Posted by: Brad Beaman | December 7, 2008

On with God’s work Ezra 5:1-17

You may remember the dramatic scene from the movie Chariots of Fire. It is when Eric Liddell Falls in a race, gets up and goes on to win the race. Now that is an inspiration.

Explore the land
What about us as Christians? Do we stumble? Do we get tripped up and fall down? Of course we do. But we don’t lay there. We don’t give up. Set backs come to individuals and to a body of believers. But the response isn’t self pity. The response is the same we saw demonstrated by Eric Liddell. We get ourselves back on the track and start running again, the race of endurance.

When we have setbacks we need to hear and cherish the voices that cry out, get on with God’s work. What God’s people need in this situation is the voice of encouragement.

For a while everything was going great for God’s people. The Seventy years of captivity ended. God moves the heart of King Cyrus and sends Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild. A remnant responds. The work begins an altar is built and the foundation is laid.

Then after running well the faithful get tripped up. The Samaritans want to join the leaders in rebuilding. Because they worship other gods Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the others refuse their offer.

Upon this rejection they set out to foil the work and they accomplish that. For sixteen years the temple lay uncompleted. Those who had completed heroic accomplishments now shift their focus from God’s house to their own needs. It doesn’t take much to get distracted.

What the need now is God’s messenger to get their attention back on God’s work. God raised up just the right men to do it, Haggia and Zecheriah. We never drift into God’s called activity. If we drift it is to our own needs. To come back to God’s will is going to take a definite commitment and focus. That is what happened. The leaders were revived and God’s purpose was renewed.

Prophets revive the work.
Ezra 5:1-2

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Jeshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.

Verse 1 tells us the prophets were on the scene and they prophesied in God’s name. The people needed God’s word. When you study the books of Haggia or Zecheriah you need to keep the whole context of the Ezra story in mind. The return of the exiles, the altar rebuilt, the foundation laid and then a sixteen year period when the work stopped.

Haggia criticized them for putting the attention on their own houses and leaving God’s house neglected. These prophets, men of God, urged the people to get on with God’s work. And they succeeded. There was a new burst of energy. They renewed their efforts to rebuild the temple. The leaders Zerubbabel and Joshua set back to work.

When their enemies tried to stop them they never got an official decree from any of the kings Cyrus, Artaxerxes or Darius. The letter of opposition referred to in Ezra 4:21 is speaking of was never officially issued. The leaders were simply too cautious. They didn’t trust God to overcome the obstacles.

Haggia described their situation that resulted from putting their attention on their own needs and not of God’s:
• They were planting much and harvesting little.
• They eat and never get enough.
• Drink but never get satisfied.
• Make wages to put in purses with holes.

Diverting their attention from God’s work meant less for them not more. If you ever thought there must be a hole in my pocket or my purse maybe there is if you have diverted attention form God’s work to your own needs.

Haggia told them they could not be satisfied because they were concerned about themselves. They were ignoring God’s Work.

It is ironic that if they put the focus off their needs and on God’s work their needs would be taken care of and they would be satisfied. When you put the emphasis on self and ignore God’s work you will not be satisfied. God’s plan runs opposite what the natural mind says.

God’s Eye is watching them.

Ezra 5:3-5
At that time Tattenai, governor of Trans-Euphrates, and Shethar-Bozenai and their associates went to them and asked, “Who authorized you to rebuild this temple and restore this structure?” 4 They also asked, “What are the names of the men constructing this building?” 5 But the eye of their God was watching over the elders of the Jews, and they were not stopped until a report could go to Darius and his written reply be received.

What God set in motion was protected with God’s care. Vs 5 the eye of God was watching them. What a comfort to know that God who began a work in you is watching you and will carry that work on to completion until the day of Christ.

They went on with the work and the officials ask them. What’s going on here? Who is in charge here?

It had been eighteen years since the decree to rebuild the temple. The work had been inactive for sixteen years. The decree was forgotten by all but the Jews.

There was much revolt in the Persian Empire about this time.

Vs 8 refer to their concerns about them using large stones. Is what you are building really a temple? They thought it looked more like a fortress than a temple. This time they didn’t stop the work. They boldly kept going and sent an appeal to the king and kept on with God’s work assuming that God’s work would move to completion.

Report to the King

The governor writes a letter to the King this work is being carried on with diligence and making rapid progress. The leaders were questioned. The Jews claimed they were justified politically and religiously.

The governor did not stop them because they had such conviction, but he did check out their story. They say Cyrus gave them permission.

Israel gave a strong testimony.

Ezra 5:11
“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished.

Cyrus told us to rebuild the house they said. Search your archives and find the decree. Let the King send us a reply.

It is a blessing when God’s people learn from their failures. When they fell down they got back up. They can gain new faith to carry out God’s will.

Have you made a mistake? Have you stumbled? Have you given up, fallen down?

Have you let your attention move from God’s work to your own interests? God’s word challenged Israel in a time of need. There followed a renewed commitment.

We need encouragers like Haggia and Zecharia to inspire Christians who fall down and never get back up. Maybe today you need the message of encouragement. Get on with God’s work!


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