Category Archives: Ezra

Ezra 9-10

Title: The Greatest Threat to the Church

Text: Ezra 9-10

Introduction: Ezra 9-10; We come to the conclusion of Ezra – but it isn’t really a conclusion. Originally, Ezra and Nehemiah was seen as one book. For us today, we’ll be closing this book and beginning another focus next week. Interestingly, this book stands alone in its teaching. And, this message is a message that can stand alone in its preaching.

Let me offer a quick review, since it was before the Holiday break we left off…

Ezra and Nehemiah are about the rebuilding of the Temple and the Rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem – respectively. Ezra, the book about the rebuilding of the Temple, is two divided into two parts – two accounts, if you will, of the rebuilding of the Temple: 1-6 and 7-10. In both sections, Israel faces opposition. The main difference between the two sections is that 1-6 is about external opposition from the people of the land. In Chapters 7-10, the opposition comes from within.

I propose to you this morning, taking from the Title of my message, that the Greatest Threat for the Church comes not from opposition outside this community of believers, but from inside the church itself.

Transition: As believers, we will face opposition. Jesus clearly warned us of this. However, as the body of Christ, we must be ever aware and always on heightened alert to the internal opposition – to the sin that destroys the body of Christ from within. Today’s passage does just that – it sets off a warning to our faithlessness and yet, encourages us to hold on to God’s Faithfulness. I’ve outlined these two chapters this way:

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion – 9.1-15
  2. The Repentance of the People – 10.1-17
  3. A list of those who publicly repented – 10.18-45

Transition: Let’s begin with…

  1. The Acknowledgement of Rebellion (9.1-15)

exp.: rd v 1; the 1st step to healing and restitution is to admit you have a problem; The leadership does that here:

  1. Israel’s Sin is Recognized – note their words: they have not separated; God had made this clear ffrom their beginning and for centuries afterward. The slippery slope into rebellion begins when one doesn’t acknowledge that there is sin against God. Those commands aren’t really commands. That applied to them or that doesn’t apply in the 21st Century or etc. Is there any one reason to the weakening of the church greater than the church’s acceptance of sin? Note it is the Leadership: I recognize this begins with the pastor and the pastoral leadership (elders).

ill.: something I see from time to time is a picture of ‘pastors’ who are standing together in a display of solidarity for something the Bible clearly condemns. The most recent is of the Wheaton College Professor. But I’ve seen them surround others concerning their stance on Gay Marriage and other politically motivated agendas that conflict with Scripture. I started looking for some online, but started feeling queasy and uneasy.

app.: Their acknowledgement gets pretty specific here:

  • We have not separated ourselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations; special note here: it isn’t so much the peoples of the land as it is with their abominations – it’s not their ethnicity! Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
  • Rd v 2; For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands; race is seed or offspring; reminds me of Gen 3.15; I think that plays a part here. Hey are the holy seed, descended from Eve – through whom the promise One would come.

app.: if you want to stop the fall down that slippery slope into rebellion, acknowledge your sin. And that’s just what Ezra does.

  1. The Response of Ezra to that Faithlessness – rd v 3; Torn garments, pulled hair/beard, sat appalled. But it’s not just him, rd v 4; There were others; Why did Ezra respond this way? Were the others moved by his response? No, not the very specific words in v 4; which brings me to sub-point #3;
  2. The Source that sets the Standard – God’s Word; rd v 4: Then all who trembled at the words of the God of Israel, because of the faithlessness of the returned exiles, How do they know they’ve sinned? How do they know their actions are rebellion? How do they know they’ve been faithless? God’s Words. It is God’s Word that informs us.

ill.: Russell Moore wrote in his blog this past week What I’ve Learned in 20 years of Ministry. # 2 is: 2) At my ordination, an elderly deacon referenced the Bible and my wife, saying, “Son, don’t ever get in the pulpit with any other book than that one, and don’t ever get into bed with any other woman but her.” Wise counsel. Another way of putting it: “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine; I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds; Because you’re mine, I walk the line.”

app.: that is wise counsel – Preach God’s word in the pulpit. Only God’s Word. This is the source that taught the Israelites that they were in violation of God’s Word. Back in 7.10 we read: 10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel. He must have done a good job for the people to speak up.

  1. Ezra’s Prayer of Repentance –rd v 6; we’re drowning in our sins; rd v 7-8; but you O’ God are merciful! We don’t deserve to be here but you have preserved us. Rd v 9: you’ve been merciful but we’ve been unfaithful in spite of your great mercy! Rd v 10-13; So great is your mercy, you’ve not punished us to the extent that we deserve! You’ve blessed us and allowed us to return and build this great temple. You’ve protected and preserved us! Rd v 14-15; We are utterly defenseless! We are guilty! We deserve the punishment you dole out.

ill.: Wow! This is powerful! Ezra totally understands what has happened. He comprehends his position and the position of the people before a holy and righteous God. Do you?

app.: Do you comprehend God’s perfection? He is blameless. No one can accuse Him…of anything. He has never done anything wrong and there is no wrong in him. He is right. As God, he not only sets the standard, He is the standard – In every way.

