Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Ezra & Haggai - "Rebuilding the Temple"|
Special Note : Chronology of this Part of Scripture
Because the compiler of the book of Ezra uses illustrations out of historical context it is important for us to note the times referred to in these Scriptures that we are about to read.
Any confusion you may have would probably come from a not very careful reading of Ezra 4:6-23. Previously the compiler had just spoken of the opposition the Jews received to the rebuilding of the temple through the reigns of 3 kings. Then in Ezra 4:4-23 he inserts a record he has of the same thing happening in later years when the city itself was being rebuilt, which didn't happen for quite some time.
We thus need to distinguish between the opposition received to rebuilding the temple and then later to the rebuilding of the city . So, when we come to that passage you may want to check back here to clarify the dates in your mind.
Chapter: Ezra 4
Passage: Ezra 4:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. Who heard about the building work? v.1
2. What did they first ask? v.2
3. What did the leaders reply? v.3a,b
4. On whose authority did they rely? v.3c
5. What two things did their enemies try to do then? v.4
6. How persistent were they? v.5
2. How do the Jews describe whose Temple it is?
3. How do fear and discouragement so often go hand in hand?
We now start seeing some of the strategies of the enemy when he hears that the Jews are seeking to re-establish the dwelling place of God in their midst. First we see him come in APPARENT FRIENDSHIP (just like Satan came to Eve) making friendly helpful noises. Fortunately the Jews are wise to this and they know that these other people haven't got THE God as their God. They worship idols, not Jehovah, so it's "No thanks" politely but firmly. In 2 Cor 11:14 the apostle Paul describes Satan as coming disguised as an angel of light. There are times when they enemy tries to deceive us into allowing him to share in our activities by appearing nice.
Second, we see the enemy coming out into the open with his intentions - to discourage and make afraid so the work won't go ahead. In 1 Pet 5:8 the apostle Peter refers to Satan coming as a roaring lion, one who comes blatantly to cause fear and to destroy.
Whenever WE, as God's people try to go on with the work of God, Satan comes and tries to discourage us and put us off. Look up Jas 4:7 and remember it as God's promise to you.
Note in passing here that this refers to opposition to the temple rebuilding lasting through the reigns of three kings.
1. Satan uses different tactics to put us off serving God.
2. We are to resist him, holding firm in our faith.
Chapter: Ezra 4
Passage: Ezra 4:6-16
A. Find Out:
1. What did they bring against the Jews? v.6
2. How did they do it? v.7
3. Who actually were they? v.9,10
4. Where were they living? v.10
5. What did they say the Jews were doing? v.12
6. What did they say would happen? v.13,16
7. How else did they speak against the Jews? v.15
2. In what two ways were they appealing to the king?
3. Look up Rev 12:10 for a description there of Satan.
We now see the further plotting of the enemies of the people of God who, after they have tried discouraging the rebuilding of the Temple , went on to try to stop the later rebuilding of the city itself. There they appealed to the king to try to get him to act against the Jews.
We see first of all that they are exiles from many different places who, perhaps, are jealous that the Jews are being allowed back to their homeland while they are still in a foreign land. It had been the practice of conquering kings to take the people from their land and transport them and put them in a foreign land; in that way they would be submissive to their new rulers, no longer feeling secure at home.
Next we observe they are coming in the reign of a later king to complain about the city rebuilding (v.12). Finally we see they appeal to the king on the basis that he will lose money and power if he doesn't act. Loss of revenue and power is always something the worldly man will respond to!
Satan is called our accuser and he will seek to come against us and condemn us wrongly or show us in a bad light. We need to be sure of who we are and rely on Jesus to be our defender, and not be put off.
1. Satan will appeal to man's lower nature to rise against God's people.
Chapter: Ezra 4
Passage: Ezra 4:17-24
A. Find Out:
1. What had the king first done with their letter? v.18
2. Then what had he done? 19
3. What had he found? v.19,20
4. What did he then instruct? v.21 (be careful)
5. What did the enemy do? v.23
6. How long did that situation continue? v.24
1. Think back. Why is what the king found only half the truth?
3. Why do you think they didn't?
We saw above how enemies of Israel sought to pervert the truth and the king now unquestioningly accepts what he is told and when he checks the records he only gets half the story, that Jerusalem HAS been a problem in the past, so he sends the order to stop work.
The point the writer makes is that like the later Jews, the present ones under pressure at this point simply accept and submit to the opposition and give up the work. We'll see soon what they then did, but for the moment they just give up. They could have prayed and sought God's help or written to the king to remind him it was by Cyrus's command they were building the Temple, but they just gave up. Perhaps that was the easiest thing to do, because the work was hard and the constant opposition from the enemy got them down, but it wasn't the right thing. Did they forget that what they were doing was because God had brought it about?
