Ezra (Part 4)

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. Ezra Page 45. “Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites...” (v. 5). A. Ezra's account focuses on the return of the remnant of Judah and Benjamin from Babylon, the other ten tribes having previously been overtaken, dispersed and mongrelized by the Assyrian empire. 2KI 17:6, 24. B. The first mention of those who rose up to go was the leadership of the people. (1) Successful temple building very much depends upon good leadership. Gospel ministers should be forward in good teaching, cause and example. 1TI 1:3; 4:12, 16; 1TH 2:5-12. (2) “...with all them whose spirit God had raised...” (v. 5). Good leadership is only half the story. Good “followship” is also needed. 1CO 11:1; PHIL 3:17; HEB 13:7. 6. The house of God was furnished with great and lesser vessels of gold and silver. vs. 7-11. A. The gospel church likewise has great and lesser vessels, all of which are necessary. 1CO 12:14-25. (1) Some may have special gifts and others have them not. 1CO 12:28-31. (2) Some may be strong and others may be weak. ROM 14:1; 15:1. (3) Some may be highly esteemed and others least esteemed. 1CO 6:4; 1TH 5:12-13. (4) Some may have wealth but others have it not. Partiality is to be shown to neither. 1TI 5:20-21; 6:17-18; JAM 2:1-5; LEV 19:15. B. Both the gospel church and the individual believer must discern the durable precious vessels from the transient unprofitable vessels and dispense with the latter. 1CO 3:12-15; 2TI 2:20-21. (1) Cyrus did not send back vessels from idols' temples, only those of God's house. (2) The Jews' captivity was meant to purge from them the dishonorable vessels of sin and idolatry. (3) True revival/rebuilding is often hampered by an unwillingness to separate fully from sinful living and idolatrous customs. 2CO 6:14-18. Chapter 2. 1. This chapter sets forth an enumeration of the returning men of Israel. v. 2. A. It corresponds with NEH 7 and is a mix of names of families and cities. B. There are differences in the detailed numberings of the two accounts but both agree that the total was 42360 plus 7337 servants. EZR 2:64-65 c/w NEH 7:66-67. C. Some have noted that there are 1765 persons in NEH 7 not mentioned in EZR 2 and there are 494 persons in EZR 2 not mentioned in NEH 7. If the surplus from NEH 7 is added to the detailed tally of EZR 2 and the surplus from EZR 2 is added to the detailed tally of NEH 7, the totals of the two accounts are exactly equal. D. He Who tells the number of the stars and calls them by name (PSA 147:4) also knows them that are His (2TI 2:19), though they be a multitude that no man can number. REV 7:9. E. There is nothing wrong with recording the number of the church members. ACT 1:15. 2. These are called, “...the children of the province...” (v. 1). c/w EZR 5:8. A. province: An administrative division of a country or state... (1) Judah had once been a strong, independent, autonomous state; now it was a province of another state. (2) This is what sin does to nations. PRO 14:34. B. The returners went up “...every one unto his city” (v. 1). This may refer to their historic dwelling-places or to cities assigned to them by lot. NEH 11:1. Ezra Page 5(1) A successful building program recognizes the importance of “each to his own.” (2) Paul followed this principle in evangelism. 2CO 10:13-18. (3) Consider these other applications of the same principle: a. Piety begins at home. 1TI 5:4, 8. b. “Every tree is known by his own fruit...” (LUK 6:44). c. Every man must prove his own work and bear his own burden. GAL 6:4-5. d. Every able man must do his own business and eat his own bread. 1TH 4:11; 2TH 3:12. e. Bishops and deacons must rule their own houses well. 1TI 3:4-5, 12. f. Every man is to work out his own salvation. PHIL 2:12. g. The churches in Asia were responsible for their own houses. REV 2-3. h. Church membership is local. 