We are the antithesis of God. He is light; we are darkness. He is the standard of what is right, we are epitome of what is wrong. He is perfect in his actions. We are imperfection… in every way. With him there is no spot or wrinkle or blemish. We are, at our very best, filthy rags piled in a heap of trash. We need sacrifices of pleasing aroma to cover our stench. The wages of our sin is death. If we got what we truly deserved, not one of us would finish the breath in our lungs. On our own we are lost. We can’t find our way out of a wet paper bag without his grace. We haven’t the ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We are utterly destitute, lost, helpless and hopeless with out Him. And what’s worse? We don’t even deserve His Grace. He would be right and just to impose on us the penalty due our sins.

And that is what Ezra is saying. And that’s what repentance is – it’s acknowledging that God is right and we are wrong. And then, saying I don’t want to do it wrong anymore. I don’t want to do things my way anymore. Right here, Right now, I’m changing my ways to do things your way. That’s not my nature, but it’s my desire. God, come into my life and change me. Cleanse me. Make me new. Make me like you.

t.s.: Rebellion is a slippery slope. It starts when we fail to acknowledge the sin in our lives. It steepens as we walk in that rebellion. But look at what the people do…

  1. The Repentance of the People

exp.: rd 10.1; Have you ever been moved to tears over your sin? Not because you got caught, but because God’s Word told you that you were a sinner? Rd 10.2 – here we see a 1st step in returning to God.

  1. Confession your Sin – rd v 3; 2ndly,
  2. Turn from your sin – producing deeds in keeping with repentance. Your heart convicts you to rectify the situation as you can. Sometimes you can’t! Often times you can’t. But here they can – and they want to do right according to:
    1. The Counsel of Ezra
    2. The Counsel of others who understand God’s Word
  • God’s Word – His Law
  1. Take Action – rd 4; Be strong and do it! They told Ezra that they wanted to make things right. Lead us! We’re behind you. Sometimes you can’t make things right. But if you can, would you?
    1. Pornography – seal off your computer from that stuff. Get help. For yourself. For your family. Stop hurting your wife with that stuff. Don’t think she doesn’t know. You’re destroying her self image – her confidence.
    2. Tithes and offerings – God has commanded you to not love money more than him. I’m not asking for your money and I’m not telling you where or when to give. But God does. That’s something you can make right. You can begin to be obedient in this matter. You can stop using money to fill selfish longings and start using money as God designed.
  • What about your time? Do you find yourself wasting too much time in sloth and laziness and not being productive with the time God has given you? Do you make excuses for not getting things done and keeping your schedule because of this problem? Repent. Stop. Get organized. Get accountability – “open your books” to someone who can help.

We see some great steps right here in Ezra.

  1. Start with your words – rd v 5; I’d encourage you to do that today. Start with your words. In a moment I’m going to give you that opportunity. We have elders and staff members and their wives available to pray with you. You start with your words. Acknowledging you have a problem is the very 1st
  2. Own up to it. The trash in your backyard is your trash. Rd v 2…“We have broken faith with our God… we have married foreign women… You say: Dear God, I am a sinner. I have sinned against you! You said in your word not to… or to… and I have failed. This is my sin.
  3. Make the necessary changes – in v 6-17 the people take the steps to correct the rebellion and faithlessness.

Note: I’m supposing that the people did not put away wives who worshipped Yahweh. I’m supposing the people put away idols and idolatry and the evil and wickedness brought into their lives.

app.: The list of those who confessed and made corrections are listed in v 18-44: the priests in v 18, the Levites in v 23; and of Israel in v 25.

t.s.:

Conclusion: the Title of the message today is The Greatest Threat to the Church. The Greatest Threat to the Church isn’t the oppression that comes from outside the Church. No, it’s the threat of what is inside the church. The greatest threat to the church is allowing sin into the fold. That is what will destroy us.

We can be thrown in prison and some of us could even be put to death – but that won’t stop God from getting the glory in all of that! But if we allow sin to flourish within these walls and we allow the church to be destroyed from within.

