Category Archives: Ezra

The Big Restoration

4:1 Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the returned exiles were building a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel, 2 they approached Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers’ houses and said to them, “Let us build with you, for we worship your God as you do, and we have been sacrificing to him ever since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assyria who brought us here.” 3 But Zerubbabel, Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of fathers’ houses in Israel said to them, “You have nothing to do with us in building a house to our God; but we alone will build to the Lord, the God of Israel, as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.”  4 Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 5 and bribed counselors against them to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.  6 And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

Seventy years have passed in exile and now the “people of Israel” who have lived through the punishment of exile and years of slowly being assimilated into a foreign culture are finally “home.”  By the good grace of a king, Cyrus, they can rebuild the temple and once again be able to offer the sacrifices of their heart to God in His dedicated house.  Now they’re faced with a new problem; who are the foreigners here?  The “people of the land,” the who have occupied this place for 70 years are accusing them of being the foreigners and disputing the edict of the king that made their homecoming possible. The years of exile have resulted in the loss of their identity as “the people of Israel” in the eyes of their adversaries.  Now they are only “the people of Judah.”  That’s a subtle and discouraging slur.

Some who still remember witnessing the destruction of that first Holy temple have returned with hope that rebuilding this temple will restore God’s glory to all Israel while others born during the time of exile have only heard the stories of that historical glory and have come longing to finally experience God’s glory for themselves in a proper place of worship.  They’re “home” now but discouraged, outnumbered and surrounded by occupiers on all sides.

It’s true, they’ve  returned to rebuild the temple, but the big restoration God has planned for them is more than a new building on this holy site.  It’s purpose is greater than walls that identify their territorial rights as the “people of Israel.”  God has restored these exiles to establish this new temple as a visible sign to the people of the land that the glory of God is made visible through their efforts to reveal their true identity as the “people of  the Lord, the God of Israel.”

A New Beginning

“Scripture Quotes,” [My Cliff Notes] and [ESV] Cross References
Ezra 3:1”When the seventh month came,” [the Jews celebrated the Day of Atonement, the Feasts of Trumpets, it’s called RoshHashanah today, and Tabernacles , now Yom Kippur.  It was ten days known as the Days of Awe when people contemplated their position before God.]
[A] Nehemiah 8:1 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel.

Ezra 3:2 “Then arose Jeshua the son of Jozadak, with his fellow priests, and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel with his kinsmen, and they built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt offerings on it as it is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.” [the altar was placed on its base found where the ruined temple had stood.]
[D] Deuteronomy 12:5 & 6 …you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock

Ezra 3:3 “They set the altar in its place, for fear was on them because of the peoples of the lands, and they offered burnt offerings on it to the Lord,” [they recognized the first priority for their safety, before any act of dedication to God, was to place the altar to provide the people a place of atonement for their sins AND be a visible sign to the faithless people of the area of their intent to rebuild what had been destroyed.]
[F] Ezra 4:4…the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build.

Ezra 3:4 “And they kept the Feast of Booths, as it is written, and offered the daily burnt offerings by number according to the rule, as each day required,” [This feast celebrated how God had brought them out of Egypt long ago.  Being forced to live once again in temporary shelters to celebrate this feast in a desolate place was a reminder of the faithfulness of God in the past and His active presence in their future.]
[H] Zechariah 14:16 Then everyone who survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Booths.

Ezra 3:6 “From the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord. But the foundation of the temple of the Lord was not yet laid.” [The walls of the temple needed a foundation but without the altar in place there, it could never be the house of God.]

Ezra 3:8 “Now in the second year after their coming to the house of God at Jerusalem, in the second month, Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak made a beginning, together with the rest of their kinsmen, the priests and the Levites and all who had come to Jerusalem from the captivity. “
[R] 1 Chronicles 23:24 These were the sons of Levi by their fathers’ houses, the heads of fathers’ houses as they were listed according to the number of the names of the individuals from twenty years old and upward who were to do the work for the service of the house of the Lord.
[S] 1 Chronicles 23:4 “Twenty-four thousand of these,” David said, “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord,

Ezra 3:10 “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments came forward with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord, according to the directions of David king of Israel.” [It was a grand ceremonial dedication of thanks for restoration to their homeland and the opportunity to rebuild the house of God.]
[W] 1 Chronicles 6:31 These are the men whom David put in charge of the service of song in the house of the Lord after the ark rested there

 Ezra 3:11 “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever 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.” [This time standing amid the still desolated site with no ark of the covenant and no walls, they ‘made a beginning together,’ offering the best of what they had to God.]
[X] 1 Chronicles 16:34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

Ezra 3:12 &13 “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.” [Many years had passed. Some who were old enough to have seen the first temple, wept tears of grief over the irreplaceable things of glory that had been lost forgetting the sin that had led to their exile. Others who were young, never knowing anything other than exile and longing for a proper place of worship, rejoiced over the promised glory of God in this “new” foundation.]
Zechariah 8:7 & 8 Thus says the Lord of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

Good News!

1 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, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:  2 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. 3 Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. 4 And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.”  5 Then rose up the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up to rebuild the house of the Lord that is in Jerusalem. 6 And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered. 7 Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. 

My Cliff Notes:
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.  He made a proclamation and also put it in writing:  Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him.  Let him go up to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel.  Then rose up everyone whose spirit God had stirred and all who were about them aided them with all that was freely offered.  Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem.

Interesting things I learned:
God used one pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar, to punish the Jews and another, Cyrus, to return the exiled people to Jerusalem to restore their temple. It’s an odd bit of Good News that the success of Godless men does not affect the Sovereignty of God’s complete authority over all men despite their manipulative intent, despite hostile power grabs and despite distance and time. 

God returned His people to the very place His son must be born and to His Temple in the city where Jesus would come in order to accomplish His plans for the salvation of many.   Thanks to a small footnoteª I read these words, also from Jeremiah 29:10, “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.”  It was curiosity that ‘stirred up’ my spirit to see a new connection between Old Testament history and the only verse I could quote from Jeremiah; the very next one after the one Ezra 1 references. It’s just one additional verse but it confirms the centuries old desire from the heart of God to His people that is still true today.  You probably know it too. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”  That one more verse makes Ezra more than history, it’s Good News for today!