3. The first names mentioned in v. 2 are Zerubbabel (their secular leader) and Jeshua (their high priest). God essentially provided a new Moses and Aaron for the exodus from Babylon. A. Believers today need such a combination if they are to successfully build. B. God has provided such in Jesus Christ Who is both King and Priest. HEB 6:20-7:1. (1) By King Jesus, believers reign in life through righteousness. ROM 5:21. (2) By High Priest Jesus, believers have a propitiation and an access to the throne of grace. 1JO 2:1-2; HEB 4:15-16. (3) By His royal authority and His blood, believers prevail. REV 12:10-11. 4. Here are observations about a few names in this chapter. A. Adonikam. v. 13. (1) His name means, “high lord.” (2) The number of his children is 666, the number of the beast which is the number of a man. B. Bethlehem. v. 21. (1) They numbered only 123 men. (2) But Bethlehem is a good example of why we ought not to “...make ourselves of the number...” (2CO 10:12). MIC 5:2. C. Anathoth. v. 23. (1) This was the prophet Jeremiah's hometown. JER 1:1. (2) Anathoth's small number (128) may well be owing to their persecution of Jeremiah. JER 11:21-23. 5. Vs. 36-63 enumerate the households of the priests and Levites. A. Some could not prove their ancestry. vs. 59-62. B. One of the families of priests had changed their name. v. 61. (1) Barzillai was a great man in David's day. 2SAM 19:31-39; 1KI 2:7. (2) For some reason, one ancestral priest had abandoned his own Aaronic registry and took the name of Barzillai. (3) That priest's actions were not much different than Esau's selling of his birthright which was a despising of his birthright. GEN 25:29-34. (4) Believers are straitly warned about the folly of Esau, lest they should deem their inheritance in Christ a thing of little value. HEB 10:35; 12:15-17. C. Genealogies were carefully kept (1CH 9:1) and those whose parentage could not be shown were denied or stripped of what they thought was theirs. (1) Jesus Christ's genealogy is a complete one all the way from Adam that survives. (2) Genealogies are of no importance in the N.T. (1TI 1:4; TIT 3:9) but one must show his spiritual pedigree to have a right to God's house. ACT 8:35-38; 2:41. Ezra Page 66. Vs. 64-67. A. Among those who came up to Jerusalem were 200 singing men and women. (1) These were likely lamenters. 2CH 35:25 c/w JER 50:4. (2) The building of God's house will have its share of lamenting, but not without hope. ACT 8:2 c/w 1TH 4:13; JOH 16:20. (3) Weeping has its place in God's program for the church and our individual lives. PHIL 3:18; JAM 4:9; ECC 7:2-4. B. The Spirit even recorded the number of their livestock that attended their campaign. (1) The church will have its share of natural brute beasts. 2PE 2:12; 1CO 15:32. (2) Believers must ever be on guard against the beast within. PSA 73:22; 32:9; JAM 3:7-8. (3) Mind that these were service animals that were assets of their estates. God still takes note of the material things that we bring to His house. MAR 12:41-44; 14:9; ACT 5:1-3; 2CO 9:6 c/w LUK 16:10-11. 7. Vs. 68-70. A. “...they came to the house of the LORD...” yet it was in ruins. (1) True hearts delight even in the dust of Zion. PSA 102:14. (2) Mind that the ruins still had the identity of the house of the LORD. a. Caution should therefore be a byword when considering that an unruly church is no church at all. REV 2-3. b. Similar caution should be exercised when looking at a person whose life or faith is in ruins (including one's own). LUK 13:6-9; 2TI 2:17-19; 2CH 33:13; PSA 42:5. B. Some offered freely. Here were donors that weren't looking for kickbacks! Blessed are those who freely give. MAT 10:8; 1TI 6:17-19; 1TH 2:5-6 ct/w TIT 1:11. C. They “...gave after their ability...” (v. 69) and this is ever God's rule. DEU 16:17; MAR 14:8; ACT 11:29; 2CO 8:12. Chapter 3 1. The people gathered together on the seventh month (v. 1), which happened to be the same month in which Solomon completed the first temple. 2CH 7:10-11. A. The seventh month was noted for important services and feasts in Israel. LEV 16:29; 23:24, 34, 39; 25:9. B. Thus, a new chapter in God's temple program opened at the time of an important season of worship. JOH 2:19; 19:14 c/w ACT 2:1-4. 