Questions for Consideration:

  1. Do you look at what God calls sin and not let it bother you? Do you change words so as not to offend?
  2. Do you think you could ever be so repulsed by sin that you would pull out your hair and sit in shock and outrage? Not because you got your feelings hurt…but because it offends God!
  3. Do you ever feel entitled, like God owes you something? Do you comprehend the greatness of your sin and that God has been gracious by not punishing you as your sin deserves?
  4. Did you recognize that Ezra and Israel moved from Conviction to Confession and a commitment to take action because they saw…but even now there is hope for Israel in spite of this. (10.2) Or, is your tendency to break down and sully in your wretchedness and despair? Do you see the hope in Jesus?
  5. What steps can you outline to alienate yourself from the sin that is destroying you and maybe those around you? Can you see them as action points?

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Ezra 8

Title: Expressing your Gratitude through Worship in Acknowledgment of the Mercy of God.

Text: Ezra 8.1-36

CIT: The Exiled Jews return to their homeland by the faithfulness of God and hard work. Their return culminates in a time of worship and celebration.

CIS: We learn invaluable tactics and lessons on leadership and performance as we watch Ezra lead his people in the return from the exile.

Introduction: Numbers 3 & 4; recording?

When I was a youth pastor in Cotulla, I had one of my teens approach me to interview me about Baptism. In the moment, I was able to explain what baptism is all about and offer my own definition. It’s so good, I’ve often wondered if I thought it up myself in that moment, or, if I borrowed it and claimed it as my own! I didn’t even realize it until he gave me his paper and asked me to proof it. In his paper he quoted me as defining baptism as: An external expression of an internal experience. I’ve continued to use it through the years and have even seen it expressed in these exact words at various times and in various ways. That’s why I think it was never original – but I claim it nonetheless!

An external expression of an internal experience… If you think about it, that definition could be used with other words, too. Like worship.

What about Giving Thanks? Sure, you can feel it inside, but isn’t it truly noticed when expressed externally?

We’re going to look at a people who come together in worship to externally express their gratitude for God’s faithfulness to them in Ezra Ch. 8.

I’ve taken the liberty to break down chapter 8 into three main sections with multiple subsections under each heading.

  1. The People who Return with Ezra
  2. The Preparations for The Long Journey
  3. The Project is seen through to Completion

Transition: Let’s begin with this 1st section…

I.     The People who Return with Ezra (1-14)

exp.: rd v 1;

  • only listed names are ‘heads’ of the family;
  • 2nd is genealogy;
  • the particular caravan – evidently there were more during other reigns. This one is the one led by Ezra in the reign of Artaxerxes;

The purpose is to identify the three parts to this list:

  1. Descendants of the Priests in v 2
  2. Descendant of Royalty in v 2b-3a
  3. The Laity in 3b-14

Let’s look closer now:

  1. The Priests in v 2; two lines going back to the High Priest
    1. Phinehas (not Eli’s son) Grandson to Aaron, son of Eleazar
    2. Ithamar, brother of Eleazar, sons of Aaron
  2. Royalty in v 2b-3a;
    1. David, through Solomon to Shecaniah; 1 Chron 3.1(10)-22
  3. The Laity in 3b-14

exp.: rd v 15; uh-oh, Houston, we have a problem: no Levites. I wonder, why is that a problem. Do we really need Levites to go back to Jerusalem to work in the Temple? We do if we’re going to be obedient to God’s commands. Numbers 3.1-13; Numbers 4.1-4; Ezra is sharp! He knows this. The Levites serve in the Temple area. They serve the High Priests who have duties of their own. The Levites must guard the precious items of the Temple.

Ill.: Do you remember the story of David, going out to retrieve the ark, which had been returned by the Philistines? They have it on this cart, and they’re celebrating what God has done. Truly amazing, a miracle that only God could have accomplished. The ark is resting on this cart that’s moving along when it hits a bump. The ark begins to fall over and Uzzah reaches out his hand to steady the ark. The moment he touches it, God kills him. David learned a valuable lesson that Day – a lesson that Ezra seems to be very much aware of: Don’t mistreat the things of God. Don’t handle the holy things of God as if they were common!

So, Ezra remedies the problem – rd v 16-20; v 20 – these were all mentioned by name. This list is a shorter, abbreviated, emphasized list. Another list is kept of all the names. These names are provided for a reason, but why? Here’s what I think: Ezra wants us to see the parallel between the Exodus and the return from Exile.

The Exodus: The Exile
The 12 Tribes The 12 “Heads of Family”
The Levitical Uprising: Don’t want to do their job

Numbers 16

The Levites are Missing: Don’t want to do their job
   

Before we leave this section, there is something interesting to note: Ezra 7.9; 1st day, 1st month, 7th year the journey began; they camped out on the canal for three days in 8.15; they fasted to seek God; then in v 31, it says they departed on day 12; so, between days 4 and 11 these roughly 40 men and their families, along with 220 temple servants were summoned to return to the land, made the decision to go, packed up their belongings, and with their families set out for Jerusalem. Day 4 to day 11 would be one week!