When the enemy rises against us, in whatever way, and looks like he is all-powerful in the situation, the temptation is simply to give up, yet our Jesus is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, HE is the one who is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:2) and it is to him that we should immediately appeal! May it be so!
1. The enemy sometimes looks all-powerful, but he isn't!
2. Jesus is the Lord over ALL the earth! Remember it!
Chapter: Ezra 5 / Hag 1
Passage: Ezra 5:1-2 / Haggai 1:1-15
A. Find Out:
1. Who prophesied to whom? v.1
2. What had the people said? Hag 1:2
3. What had they been doing? v.4,6
4. With what results? v.6,9a
5. What was the reason? v.9b,10
6. What was their response? v.12
2. What had God felt about that?
We've gone to Haggai to catch the full import of what was happening. The work is at a standstill, so the Lord speaks through his prophet. He makes various things clear.
First, that the people have settled down, and are looking after themselves and don't give any thought to the temple any longer. They seem almost glad to have accepted the opposition so they can look after themselves.
Second, everything they do comes to nothing. They are farming but get little produce, they earn money but never have enough, they look to their well-being but are never satisfied
Third, the reason for this is that God is frustrating their activities. They ought to be rebuilding the Temple and because they are not, God is with-holding His blessing. We sometimes assume that a God of love will just keep on blessing despite our sin. We are mistaken!
The people are stirred by the prophetic word and respond to it and the building work continues again. Prophecy has that power to release faith. Do we allow it in our churches? Do we encourage it? If not it is perhaps no wonder our faith levels are often so low.
1. Me first, God second, results in my poverty.
2. God first, me second, results in my blessing.
Chapter: Ezra 5
Passage: Ezra 5:1-5
A. Find Out:
1. Who were encouraging the leaders? v.1,2c
2. Who went and questioned the leaders? v.3
3. What did they first ask? v.3
4. What did they then ask? v.4
5. Why didn't the leaders stop working? v.5
2. Why would taking their names be threatening?
We have noted again, first of all, that the rebuilding continues because the prophets of God clearly bring God's word to the builders and this inspires them to press on with the work again. The prophetic now-word released faith and confidence in them for the work.
Next we saw in this reading, the Governor of the area coming to see what they are doing. Obviously he hadn't been informed that Cyrus had released them. When he questions them he accurately notes what they are doing and doesn't accuse them of rebuilding Jerusalem . We should also note that his questions are less hostile than those that had come previously.
However, they nevertheless could have left the Jews feeling afraid. This attack on the rebuilding is a challenge by authority. Authority asks, who authorised you? Do you remember Eve was challenged with “Did God say?” (Gen 3:1). Jesus was challenged with “IF you are the Son of God” (Mt 4:3). The world says to us, “Who says?”. However the word of God has so touched them that they are not put off by this questioning. We too, need to be sure of God's word so that we are sure who we are when our authority is challenged.
1. Satan will challenge our authority. We are children of God (1 Jn 3:1)
2. We need, like Jesus, to be able to say, “it is written” (Mt 4:4)
Chapter: Ezra 5
Passage: Ezra 5:6-17
A. Find Out:
1. How does the governor describe the Lord? v.8
2. Who had the people told him they were? v.11
3. Why did they say the Temple had been destroyed? v.12
4. What had Cyrus done? v.13
5. What did the Governor ask the king to do? v.17
2. How is that seen in the letter?
3. Why do you think he writes like this?
The letter from the Governor of the area to the king in Babylon is not what we might have expected. It is very open and honest and unbiased.
He first of all reports exactly what has been done to the Temple . He then reports what the builders have told him i.e.
He then simply ask the king to check if this is all true and tell him what he should do. It is a remarkable letter in its lack of opposition to the Jews. It is quite different from the letter later sent complaining about the city walls being rebuilt. Why? Well, first of all, it is simply a Governor exercising his duty. Second, there are indications that this man respects the Lord. Third, it comes after the prophets have prophesied. The Lord has spoken His will and now enables His people to do it.
It challenges us, by its integrity, to be honest and open in the same way in respect of those that we are not naturally friendly with, to not distort the truth about them, but be completely righteous towards them.
A. Find Out:
1. What was found by the king's search? v.2
2. What had Cyrus actually specified? v.3,4
3. What did Darius first tell the Governor to do? v.6,7
4. What did he then instruct? v.8-10
5. How did he back this up? v.11
6. And what curse did he declare? v.12
1. How did Darius go to a lot of trouble in this matter?
2. What do we learn from Cyrus's memo that we didn't know before?
3. How does Darius back up the previous king?
First of all we see king Darius ordering a wide search to be made in the records (which he needn't have done!) and then finding the decree of Cyrus to rebuild the Temple . Darius had perhaps been having dealings with God already (see Dan 6) and appears to give his commands with much understanding of the Lord. Daniel's influence in the royal court may be having much wider repercussions, affecting Jerusalem , than he might have thought.
