Title: The Work of God
Text: Ezra 5-6
CIT: The rebuilding begins and the people of the land openly oppose the work by sending a report to the King. The King responds positively by not only supporting the decree of Darius, but by funding the rebuilding.
CIS: The Word of God is prevalent in all of this. His prophets prophesy about it all, encouraging obedience and faithfulness. The exiles return has God had promised. All is restored as God had promised.
Introduction: Our last message in Ezra came from chapter 4 and the theme was: Opposition. The sad news is that opposition will be relentless; Houston’s city ordinance; persecution of pastors; Now it is back to the drawing board for the LGBTQ Community.
Ezra and Nehemiah are about the rebuilding of the Temple and the Rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – respectively. Ezra, the book we’re in now, is two divided into two parts – two accounts, if you will, of the rebuilding of the Temple: 1-6 and 7-10. We’re currently in chapters 1-6. Chapter four deals with the persecution of Jews in their return from Exile over a period of 80-100 years. Chapters 5 and 6 return to the time period of Chapters 1-3.
Transition: as believers, we will face opposition; it may appear small and in some cases, it may appear rather severe; but we can be sure that God will fulfill his promises in his Word. Please don’t miss that. There seems to be chaos and confusion in the world. Right now the persecution of believers around the world is at an all time high. Today’s passage encourages us to hold on to God’s Word.
2 Peter 1.3-4: 3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
…he has granted to us his precious and very great promises. Peter’s letters are filled with encouragement for those who were enduring suffering. Let God’s Word meet you where you are today. If I could narrow down today’s message into a phrase – it would be the faithfulness of God’s Word: God’s Word is True.
I’ve outlined Chapters 5&6 as follows:
- The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins Anew (5.1-5)
- The Report of Tettanai’s Opposition is Sent to the King (5.6-13)
- The Response of King Darius (6.1-12)
- The Restoration of the Sacrificial System (6.13-22)
Transition: Let’s begin with the 1st section…
I. The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins Anew (5.1-5)
exp.: Right away, in v 1, we’re given our 1st application of the day; rd v 1-2; you probably recognize these two names; Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi; Their prophecy is ‘speaking the Word of God to the people of God.’ And they ‘support’ these leaders who ‘rise up’ and ‘begin’ the process of rebuilding God’s Temple. Here we find our 1st two points of application.
- The Word of God Gives us Direction; The word of God is given through the prophets; And look what happens in v 2; – and this is our 2nd application:
- The Leadership of the Church Guides us in Obedience to that Direction. Zerubabbel and Jeshua rise up and lead. I had the privilege of serving under a great leader. He was truly gifted at moving people and getting things done. I could be in a meeting with him and hate the idea being presented. He could turn to me and get me to a place of acceptance. One time, I walked into his office fully aware of what I was going into his office to talk to him about. I fully intended to let him know in no uncertain terms that I would not, I could not add anything else to my plate. I knew he was going to ask me to do something I didn’t want to do and planned to shut him down. Somehow, I left that meeting in charge of that project and excited about what could be. How is that? Harry Truman is noted as saying of leadership: A leader is a man who has the ability to get other people to do what they don’t want to do and like it. I think my former pastor went to the Truman School of Leadership. Really, though, I think Henry and Richard Blackaby’s definition of spiritual leadership works best: Spiritual Leadership is moving people on to God’s agenda. That fits this passage to a tee! This leadership hears the Word of God and then rises up to move God’s people on to God’s Agenda! – Rebuilding the Temple – which in itself has purpose – more on that in a moment.
Well, you know the rest of the story. It wasn’t that easy. It never is! Rd v 3; Here is our 3rd application:
- The World stands in Opposition to the Church to moving in that Direction. I can’t fully explain why, they just do. They want to know who authorized this and they’re taking names of everyone working on the project. Look at these questions: #
- By whose authority are you doing this work?
- Who is participating in this work? They want names. This is a scare tactic and it works! Just try it.