Transition: But before they set out… they must make final preparations – that’s point #2

II.    The Preparations for the Long Journey (21-30)

exp.: vs 21-30 show two aspects of this preparation; the 1st aspect of this preparation is spiritual; rd 21;

  1. Spiritual Preparation: look at the elements involved in spiritual preparation –
    1. Public Proclamation: when people fast together, a public proclamation should be made. I think this is great for accountability and encouragement.
    2. Proper Perspective: Humble ourselves before God; nothing helps your attitude more than to catch a glimpse of who God is in his Greatness and who you are in your smallness. Fasting is a great way to do this. Fasting is the denial of the physical appetite while placing a focus on your spiritual needs. It isn’t so you can make God do something for you, but rather it is a time to focus in on God’s agenda. That is really what prayer is: a surrendering of oneself to the will of God. I used to think that prayer was to get God to do something for me – give me what I wanted. Now I see that prayer – especially through fasting – changes me, not God.
    3. Petition: to seek from him a safe journey. Seeking – I think it is good to acknowledge that you are in need and, that need can only be provided for by him. …for ourselves, our children, our goods. Rd 22; this verse cracks me up, because we’re so like that as humans. We want to witness to the world with our words about how awesome and powerful God is. And then, when it comes time to trust him, we don’t, we want to run to the king. Rd v 23; and he listened to our entreaty. HCSB: He granted our request.

Ill.: I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage: Pray like it all depends on God, but work like it all depends on you. And this leads us to the 2nd part of preparation – working like it all depends on you…

  1. Physical Preparation; rd v 24
    1. He sets apart the Leadership; This is wise on the part of Ezra. Consider there will be roughly 3,000 people on this journey. It would be like packing up Bullard and moving to Greenville, S.C. – without the aid of movers! No United Moving vans! Ezra needs help. He needs strong leadership: so he picks 12 leaders. Sound familiar. Much like the Exodus.
    2. He divvies up the work; he assigns portions to each group: rd v 25a, 26a, I weighed out to them; I weighed out into their hand. Next, he makes probably his most important move:
    3. He gives them a proper perspective of what they’re in charge of: rd v 28; you are holy, the vessels are holy; these belong to the Lord. This is a great application. When you serve in ministry – that ministry is the Lord’s. Those are his items. That is his money you’re counting. You are holy as are the devoted things.

ill.: I think some folks have characterized the God of the O.T. as mean – killing people even. Well, we gain a great understanding of this as we read: touch not the devoted things! When money is given to God, it is His. We must care for those items – things if you will, that are devoted to Him.

4.  He gives them clearly defined tasks; rd v 29; Guard, keep – until you’re in the chambers of the house of the Lord!

5.  He lets them do their job: rd v 30;

ill.: Lisa and running the game at rec. time. Do you want to do this or do you want me to do this?

app.: this was always hard for me when I was young. In one of my very first ministry trips, a young lady volunteered to find us a place to stay. She was from the town we were going to stay in. She was friends with a couple of youth pastors there and was sure she would find us a place to stay. If I recall correctly, I spent the last couple of days trying to find us a place to stay. Sometimes, you’ve got to let your leadership fail. It’s a great teaching time. More times than not, they’re going to come through – especially if you let them do their job.

Transition: we move to the final section of our passage this morning in v 31-36…

III.   The Project is Seen Through to Completion (31-36)

exp.: a list of who they are 1-20; then this is a list of what they do in v 21-30; Now we come to the completion of their journey. Rd v 31-32; There is nothing recorded for the 900 miles they traveled. How do 3,000 people caravan that far together? 100 days at 900 miles is about 9 miles a day on average. There is a lot of time that passes and a lot of happenings. I mentioned earlier that it would be like packing up the folks of Bullard, TX and relocating them to Greenville, South Carolina! Do you think nothing happened during that journey? Nothing is recorded – only rd 31b. Does this mean that No one ambushed or no one attacked them? Or, does it mean ruffians and bandits did attack them and God protected them? I don’t know – only that God delivered them safely to their destination. If you go back to chapter 7, you’ll read that they arrived on the 1st day of the 5th month. It’s kind of like they left January 12th and got there on May 1st. Nearly 4 full months. It takes three days for the Temple to be ready to receive what’s been brought. Rd v 33; Here is really a 6th assignment when working with people.

