Posted by: Brad Beaman | October 5, 2008

New Beginnings, Ezra chapters 1-2

Ezra is the story of a great revival. God takes a defeated and exiled people and moves dramatically to send them back to Jerusalem. They rebuild their demolished city. They rebuild the destroyed temple of God. At the end of all this rebuilding they experience revival of true religion.

Go back for a moment to 2 Chronicles 7:14
if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

At Solomon’s dedication of the temple he asks God, if people turn back to you, if they are in captivity and they really turn back to you (2 Chronicles 6:25), you will hear and restore them. This was in Solomon’s prayer and Jeremiah’s prophecy and we find recorded here in the book of Ezra became a reality.

The Babylonians destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. They pillaged the holy and precious gold articles from temple. They exiled the Hebrew people and made them live scattered in their kingdom. Jeremiah had prophesied that this invasion would bring about seventy years of captivity.

Ezra begins verse one at the end of these seventy years of captivity. The era of the Babylonian empire comes to a close. The Persians overtake the Babylonians. God used the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar to express wrath on his disobedient people.

Now in God’s grace he will use a Persian King to restore his people and rebuild the temple. The book of Ezra has two main characters Zerubbabel and Ezra. Zerubbabel is a layman and leads the people in rebuilding the temple. He is the grandson of king Jehoiachin.

Ezra is a priest and a religious reformer. He does not even get mentioned in the book of Ezra until chapter 7. God is doing a new thing and an exciting work. But it does not come without difficulties. Rebuilding the temple falls into peril on almost every front.

The Lord is in this rebuilding. When the work gets completely stopped it is Haggia and Zechariah that rise up to get them restarted.

The “Hand of God” is a phrase used repeatedly in the book of Ezra. Unless the Lord builds the house the workman labor in vain we read in Psalm 127:1. But it takes tremendous commitment and perseverance from God’s people for the temple to be rebuilt.

You will find that some of the challenges you face are similar to what God’s people face in building the second temple. The book of Ezra can challenge you to trust God despite the odds and to persevere when there is opposition.

Ezra 1:1
In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing:

The rebuilding is underway because God moves to begin the work. The King of Cyrus made a decree because God moved his heart. The king made this decree in the first year after he conquered Babylon in accordance with Jeremiah’s prophesies. The emphasis in the book of Ezra is that God is sovereign and works through the events of history.
God moved Jeremiah to prophesy

Jeremiah 25:11-12
This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the LORD, “and will make it desolate forever.

God raised up the Persians to defeat the Babylonians in his time and then God moved King Cyrus’s heart. After God’s people had been in captivity 70 years God leads Cyrus’s army to move his troops at his appointed time.

God moved Cyrus to make a decree. It was to be proclaimed far and wide. Heralds go throughout the kingdom claiming aloud the decree. This word to herald the news relates to our word for preach when we “herald” the good news.

Cyrus also put his proclamation in writing and that will prove valuable later. This written decree kept their rebuilding project alive later.

Cyrus states in his decree that the Lord God of heaven had given him political supremacy and had moved his heart to make the decree. He was not one of God’s people but he referred to him as God of heaven because the Jews did.

Ezra 1:2
This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
” ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.

King Cyrus gave God credit for his victory. He was not wholly devoted to God and he also gave Marduk the Babylonian god credit for his victory.

The Babylonians exiled and scattered people they conquered. The Persians did the opposite and restored them to their original land. All people that the Babylonians had exiled where returned not just the Jews. 

The exiles in Babylon longed to return to Jerusalem. Most of the exiles had spent their entire lives singing about returning (Psalm 137). They would weep and remember Jerusalem. If I forget you O Jerusalem may my right hand forget its skill. They would sing may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. It’s a great song, but ironically only a remnant was willing to go back and live. The rest were just stay in Jerusalem and sing about how much they longed to return.

Cyrus did not give all the people a command to return to Jerusalem, but he gave them all the freedom to go. God moved the hearts of a remnant to respond and return. It is amazing that some Jews would stay in Babylon but they had became attached and most had lived their entire lives in their exiled land.  

Ezra 1:5
Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites—everyone whose heart God had moved—prepared to go up and build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem.

God’s commission was received. Many did respond and a remnant was raised up to return and build. Praise God there were those with the discernment to seize the opportunity that lay before them to return and rebuild the temple. The new beginnings were under way.

It is the few that will make things happen. Those who will do what it takes and make sacrificial commitments to accomplish God’s will. There are sixty-two verses that list those who returned. These are not wasted verses. They show the importance of the family heritage and the importance of the individual to God. They record the names of the courageous remnant who would return and build even if it were more comfortable to stay.

Ezra 2:68-69
When they arrived at the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, some of the heads of the families gave freewill offerings toward the rebuilding of the house of God on its site. 69 According to their ability they gave to the treasury for this work 61,000 drachmas of gold, 5,000 minas of silver and 100 priestly garments.

How as the Temple building financed? There were four ways the Temple was financed.

1. Kings treasury.
God is the director of all finances. They were willing to accept the kings help even though he did not totally understand his religious convictions.

2. God’s supernatural means.
The temple articles were restored after 70 years.

3. Those who stayed back (Ezra 1:4).
They did not go and help rebuild but they did give.

4. Those who were stirred by God to return and build.
They gave according to their ability (Ezra 1:69).

It was the not an equal gift but an equal sacrifice idea. This is consistent with the New Testament instructions on giving.

1 Corinthians 16:2
Set aside money in keeping with your income.

2 Corinthians 8:3
The grace Macedonian churches gave beyond their ability. Extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.

We are reminded here and over and over again that God’s moving hand works through history. That God uses people who are willing to be used by him. It is a priviledge to give generous support financially to the work of God.

Here is the making of a new beginning. The “together we build” program for the second temple is underway. These verses challenge each of us to a call of obedience. Are you a part of what God is doing? Don’t miss being part of it! Be the pioneer who will go back and build.

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Thank you so much for that wee study!
    Truly touched my soul and all praise be to God for the blessing!

    Keep up the good work 🙂
    xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: