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Bible

Understanding

Made Easy

Ezra

(I) INTRODUCTION

  • Way back in the Old Testament, God sent the Jewish people into punishment in Babylon for 70 years (2 Chronicles 36:15-23).

  • He was punishing them because of their sinful idolatry and other bad behavior that they would not abandon.

  • However, God was merciful to them, because He was now ready to send them back home to Israel so they could rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians 70 years before.

  • While they were in Babylon, God sent another nation to conquer the Babylonians. 

  • They were the Persians.

  • In the time of Ezra, the king’s name was Cyrus.

  • Cyrus allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem to start the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple (Ezra 1-2).

(II) THE REBUILDING OF THE ALTAR OF SACRIFICE

  • The work of restoring worship began with the rebuilding of the altar for the burnt sacrifices (Ezra 3).

  • Joshua son of Jozadak (Jeshua in the King James Version) with Zerubabbel and the other priests began rebuilding the alter successfully.

  • Joshua was the high priest of the Temple (Orr, n.d.).

  • Zerubabbel was the governor of the Jewish people appointed by the Persians.

  • They offered the animal sacrifices that God wanted on a daily basis and at His holiday festivals such as the Feast of Tabernacles and the New Moon (Exodus 29:38-41; Ezra 3:4-5) (Gill, n.d).

  • They did this first before starting on the building itself.

  • The new moon festival was a worship day for God each first day of the month.

  • Animal sacrifices had to be made for God on those days (Numbers 28:11-15) (Garrett, 1897).

  • The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of the harvest that God gave them and to remember how they lived in temporary tents when they left Egypt in the time of Moses.

  • So God had them live in temporary shelters, which were tents or booths, while they were in Jerusalem for the 7 day festival (Leviticus 23:33-44) (Orr, n.d.a).

(III) THE ENEMIES OF GOD STOP THE REBUILDING OF THE TEMPLE

  • The Samaritans came to offer help in rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 4).

  • However, their help was rejected, because the Samaritans did not worship God alone. 

  • They also had some idols mixed in with their worship.

  • Since they would have corrupted the true worship of God, they could not be allowed to take part in the rebuilding of the Temple (II Kings 17:24-41) (“Outline of,” n.d.).

  • This is why today, we cannot worship at every church in the world.

  • Some just do not do the right thing (Matthew 7:21).

  • So fellowshipping with them, which means worshipping together with them, can lead many of us away from worshipping God the right way.

  • This shows us that not everyone who claims to be God’s child is really a true worshipper of God.

  • The only way to know who are true children of God is to see if what they teach matches the Lord’s teachings in the New Testament (Jeremiah 31:31; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 12:24).

  • For many years, the Samaritans worked against the Jewish people to try and stop the rebuilding of the Temple.

  • Unfortunately, they temporarily stopped the building after a new Persian king called “Artaxerxes” became king.

  • These Samaritan enemies wrote a letter to the king and convinced him that the Jewish people were always troublemakers and asked that the king stop them from rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.

  • They won and the king decided to stop all building in Jerusalem that lasted for about 15 years (Ezra 4).

  • This shows us a lesson.

  • Whenever you are trying to do good things for God, the devil will bring someone to try and stop you.

  • They may seem like they are winning sometimes, but you can never give up trying to do what is right (Galatians 6:9).

  • God will make a way for you to continue doing good things for Him as you will see later on with the Jewish people.

(IV) GOD INSTRUCTS THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL TO REBUILD THE TEMPLE AND WALLS OF JERUSALEM EVEN THOUGH THE KING INITIALLY SAID NOT TO DO SO!

  • After about 15 years, the rebuilding of the Temple and the walls of Jerusalem began again (Ezra 5:1-2).

  • This was because God sent Haggai to tell the Jewish people to restart the building projects.

  • God also sent Zechariah to rebuild their hearts; which means to start obeying God regarding the way they behaved.

  • In other words, He wanted them to live righteously as well.

  • Haggai and Zechariah were prophets, which means that God gave them a message to tell the people who had to obey it (Haggai1:4; Zechariah 9) (“Outline of,” n.d.).

  • Unfortunately, another king of the Persians was in charge and his name was Darius (Ezra 5:3-17).

  • While the Temple was being rebuilt, the Persian governor named “Tattenai” and his men asked who gave them the authority to rebuild the Temple?

  • Most likely, the enemies of God had alerted him and wanted to stop the work.

  • However, the Jewish people told Tattenai that Cyrus, King of the Persians and before King Darius, gave them the permission to rebuild the Temple.

  • So Tattenai and his men wrote a letter to King Darius to get a decision as to whether or not the Jewish people could continue rebuilding the Temple.

  • So, King Darius went to the royal library in Babylon to see if there were any records that King Cyrus approved to let the Jewish people rebuild the Temple (Ezra 6).

  • He found King Cyrus’ old scroll showing that the Jewish people had every right to go and rebuild the Temple.

  • So King Darius told Tattenai and his men to leave the Jewish people alone and let them continue the building of the Temple.