6.  He holds them accountable. They weighed out their portions. Rd v 34;

Finally,

7.  They celebrate a job well done. They praise God for his goodness, for his faithfulness in all of this. They worship and celebrate God for all he has done. Rd 35-36;

It is good to give thanks to God for all that he has accomplished. Yes, we work like it all depends on us, be we know that through our prayers, God has been working. I like what Paul says in Phil 1: 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance… And when that deliverance comes, it is appropriate to give thanks – to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

Transition: So what are our take-a-ways…

Observations & Implications:

  1. God blesses the work that seeks to honor him through faith. For Ezra, we see him seeking God’s protection and blessing in their journey. He put his trust in power of God and not in the strength of men.
  2. God is honored and glorified through godly leadership. It’s important to put the right people in the right places of service.
  3. God is honored and glorified through the service of faithful workers. Did you notice that there is more than 5 times as many servants/workers than there are leaders? The workers are as important as the leaders.
  4. God is honored when we place our trust in him to protect and provide for our families and our service.
  5. God is honored when we display integrity in our service to him. How the church has suffered scorn and ridicule whenever his people rob the church. How many times we have faced embarrassment as staff members and accountants and those put in charge of the finances have skimmed the coffers to line their own purses and bank accounts? God is not honored in those instances. But, God is honored when we display integrity in our service to him.

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Ezra 7

Title: Finding the Favor of God by Fulfilling your Purpose in Life.

Text: Ezra 7

 

Introduction: We’re in chapter 7 of Ezra. The next few sermons will reflect the previous messages on Ezra. In Ezra 1-6, we saw an edict from a king, a return of the people and strong opposition by the inhabitants of the land. In Ezra 7-10 we’ll see much of the same thing: a decree from the King, a return of the people as they face strong opposition.

Let me begin this morning by asking you a question: What is your purpose in life? Let me show you where I’m going with this as you ponder this question: What is your purpose in life? At Calvary, we say our purpose is to develop passionate followers of Christ. Calvary, what is your mission statement? …developing passionate followers of Christ! That’s why we’re here at 6704 Old Jacksonville Hwy.

I’m reading a book entitled: 7 men and the secret of their greatness. These 7 men are men who have impressed Eric Metaxes. Show video: Let me tell you about a couple.

  1. George Washington, who had every opportunity to sieze power and become the 1st King of America, but saw a greater purpose for his life. And boy are we blessed today because of his selfless actions.
  2. William Wilberforce, who saw the purpose of his life was the abolition of the slave trade and the reformation of manners. This purpose drove him.
  3. Eric Liddell – missionary to China, Olympic Gold medalist, Chariots of Fire. He died in a concentration camp at the young age of 43 in 1945. Metaxes writes that in 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics, Chinese authorities revealed that Liddell had refused an opportunity to leave the camp, and instead gave his place to a pregnant woman. He could have been freed. He could have been reunited with his family, yet chose to sacrifice his pleasure for that of a woman in need. Apparently, the Japanese and British, with Churchill’s approval, had agreed upon a prisoner exchange. News of this final act of sacrifice surprised even his family members.
  4. Dietrich Bonheoffer – murdered by the Nazis. He actually fled Europe and made it to America, only to return to face the Nazis, to be imprisoned. He, a pastor, a professor, a mentor to young men, was in the group of men who plotted and planned the assassination of Hitler. A movie was made starring Tom Cruise – Valkyrie.
  5. Jackie Robinson – who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. The trial and tribulation he endured is almost unimaginable. Just because his skin was the wrong color.
  6. Pope John Paul II: A truly amazing story.
  7. Chuck Colson: One of my all-time heroes.

Each of these men had purpose. They saw what they were doing gave them purpose – and it drove them. What is even more amazing is that they faced severe trials during it all. Like, God where are you in all of this kinds of trials. And yet they persevered. Today, we’re going to the purpose Ezra had and how it drove him to follow God.

Transition: I’ve outlined this passage, thus –

  1. A Description of Ezra, the Priest
  2. A Decree by Artexerxes, the King
  3. A Doxology of Blessing and Favor

So, let’s begin with the 1st section…

  1.     A Description of The Priest: Ezra (1-11)

exp.: rd v 1a;

  1. He gives a Date (1); in the reign of Artaxerxes, King of Persia – 465-425 BC; v 7 tells us the 7th year of the king – that’s be 458 (BC); rd v 1b-5;
  2. He is a Descendant of the High priestly line (1-5) – this alone doesn’t determine who he is; it isn’t to make him proud or arrogant (though many High Priests seem to take this line). No, it is to show us that God is faithful. He keeps his promises.

app.: Some of you are from godly stock. Your parents were strong believers and raised you in the church – as did their parents for them – your grandparents. I think that is truly awesome. But that doesn’t make you better than anyone else. Some of you came to Christ without the benefit of godly parents – or godly grandparents. That doesn’t make you any worse. God’s faithfulness is demonstrated though both! Celebrate that and boast in Him. Next,