This memorandum of Cyrus tells us that he not only instructed that it should be built but he specified its size and construction, and ordered it be paid for out of the royal treasury as well.
Having found this, Darius backs up that previous decree with several instructions:
The Lord is still very much in this rebuilding work! He is moving, not only among the workers in Jerusalem , but also back in the royal court. There is an amazing inter-working here of the Spirit of God in the two places.
A. Find Out:
1. How did the Governor respond to the letter? v.13
2. How were the leaders continually encouraged? v.14
3. When was the Temple finished? v.15
4. What did they all do on its completion? v.16
5. How did they do this? v.17
6. What further did they do? v.18
1. Through how many kings' reigns had the Temple building gone on?
3. Now it was complete what were they making sure they did?
History tells us that the Temple took 21 years to rebuild. This was not so much that it was a large building but the builders had been put off on occasion by enemy activity and this had delayed its completion. Lesson 1: when you are building, even though it is at God's decree, the enemy will seek to stop you in your efforts.
Now however the temple is complete. We should note that it had been progressed because of the word of God that had kept coming through the prophets to stir the people on. We too, need that encouragement today. Lesson 2: when the opposition is there we need the now-word of God confirming the original word and encouraging the people on to complete what God has said.
Next we observe their great joy at its completion and their desire to be obedient to all that God had spoken previously through Moses and to re-establish the priesthood and sacrifices. They desire to be whole-hearted before God and obey all he has said in His written word as well. A good example to follow. Lesson 3: success is a great motivator or praise and adoration, and God wants us to be successful and complete all He has told us to do!
A. Find Out:
1. What was celebrated, when? v.19
2. Who had done what? v.20a
3. What did they do for everyone else? v.20b
4. Who ate it and why? v.21
5. What did they then do? v.22a
6. Why? v.22b
1. Read Num 28:16,17 Why were Israel doing this according to this?
2. Why were they doing it according to today's passage?
3. What did the Passover celebrate and indicate to the Jew?
The temple has been completed, the house of God has been reinstated, the dwelling place on earth of God (in their eyes) is back in its rightful place in Jerusalem . It is significant therefore, that as soon as they complete the dwelling place of God they celebrate on the designated day, the Passover, the feast that remembered the start of their being called into nationhood out of Egypt. It was the Passover that opened the door for them to leave Egypt and become the people of God. it reminded them of THE first great, mighty work of God in calling them into being as His people.
Following Passover, they celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread for the following week as the Law instructed them to do. This feat again reminded them of how they had left Egypt hastily and travelled at speed out of that land into the desert on their way to the Promised Land. As they celebrate it now there must be within them a sense that at last, once again, they are on their way again with God. This is the start of a new era for them, now they have been put back in their own land and the temple is now there at the heart of their national life. Sadly, this time, the glory of the Lord did not fill the temple as it had done the first one (see 2 Chron 7:1). This is a different day.
1. God does give us chances to start over again.
2. The second time round will not be the same as the first.
RECAP - "Countering Opposition" - Ezra 4-6
In this second group of 9 studies we have seen :
- Enemies seek to undermine and discourage (4:1-5)
- Mention of future opposition in Xerxes' reign (4:6)
- Reference to future opposition in Artaxerxes reign (4:7,8)
- The letter of complaint sent to the king (4:9-16)
- The king's reply (4:17-23)
- The stop of the present work (4:24)
- Haggai & Zechariah encourage the building (5:1,2)
- The Governor writes to king Darius (5:3-17)
- Darius replies & the work finished (6:1-15)
- Celebrations, Passover & the Feast (6:16-22)
In these chapters we have seen four references to opposition received by the Jews to the rebuilding of the Temple and later rebuilding of the city walls. The first opposition was through the remaining reign of Cyrus. The fourth opposition was simply the Governor of the area complaining to Darius. The second was a brief reference to an accusation in Xerxes reign and the third was a letter of complaint in Artaxerxes reign that shut down the rebuilding of the walls.
1. We are to resist Satan's attempts to discourage us.
2. We are to remember that Jesus is Lord over all.
3. We are to trust in what God has said in His written word
4. We are to be encouraged by God's prophetic word.
5. We are to persevere with the work God has given us to do.
Thank the Lord that ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world' (1 Jn 4:4)
PART 3 : "Re-Establishing"
In this next Part we will see the details of Ezra coming to Jerusalem and then the way Ezra goes about reforming and re-establishing the people as the people of God, which will mean bringing their lives in line with God's will.