  • Furthermore, King Darius told Tattenai to make sure all the work is paid for out of the royal treasury.

  • Even more, King Darius provided protection for the Jewish people, because he said that if anyone tried to stop the rebuilding they would be executed.

  • This was a great victory for the Jewish people.

  • But remember, the Person fighting for them was God, Himself.

  • God wanted the Temple to be rebuilt.

  • As a result, no one could have stopped it from being rebuilt, because God has all power.

  • God was working behind-the-scenes to make this happen.

  • We call God’s work behind-the-scenes His providence at work.

  • He does the same thing for His Christian children today.

  • If He wants something done for us, nothing can stop it!

  • The Bible tells us that the Temple was finished during the sixth year of King Darius’ reign as king (Ezra 6:13-18).

  • They offered hundreds of animal sacrifices to God.

  • They celebrated the completion of the Temple with great joy.

  • They put the priests in place for the work they would do in the Temple.

  • After the Temple was complete, the children of Israel celebrated the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread as God commanded them to do (Ezra 6:19-22).

  • The Passover was the annual feast that the children of Israel had to participate in as a memorial of God delivering them from Egyptian slavery by passing over their first born males who were behind the blood of a lamb while death passed through Egypt (Exodus 12).

  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread was connected to the Passover celebration where the children of Israel would eat bread without yeast for 7 days.

  • This was done because during the time when God was going to lead them out of Egypt, they did not have time to add yeast to their bread to make it rise.

  • So, this was also a remembrance of God delivering them from slavery in Egypt (Elwell, 1996).

(V) EZRA'S GOD-GIVEN MISSION AND HIS CONFESSION OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE TO GOD​

  • Not only did God want the Jewish people to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, but He wanted them to rebuild their spiritual lives.

  • In other words, He wanted the Jewish people to truly believe in Him and obey His commandments.

  • So, He sent them Ezra, who was a prophet from God.

  • Remember, a prophet was one who knew the Word of God very well and was a teacher sent from God.

  • Ezra was one of those people sent to Jerusalem to teach them the Word of God (Ezra 7-8)!

  • Unfortunately, after returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, it was told to Ezra that the children of Israel had married many foreign wives.

  • God told them not to do this, because these foreign wives would lead them into idolatrous practices.

  • Remember, God wants us to worship Him and worship Him only; otherwise, we are living in sin!

  • So, Ezra was very upset by this report (Ezra 9:1-4).

  • As a result, Ezra prayed to God (Ezra 9:5-15).

  • He confessed the sins of the people to Him!

(VI) THE PEOPLE CONFESS THEIR SINS OF MARRYING NON-JEWISH WIVES AND DIVORCES THEM

  • Unfortunately, after returning from Babylon to Jerusalem, it was told to Ezra that the children of Israel had married many foreign wives.

  • God told them not to do this, because these foreign wives would lead them into idolatrous practices.

  • Remember, God wants us to worship Him and worship Him only; otherwise, we are living in sin!

  • So, Ezra was very upset by this report (Ezra 9:1-4).

  • As a result, Ezra prayed to God (Ezra 9:5-15).

  • He confessed the sins of the people to Him!

  • The good news is that the people heard Ezra’s prayer and was convicted in their hearts for marrying the foreign wives that God told them not to marry (Ezra 10).

  • As a result, they made a covenant with God, which means a promise to divorce their non-Jewish wives so they could please God themselves instead of living in their selfish, sinful ways.

  • The children of Israel followed through with their repentance before God.

  • Remember, repentance means to change one’s lifestyle to live righteously instead of sinfully.

  • So, the children of Israel’s repentance was to divorce the foreign wives and they did so.

  • Now, one thing to be careful of today is that God does not want Christians marrying non-Christians (1 Corinthians 7).

  • This is sinful when it is done, but if it is done, God wants the Christian spouse to stay with the non-Christian spouse and living righteously in front of the non-Christian.

  • The Christian spouse is to live righteously in front of the non-Christian one so that he or she will have the influence to bring the non-Christian husband or wife to a saving relationship with the Lord.

  • So, always seek out a Christian wife or husband today, because this is God’s way.

(VII) WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE BOOK OF EZRA

  • In summary, here are the key lessons we learn from Ezra:

    • First, we learn that God is a disciplinarian, because He sent the children of Israel into Babylonian captivity for 70 years.

    • However, we understand and appreciate His mercy, because His anger with the children of Israel did not last forever.

    • He forgave them and allowed them to be released from Babylonian captivity to return to the their homeland of Israel.

    • Second, we learn that God’s people have personal responsibilities in this lifetime.

    • We must keep God first by faith and obedience in Him!

    • We must repent when our lifestyles are not in obedience with His commandments in order to regain His favor again.

    • Lastly, we also learn that the providence of God is unstoppable!

      • In other words, if God decides that something must be done such as rebuilding the Temple, man can try to stop it.

      • However, he will ultimately fail!

      • This is because God has all power and is unstoppable when His Will is declared and put in motion!
         

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