  1. A Description – rd v 6;
    1. Position: Scribe (6); a lawyer, copied the law. Rd 6b;
    2. Ability: Skilled; Learned (11); this is more than position – a priest; I’m sure there were many men who were priests who were not skilled; But, Ezra knew God’s Word so well that the King knew he knew it.
    3. Leadership: rd v 7-9; The Group & Their Journey (7-9); He takes the time to assemble of team of quality, of men to accomplish this task. If you missed it before: the hand of the Lord was with him in v 6, 9; This has been the desire of my heart – that God’s hand would be with me in this ministry. Will you pray that for me – God, let your good hand be upon our pastor and this ministry. And here is where we see his purpose as expressed in his character; rd v 10a
    4. Character: defined in His Purpose; set his heart: The Law of the Lord (10);

This past week I taught the NT class at Venture and one of our discussions was upon the purpose of Christ in Luke: He set his face toward Jerusalem in 9.51. Time and again, Luke brings the reader back to that purpose. Chapter after Chapter, reminding us as Jesus makes his way toward Jerusalem – and then it culminates in the cry of our Master as he stands on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem. 41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side 44 and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Earlier in Luke, as he makes his way to Jerusalem he cries out: 34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!

Christ knew his purpose. And here, Ezra knows his purpose, too: rd 10b; a three-fold purpose

  1. To Study the Torah
  2. To Do it (Obey the Torah)
  • To Teach the Torah

Ill.: in my 1st year as a pastor – 18 years ago, I had came to a point of struggle. I had no idea what I was doing. I had a book from my college days that led me to create a purpose statement for my life. I’ve shared this with you before:

I will strive with skillful hands

To build and equip leaders to accomplish the Great Commission,

By being an example through service,

An effective communicator of God’s Word,

And a faithful and loving husband and father,

As I work daily to conform to the character of Christ.

 

app.: Who you are isn’t determined by your success or failures; who you are is determined by what you do based upon your God given ability given you and the usage of those gifts in your life to fulfill your purpose. The Results: those are God’s. You do – he blesses. You obey – he uses. You give – he accomplishes. You don’t know what God is doing. Your job is to trust. Hold on to what you know – and keep the faith.

I didn’t write out my purpose statement in a few minutes. It took work, re-wording, moving things around. It took thought and input from those around me who I’ve given permission to speak into my life. I want to encourage you to do the same thing. If you have questions, I’ll share my journey. I’m sure I can find the book that helped me. Aubrey Malphurs.

Transition: A description of the priest. 2ndly,

2.     A Decree from The King: Artexerxes (11-26)

exp.: Ok, I say “A Decree” and that’s true, but really, as you read this, you’ll see it as two decrees. The 1st one is v 13-20 and the 2nd one is v 21-26; Now, verse 11 begins this next portion. I added it to the last section because the comments here fit with the previous section: a man learned in matters of the commandments and statutes for Israel. It’s interesting to see how many times the word Torah or the context of the Torah appears in this passage (ch 7):

  • 6 – He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord,…
  • 10 – For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.
  • 11 – a man learned in matters of the commandments of the Lord and his statutes for Israel
  • 12 – the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven.
  • 14 – For you are sent by the king and his seven counselors to make inquiries about Judah and Jerusalem according to the Law of your God, which is in your hand
  • 21 – Whatever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the Law of the God of heaven, requires of you, let it be done with all diligence,
  • (24), – We also notify you that it shall not be lawful to impose tribute, custom, or toll
  • 25 – all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach.
  • 26 – Whoever will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be strictly executed on him, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of his goods or for imprisonment.”

exp.: There is a short introduction in v 12 and the Decree is 13-20; The 2nd Decree is outlined in 21-26;

  1. Decree #1 (11-20) – Whosoever may freely go;
  2. Decree #2 (21-26) – How it is to be funded – this is how it is going to be paid for…

Look at the beginning of this 1st Decree: rd v13-14; according to the Law of your God, that is in your hand. You’ll see this again in v 25, at the end of the 2nd Decree; rd v 25; And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand… It’s pretty subtle, but don’t miss this: it really is a sweet comparison – The King, and I’d say Ezra, too, since he’s the writing this out here before us – when Ezra holds the Torah of God in his hand, he has the wisdom of God in his hand, too. Too often we take the O.T and we divide it up into parts. We read Psalms and separate them from the Torah, or the History, or the Apocalyptic portions – like they’re not wisdom liturature. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, this – hold your copy up – Go ahead – this is the wisdom of God, right here in your hand.