Transition: You know what, that’s ok. Because it doesn’t phase God or his work: rd v 5; it didn’t stop the work, it didn’t even slow them down. I think this is made clear in the next section:
II. The Letter from Tettanai (5.6-16)
exp.: in v 6-16, a letter is sent to King Darius. It consists of two parts –
- The Report: from the Governor of that region; v 8 tells the King that this work prospers in their hands. In v 9-10 they tell the King just what we saw in the previous verses – Who gave you permission to do this? – who are the workers?; v 11- this was their reply; rd v 11-16; wow… that’s pretty spot on.
Can I give you a 4th application here:
- When faced with opposition, be honest and forthright. They basically say:
- Who we are; where we’ve come from; how we got here; this is the history of this place, but we were bad and deserved what God has promised would happen to us in our rebellion.
- This is the earthly authority who sent us to work here;
- Everything is Honest & Detailed & forthright;
- The Request: rd v 17
Transition: So, chapter 6 picks up with the king’s reception of this letter and a decree is issued that a search for King Cyrus’ decree be made in the house of the archives. And, in v 2, the decree is found and in v 3-5 it is repeated for the governors. And this leads us to the next point, where King Darius gives his response.
III. The Response of King Darius (6.1-12)
exp.: this picks up in v 6, rd v 6-7
- Keep Away; Leave the work and the workers alone; let the workers rebuild the House of God.
So back off! I love this! But, to add insult to injury, the king says; rd v 8a; I’m going to add to what the previous king ordered; rd v 8b
- The Work is to be fully funded – and it’s to be funded by you! This had to hurt. These guys wanted bad things for the Jews. But, instead of bad things happening, they’re told to leave them alone and let the work continue. But no, that’s not enough! Now, you guys, take money from the royal revenue, generated from money raised in your area and pay for this work! Oh, that had to hurt! But wait, there’s more! Rd v 9-10; Not only is the work to be financially funded, but…
- The Worship is to be fully supplied – if they need animals for sacrifice – give ‘em! If they need ingredients to make food – give it! But wait, there’s more – it feels like I’m selling Ginsu knives: buy these knives and we’ll throw in a blender, but wait there’s more… if you order before…
Keep Away! Pay for the funding of the work! Provide the materials necessary for the Service! And, oh, yeah, rd v 11;
- A punishment for anyone who hinders the rebuilding.
Ouch! That’s bad! That’s a heavy warning! The King makes it clear not to mess with what’s going on. And then he makes this statement; rd v 12; From what I can gather, this wasn’t done by Cyrus and Darius and we’ll see Artexerxes because they were believers. Rather, they wanted to cover their bases. What could it hurt to let these people practice their faith, and in turn, beseech their God on my behalf. Better play it safe and not upset any of the gods. It makes sense here.
Transition: well, these governors receive the letter and the king’s wishes are carried out: The Temple is built and the sacrificial system is once again instituted;
IV. The Restoration of the Sacrificial System (6.13-22)
exp.: Here is a simple outline of v. 13-22
- The Temple is Completed
- The Temple is Dedicated
- The Passover is Celebrated
Transition: So, what are some Observations & Implications:
- God’s Word is Sure.
- God had brought back the Exiles as he had promised
- God had restored the Temple and its practices as promised
- God gave his word through the prophets and the people prospered through their obedience to that word. Don’t separate those two – God’s Word – Our Obedience.
- Picking your leaders is a great responsibility. It isn’t a popularity contest. It isn’t for the men who’ve been here the longest or for the wealthiest of the membership.
I heard a story recently about a church that nominated a man who had been successful in business to lead as an elder. Their thinking was that if he had led his business to success, then he could do the same for the church. That would probably work if the church were a business! There are qualifications for your leaders and success in the business world isn’t on that list.
You must pick men who will lead you on to God’s agenda. Men who will lead you to be obedient to God’s Word.
- Opposition from the world is to be expected. But when it comes, don’t respond as the world does. Don’t try to lie your way out of it or to hide some of the situation. Be honest and up front.
- God is going to accomplish all that his heart desires. No one can stand against Him. And he will use whoever or whatever he desires. Don’t let the politics of America get you down. Cities will take churches to court over worldly issues. Trust God – He is at work moving us to that Great Day.