Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezra & Haggai - "Rebuilding the Temple"|
Israel were swept into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. It appeared the end of the nation, but then “the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia ” (2 Chron 36:22 & Ezra 1:1) and suddenly, change! So who was Cyrus and who were the following kings of Babylon ? We'll see their dates in the following table:
* 1 In the references above only Ezra has been referred to but additional references will be found in 2 Chronicles and in Daniel
* 2 see 2 Chron 36:15-
* 3 a number of these lesser known Babylonians have no Biblical reference point. For Belshazzar see also Dan 5
* 4 see also 2 Chron 36:22 / Dan 1:21, 6:28
* 5 see also Dan 5:31
* 6 In chapter 4 note that 4:6-23 is an insert giving an example of how later on , they also received opposition in respect of rebuilding the walls of the city (4:12,13) which is why the kings there come out of sequence in the narrative.
MAIN INTRODUCTION TO EZRA
We have observed in the Historical Introduction that Ezra appears in Israel's history at the time of Israel 's restoration after the Exile. In this context it is a highly significant book, telling how the Jews were released to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple that had been burnt to the ground.
Significance of the Temple
The Temple was the place of meeting with God at the heart of Jerusalem. It was almost a symbol of the presence of God and its absence during the seventy years of exile emphasised the absence of God from Israel . We should note it was God who moved Cyrus to send the people back to rebuild the temple, although the glory of God never again filled it as it had done when Solomon had finished the first temple (1 Kings 8:10,11). God was there, but at a distance, it seems.
The Content of Ezra
In these chapters we will learn lessons about priorities, problems, perseverance and purification, an exciting book!
PART 1: “The Return”
In this first part we will see how it was that the restoration came about, a most amazing change-about in history that equals the fall of the Soviet regime in the last decade of the twentieth century.
We'll also see who went back to Jerusalem and the openness of their hearts as they provided for the rebuilding of the temple. This was an amazing move of God, simply to establish a central focal for worship for Israel, to remind them that God was to be in their midst, for they were a special people to reveal Him to the rest of the earth.
Chapter: Ezra 1
Passage: Ezra 1:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. How long had Cyrus been king at this point? v.1a
2. Why did he make a proclamation? v.1b
3. What did he say God required of him? v.2
4. What did he say God's people could do? v.3
5. Who was to provide for this? v.4
6. Who prepared to go? v.5
2. What two ways is God seen to be moving in this passage?
3. Find a map and see how far it is from Babylon to Jerusalem
In these amazing few verses we see the Lord moving in two different ways. First of all we see him moving in the heart of a non-Jewish king. We don't know how it was that God moved on Cyrus's heart. Possibly it was through Daniel's influence (see Dan 6:28 ), possibly he had the Isaiah prophecy (Isa 44 & 45) brought to him. Perhaps it was just that God put thoughts into Cyrus's mind. What ever it was, he has it in mind to let the Jews return to Jerusalem , specifically to rebuild the Temple .
Second, we see the Lord moving the hearts of the Jews in Babylon to WANT to return. We shouldn't assume they would naturally want to go because they had really settled in Babylon and many of them would have actually been born there and possibly felt secure there. No, this is a move of God!
So we have here a significant sovereign move of God that prompted people (note, not forced people) to move in such a way that His long-term plans would be fulfilled, and in many ways it was against what was natural for those people to do. The Lord still had plans for the nation of Israel , into which His Son would come, so He wants it reconstituted in the Promised Land.
1. God can turn the hearts of the most proud and stubborn.
2. God works on a long-term basis.
Chapter: Ezra 1/2
Passage: Ezra 1:6-11 / 2:1,64-70
A. Find Out:
1. Who contributed silver, gold and goods? v.6
2. What did Cyrus contribute? v.7
3. How many articles of gold & silver went? v.11
4. How many people returned? v.64
5. How many singers did they have? v.65
6. Who gave what when they got to Jerusalem ? v.68,69
3. Why do you think they specifically had singers?
First of all we see the generous giving to the Israelites by their neighbours in Babylon . The reason for their giving so generously may have been: i) Cyrus told them to give v.4, ii) the Lord may have prompted them, iii) they may have been glad that these were going and not them.
Second, we see all the Temple articles of silver and gold that Cyrus gives them to take back. The leaders must have had a sense of awe as they realise i) the enormous value they have to take with them ii) that these belong to God and are the originals from the temple that was sacked seventy years before. When people and kings give generously you know that this MUST be a mighty work of God.
Finally we see the large number of people returning. No small group this! This is enough for a reasonable size town. Why the Singers? They are obviously going to do a lot of praising the Lord as they rebuild the temple and re-establish temple worship. Note that when they got back to Israel they didn't just settle in Jerusalem , they each went back to their old towns. Although seventy years have passed they still know their personal history and know where their homes are, and it is to there that they each go. What must they have felt!