Challenge: Teachers, Elders, Deacons, Bible Study Leaders, Missionaries, Staff – look at the end of the 2nd decree: rd 25: 25 “And you, Ezra, according to the wisdom of your God that is in your hand, appoint magistrates and judges who may judge all the people in the province Beyond the River, all such as know the laws of your God. And those who do not know them, you shall teach. You shall teach them the manifold wisdom of God. That’s my challenge to you: teach the manifold wisdom of God!

ill.: Paul told Timothy: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it (Grandma Lois and momma Eunice) 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim 3.14-15) Parents, Moms, Dads, Grandparents – teach the manifold wisdom of God to those in your care.

app.: the wisdom of God in your hand! Wisdom, that leads to salvation. Teacher, ask your students if they want to receive Christ and the forgiveness of sin. Teach them of salvation and lead them to it.

This final section is entitled:

3.     A Doxology: Blessing & Favor (27-28)

exp.: Blessed be God…who; look at the work of God:

  1. Who put it on the King’s heart to beautify his Temple… What a great reminder for me that God is in control. Aren’t you glad that God is still in control of this crazy world? I’m reminded when I look at the people running for president… the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord… Proverbs 21.1: The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.
  2. Who extended to me his steadfast love… Aren’t you glad for God extending to you his steadfast love? He says to you, what the King said to the Jews – whosoever will, may come!

This thought actually crossed my mind as I read this 1st decree: rd v 13; And now 13 I make a decree that anyone of the people of Israel or their priests or Levites in my kingdom, who freely offers to go to Jerusalem, may go with you. Whosoever desires to go – may go. And that’s the gospel. Anyone, whosoever desires to come, let him come along with us! Come with me! If you’ve never asked Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and found the promise of heaven…Come!

  1. Transition: In just a moment I’m going to ask Chris to come and lead us in a time of singing. During this time, if you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or you just have questions… come.

That same cry goes out to you today. Freely, heaven has been made available to you. Do you get that? At no cost to you, the price has already been paid in full – all you have to do is receive the free gift of God!

Transition: rd last sentence of v 28: I took courage, for the hand of the Lord my God was on me, and I gathered leading men from Israel to go up with me.

Normally, here is where I outline my take-a-ways, but this morning I wish to do things differently. Can I ask you to take courage and respond, if the hand of the Lord is on you now?

If you’ve never asked Christ to come into your life, would you do it now?

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Ezra 5-6

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: 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, 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:

  1. The Rebuilding of the Temple Begins Anew (5.1-5)
  2. The Report of Tettanai’s Opposition is Sent to the King (5.6-13)
  3. The Response of King Darius (6.1-12)
  4. 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.

  1. 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:
  2. 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:

  1. 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: #
    1. By whose authority are you doing this work?
    2. 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:

  1. 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

  1. 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

  1. 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…
  2. 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;

  1. 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:

  1. God’s Word is Sure.
    1. God had brought back the Exiles as he had promised
    2. God had restored the Temple and its practices as promised
    3. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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Ezra 4

Title: In this life you will have trouble.

Text: Ezra 4

CIT: Ezra moves through time, covering a period of about 100 years showing the persecution of the Jews who’ve come out of the Exile.

CIS: To identify the long struggle of the Jewish people in the post-exilic period and understand that God accomplished his work through His strength demonstrated in a weak people. That way, he recieves all the glory!

Introduction: Our goal this morning is to understand the passage of Ezra chapter 4 in 2 settings:

  1. Historical
  2. Literary

Let me begin with the literary setting:

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 – more specifically, chapter 4. 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. It is almost like chapter 4 is out of place. But not really, not when you understand what Ezra is trying to do. Let me repeat that for those of you who were sleeping already!

So, as we look at chapter 4 today, we can’t look at it in a chronological setting. You’ll get lost if you do.

Next, let us now move from the literary setting to the historical setting with a clear delineation of the events marked out in history for us in the following passage:

  1. There are 4 Persian kings mentioned in verses 5, 6 and 7 (See Diagram). You see them there: Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus (Xerxes) and Artaxerxes. All 4 kings reigned over the Persian Empire in different years (see the chart). Let me give you the grand picture of this historically.
    1. Assyrians conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel – the 10 tribes are dispersed and disappear through remarriage. These are the people we’ll look at who are persecuting the Jews in this passage.
    2. The Babylonians conquer the Assyrians and then the Southern Kingdom of Judah and send them into exile for the next 50 years. 586 – 538 BC
    3. The Persians conquer the Babylonians in 539 and release the Jews from captivity and allow them to return to their land and rebuild their Temple. If they want to. Many do.
      1. Cyrus, is the King who releases them and we read about him in Chapter 1.
      2. The list of the Exiles who chose to return is in Chapter 2.
  2. In Chapter 3 we observed the rebuilding of the altar and the restoration of certain religious celebrations by the Jews.
  3. In Chapter 4 we will read about the persecution of the Jews by the people in the land.
  4. The last verse (4.24) brings us back to King Darius rd v 24 – And, chapters 5-6 deal with this issue of the Temple and it’s being rebuilt.
  5. So, let verses (4.4-5) give you the thesis statement of the chapter. And, mark as bookends to this passage. rd v 4-5
  6. This leads us to a very important question: why in the world did Ezra leave the time period of chapters 1-3 and 5-6 and give us v. 6-23 of chapter 4.

