:10-11; EPH 2:20-22; MAT 7:24-27. H. They had no delusions about the relationship of the temple of God to Babylon. c/w REV 18:4. I. Any church which has fallen into disrepair had better have the same spirit if it ever expects to rebuild the way God's temple should be built. J. An individual believer who has fallen into spiritual disrepair had better have the same spirit if he ever expects to rebuild the way God's temple should be built. Chapter 1 1. The Jews at this time had been long absent from their homeland and their condition during captivity was a far cry from their former glory. This was the awful consequence of their sin. A. God had told them that if they turned from Him that they would be dispossessed of their land, their city and land would be desolated, and they would be destroyed, dispersed and dispirited. LEV 26:27-39; DEU 28:37, 63-66; 2CH 36:16-17. B. The Davidic reign was suspended (EZE 21:26-27) and some of its sons made eunuchs for service in the palace of the king of Babylon. 2KI 20:18; DAN 1:6-8. C. Jerusalem's overthrow was so complete that it even astonished the Gentiles. LAM 2:15; 4:12. D. Their beautiful temple was plundered and destroyed. 2CH 36:18-19. E. Their former songs of Zion became mocking entertainment for the Babylonians. Ezra Page 2PSA 137:1-3. 2. When the Jews had been sufficiently punished, God overthrew the Babylonians by the hand of the Medes and Persians. 2CH 36:20-21 c/w DAN 5:30-31; 6:28. A. The conquest of Babylon by Darius who reigned jointly with Cyrus marked the end of the seventy-year period of captivity of which Jeremiah had prophesied. JER 25:11-12; 29:10. B. It is significant that Daniel remained in Babylon after the Medo-Persian conquest and was made second only to Darius in power. DAN 6:1-3. (1) By God's deliverance of Daniel from the lions, Darius was favorably impressed with Daniel's God. DAN 6:25-27. (2) In the first year of Darius, Daniel understood the captivity was about to end. DAN 9:1-2. a. Daniel fasted, prayed and confessed sins as a result. DAN 9:3-20. b. God then sent Gabriel to tell Daniel of the future of his people being completed by the end of seventy weeks (of years) which would begin with “...the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem...” (DAN 9:24-27). (3) Daniel would have been in the perfect position to also show Cyrus that God had named him about 200 years earlier, prophesied of the details of his conquests, and that he should restore the Jews to their land. ISA 44:26-28; 45:1-5, 13. (4) The Jewish historian, Josephus, stated that Cyrus had actually read the prophecy of Isaiah concerning him and concluded that God had given him a charge to send the Jews back to their land to restore Jerusalem and the temple. (Flavius Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, 1:1-2 of the 1957 English version published by The John C. Whiston Company) (5) Thus, by two powerful independent occurrences, the minds of Darius and Cyrus were affected positively towards the Jews and their God. (6) Kings' hearts are truly in the hand of the Lord to be turned according to His will (PRO 21:1) and that by various means. C. The decree of Cyrus was a pivotal moment in the history of the Jews: it marked the end of the seventy years of captivity and the beginning of the seventy weeks of Daniel's prophecy. DAN 9:25. (1) Various historians note that Darius was Cyrus' uncle. Although it was actually Cyrus whose valor and prowess conquered Babylon, the credit and the rule were given to Darius out of respect. (2) This agrees with what the Scriptures had said about Cyrus being the one whom God would raise up to conquer Babylon and set the Jews free. D. The punctuality of God giving his people release at the appointed time should not be overlooked. As the clock of their captivity expired, so did the clock of their liberation begin, similar to what happened in their deliverance from Egypt. EXO 12:40-41. (1) We should be reminded that our legal deliverance from the penalty of sin was according to a specific time table punctually kept. GAL 4:4-5. (2) We should be reminded that our personal deliverance to liberty from the captivity of sin is an appointed day (and we will be held captive until then): the day of repentance. 2CO 6:1-2. (3) The day of our total deliverance “...from the bondage of corruption unto the glorious liberty of the children of God” (ROM 8:21) is likewise a specific appointed day known only to God. ACT 17:31; MAR 13:32-33. 3. The prophecies of Cyrus and their fulfillment are of interest. Ezra Page 3A. Of the man Cyrus, scripture shows him to be a type of Christ: (1) He was God's shepherd. ISA 44:28 c/w JOH 10:11. (2) He would perform all of God's pleasure. ISA 44:28; 48:14-15 c/w JOH 8:29. (3) God loved him. ISA 48:14 c/w JOH 3:35. (4) He was God's anointed. ISA 45:1 c/w LUK 4:18. (5) God held his right hand. ISA 45:1 c/w ACT 2:25. (6) God raised him up in righteousness. ISA 45:13; 41:2 c/w ISA 42:6; 1JO 2:1. (7) God would direct his ways. ISA 45:13 c/w JOH 5:19; ACT 2:23. (8) He would build God's city and temple. ISA 44:28; 45:13 c/w MAT 16:18; EPH 2:19-22. (9) He proclaimed liberty to the captives. EZR 1:3 c/w LUK 4:18. (10) He set God's people free without cost to them. ISA 45:13; 52:3 c/w 1PE 1:18-19. (11) He liberated God's vessels from the house of idols for the building of God's house. EZR 1:7 c/w ROM 9:23-24; 1CO 12:2. B. Ancient and modern historians have noted that Babylon was a seemingly unconquerable city with massive circumferential walls, an internal self-sustaining food supply, the river Euphrates running through the middle of it and secured by walls and huge metal gates. (1) Cyrus' engineers diverted the Euphrates into a flood plain apparently without challenge during a great pagan festival in Babylon. c/w ISA 44:27; JER 51:31-32. (2) Whether through subterfuge or neglect by the city guardians, the metal gates were not an obstacle to Cyrus' forces. ISA 45:1-2. (3) King Belshazzar's loins were loosed. DAN 5:6 c/w ISA 45:2. C. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar who took credit for all his accomplishments (DAN 4:30), Cyrus credited God for his empire. EZR 1:2. 4. Mind that Cyrus' proclamation was so “...that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be FULFILLED” (EZR 1:1) / “accomplished” (2CH 36:22). A. Jeremiah spoke of more than the end of the seventy years' Jewish captivity. B. He also spoke of the gathering and return of the Jews to their historic land. JER 23:3; 32:37; 33:7. C. The Futurist school of eschatology tends to assume that the gathering and return of the Jews to their land did not occur during Cyrus' day but were reserved to a much later time preceding the Second Advent of Christ. (1) “The restoration here foretold is not to be confounded with the return of a feeble remnant of Judah under Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel at the end of the 70 years....The prophecy is yet to be fulfilled...” (C. I. Scofield, Scofield Reference Bible, p. 795, comment on JER 23) (2) Dr. Scofield elsewhere trivializes the efforts of this era as “feeble” in his introductory comment to the Book of Ezra: “The post-captivity books deal with that feeble remnant which alone had a heart for God.” (3) Dr. Scofield actually aligns with the enemies of the faithful Jews who returned in his assessment of the Jews' efforts. NEH 4:2. (4) Mind that what Dr. Scofield said was not then fulfilled, the Holy Spirit says was fulfilled! (5) The Futurist school tends also, in order to support its own time table of prophetic fulfillment, to say that it was not Cyrus' decree that began the seventy weeks of DAN 9:24-27 but rather Artaxerxes' decree many years later, which further trivializes the importance of Cyrus and what came about because of him. (6) And so what if the returners seemed feeble? ZEC 4:6-10.