2. They “...gathered themselves together as one man...” A. Here were unity and cooperation, necessary elements of successful building. B. All Persons of the Godhead were united in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. ROM 6:4; 8:11; JOH 10:18. C. A blessed gospel church is a united, cooperative assembly with a common vision. PHIL 1:27 c/w EPH 4:15-16; 2:19-22. D. The constituent parts of our persons must be likewise if we are to be built up in Christian faith and character. Things that belong together must be together and work together. (1) Godly sorrow works true repentance. 2CO 7:10. (2) Faith must have works. JAM 2:14-26. (3) Knowledge must govern emotion. PRO 28:26; 23:19. (4) Will must meet with action. ISA 1:19; 2CO 8:11. Ezra Page 7(5) Outward cleansing must have inward cleansing. MAT 23:25-26; 5:27-28. (6) Outward duty must come from inward desire. ROM 6:17. (7) Conduct must accord with creed. ROM 2:21-23. 3. They were intent on doing “...as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God” (v. 2). Conformity to the word is the key to successful rebuilding. Even the rebuilding of the temple of Christ's body was that “...he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1CO 15:3). 4. The first thing that they tended to was the setting up of the altar for sacrifice. vs. 2-3. A. Noah likewise first built an altar before rebuilding the world. GEN 8:20. B. Sin must be dealt with before God blesses building. (1) Christ promised, “...I will build my church...” (MAT 16:18). (2) Before the Holy Ghost came upon the N.T. church (ACT 2), Christ had already been made both altar and sacrifice. HEB 13:10-12. (3) Before a church can be started or a Christian life built, the sacrifice of personal sin and interests through repentance must occur. ACT 2:38-39. (4) When things are done righteously, God will build the house. If not, the builders labor in vain. PSA 127:1. C. That they designed to make their sacrifices without even having a temple (v. 6) is instructive. (1) A believer may not yet have a church in his locale, yet he would do well to make his spiritual sacrifices of praise, thanksgiving and alms, etc. (HEB 13:15-16) and identify with a true church to the best of his ability. (2) Circumstances may bar someone from ministering in God's house (e.g. DEU 23:1), in which case he would do well to be a spiritual Gibeonite (JOS 9:27) or a spiritual Nethinim (temple slave assigned to the Levites and priests). EZR 8:20. 5. They laid the foundation of God's house with praise and thanksgiving. v. 11 c/w PSA 126:1-2. A. There was, however, a mixture of joy and weeping. vs. 12-13. B. “This mixture of sorrow and joy here is a representation of this world. Some are bathing in rivers of joy, while others are drowned in floods of tears. In heaven all are singing, and none sighing; in hell all are weeping and wailing, and none rejoicing; but here on earth we can scarcely discern the shouts of joy from the noise of the weeping. Let us learn to rejoice with those that do rejoice and weep with those that weep, and ourselves to rejoice as though we rejoiced not, and weep as though we wept not.” (Matthew Henry) C. Their prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, though, in time gave the godly a reason for unalloyed rejoicing. HAG 2:7-9 c/w ZEC 2:10-11. (1) God here promised that He would come and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. (2) There was already a sense in which He had returned to dwell there (ZEC 1:16; 8:3) but He speaks here of a future coming and dwelling. (3) Zechariah conspicuously prophesied of Christ in other places. ZEC 3:8-9; 6:12-13; 12:10; 13:6-7. (4) Every other place where the phrase, “Lo, I come...” appears in Scripture is seen to refer to a personal appearance amongst men by God Himself. EXO 19:9; PSA 40:7 c/w HEB 10:5-9. (5) Compare “...I will dwell in the midst of thee...” with JOH 1:1, 14. (6) Many nations were joined unto the Lord in the day of Messiah's power (PSA 110:3). ACT 2:5-6, 38-41, 47; 5:14; 11:24; 10:35; 15:14-17. (7) They would be His people. ROM 9:25-26. (8) This gathering in of Gentiles was the proof to Israel that Messiah had come. (9) This was great cause to “Sing and rejoice...” (ZEC 2:10).

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