1. When people give financially it is a clear sign of God's activity.
2. When God promises He will restore His people, He will do it!
Chapter: Ezra 3
Passage: Ezra 3:1-6
A. Find Out:
1. When did they gather in Jerusalem ? v.1
2. Who were the two main leaders? v.2
3. Why did they build the altar? v.2,3
4. Then what did they celebrate? v.4
5. What did they then establish? v.5
6. What hadn't been done yet? v.6
1. What did offering sacrifices represent? i.e. why did they do it?
2. What are WE to offer to God? Look up Rom 12:2 and Heb 13:25
We observe today the first thing the Jews did after they settled in before they started building the temple - they offered sacrifices to God. Even before they started rebuilding the temple itself, they re-established the altar, the very heart of worship, a place of offering
Offering sacrifices was first a sign of offering something to God. In a day when we focus so much on getting, we need to observe again the wonder of giving to God unreservedly. When a sacrifice was brought, the person bringing it gave up all claim to it and it was either totally destroyed or partially destroyed and the rest given to the priests to eat. Only occasionally did the offeror partake of it.
Sacrifices were also a means of expressing either a) the need for forgiveness of sins or b) the need for fellowship with God. The offeror publicly declared his need for forgiveness and his need for a relationship with God
Such things must come before any concern for "doing things". God is more concerned that we have a right, living relationship with him than about us doing lots of things. The doing comes out of the loving. These Jews showed their love for God before their love for his Temple . They had their priorities right! Do we?
1. Giving to God is at the heart of the Christian faith.
Chapter: Ezra 3
Passage: Ezra 3:7-13
A. Find Out:
1. How were the people of Tyre & Sidon to help? v.7
2. Who were appointed supervisors? v.8
3. Who praised the Lord as the work started? v.10
4. How did the people respond? v.11
5. What two reactions were prompted? v.12
6. What sort of situation was it? v.13
1. How would you summarise the approach to building as seen in v.7-9
2. What do v.10-11a show us about their approach to the building work?
3. How did the people feel about it all?
The laying of the foundation of a building is always an exciting time - the first sign of the building coming into being. So it was with the Temple being rebuilt in Jerusalem.
First comes the planning: with the authority of King Cyrus they get materials sent from Tyre & Sidon and make sure there is responsible supervision. The Levites were the ones who had been called to serve in the temple previously, before its destruction, so they will oversee the work from the outset.
Second, they made sure that God was in the forefront of their thinking all the time they built, so they appointed men to continually praise the Lord in song. This was not just to be a building project; it was to be something to the glory of God!
Third, we see what an emotional scene it is - shouts and tears of joy indicate how important the rebuilding of this dwelling place of God was to them. They wanted this sign of God's presence in their midst so much! Imagine the scene: old men who had been children when the temple was destroyed, have waited years in exile, and now their dreams come true, the temple is being rebuilt. No wonder they weep with joy. Others shout with joy at the shear wonder of what is happening. What had seemed impossible for so many years was coming true!
1. We too, need to keep the Lord in the centre of our work. Do we?
2. It is right to be emotional over good things from God. Are we?
RECAP - "Return & Rebuilding" - Ezra 1-3
In this first group of 4 studies we have seen :
- Cyrus proclaiming about the temple at Jerusalem (1:1-5)
- The exiles prepare to return to rebuild (1:5-8)
- The exiles returning (2:1,64-70)
- The altar rebuilt & sacrifices offered again (3:1-6)
- The work on the temple restarted (3:7-9)
- Praise & worship offered, together with tears ( 3:10 -13)
The impact of these chapters is incredible. It is really almost too much to take in. For about seventy years the temple in Jerusalem has been in ruins and the people have been in exile. Suddenly, at the instigation of this pagan, Gentile king, Cyrus, a proclamation is made that the temple is to be rebuilt. This is no half-hearted whim; he releases the exiles to go back and rebuild it, and even more, he takes out of his treasury all the temple articles that had been taken decades before. Then some 43,000 people return to Jerusalem as part of this expeditionary force to rebuild the temple.
The first thing that happens is the rebuilding of the altar and the restart of sacrificial offerings. These indicated the re-establishing of worship and relationship with the Lord. Once that has been started the building can begin. Note the order: relationship THEN rebuilding.
1. God is sovereign and He can move unbelievers as He wills.
2. Giving to God is a sign of freedom and relationship.
3. Relationship is more important than service.
Thank the Lord that in the midst of the chaos of a fallen world He is sovereign Lord. Ask Him to help you keep your priorities right – your relationship with Him before all else.
PART 2 : "Countering Opposition"
In this next Part we will see that seeking to work out the will of God does not come without opposition. Watch for the various forms of it in these coming chapters.