Here is the answer and the sum of my message today: in this life you will have trouble – but take heart, Jesus says, I have overcome the world!

I think that is why Ezra leaves the time period of chapter 3 and expounds on the historical struggles the Exiles endured. The weak exiles couldn’t power their way to defeating the people of the land – the Samaritans. BTW: this is the same battle going on in Israel today: the people of the land don’t want them there and are doing everything they can to kill them off.

So, with this information in hand, let’s look at these verses a little closer.

I’ve outlined chapter 4 like this:

  1. The Request of the People in the Land (1-2)
  2. The Rejection of the People in the Land (3)
  3. The Response by the people in the Land. (4-5)
  4. An Historical Look at their continued Response (6-23)
    1. The Letter Writing Begins
    2. The King’s Answer
    3. The Work Stops!

I.     Their Request: Let us Build with You! (1-2)

exp.: rd v 1-2; Reasons:

  1. We worship your God as you do. Sounds nice, right? Let me pause here and give you an simple application to this verse. Not everyone who calls Jesus by name is a Christian. There are many religions and faiths (as we call them) of whom Jesus says – you call me Lord, Lord, but I don’t know you.
  2. We have been Sacrificing to him since 722 BC – for 200 years!

Transition: A simple request with intentions that seem to be reasonable. But are they? Well, No. Here’s part 2…

II.    Their Rejection: No (3)

exp.: their reasons: rd v 3;

  1. “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,
    1. Our God: isn’t your God. We’re not sure what you’re doing – what religion you’re practicing, but it ain’t the same as ours. We see this in the NT. I’ll refer you to John 4. (You worship here on this mountain what you do not know). I think this is the same for us today. There are many preachers/religions that tag the name of Jesus to it, but – they don’t believe the Bible. They don’t practice his commands. Don’t confuse them with us.
  2. as King Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us.” We would have to go back to chapter 1 to see this, but King Cyrus has been moved of God to accomplish this. He’s not given the people of the land this task, but rather these men and these people – the Jews!

ill.: I had a similar experience with the ‘ministerial association’ here in Smith County. We were invited to build houses for habitat for humanity along side Muslims and Jews. That’s a nice gesture. I don’t really see any problem with building a home for the poor. Here is where I had a problem: I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone how they could be saved. Now listen, I’m not for slamming my gospel down the throat of people who aren’t interested.

But this is the gospel and it’s offensive. You and I are sinners. Period. God is perfect in holiness. We’re stained. The Bible teaches us that our sin condemns us. We cannot stand in the presence of His holiness if there is any sin present – because no sin can be in the presence of God. So what do we do? God says that our sin has to be dealt with. The penalty for our sin is death. Period. Now here’s the catch. God has provided a way for our sin to be dealt with and that is through allowing someone else to die and pay that penalty for us. Jesus is the one who did that. He died on a cross and paid the penalty of death by shedding his blood for our sin. All of our sin, through faith in him, was atoned for in the death. Moreover, through faith, all of his perfection, his sinlessness is place on us at the same moment – allowing us to be in God’s presence. By faith, we’re pronounced clean. The question is: do you trust God to do what he says he will do? If the answer is yes, you can be saved. It takes faith.

Now, what you do with that, is no longer live life your way – which leads to death, but rather, turn your life over to him and make him Lord of your life.

Transition: People don’t want to hear that. They didn’t like the message of these men either. So what do they do?

III.   Their Response: whaaa (4-6)

exp.: rd 4-6;

Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah and made them afraid to build 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. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.

Let’s outline their response:

  1. Discouragement
  2. Fear
  3. Bribery
  4. Frustration
  5. False Accusations

Listen, when you stand up for what God has outline, it’s offensive. People don’t want to hear that they are sinners. They don’t want to hear that the punishment of sin is death. They want to take a little bit of this and a little bit of that and create a syncretistic form of religion. They create some form of amalgamation of religions and cultures and forms of thought that makes everyone happy!

But God says: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. You don’t need anything more and you can’t have anything less.

Transition: Here’s the point: if someone doesn’t believe God’s Word to be just what it says, then their following their own made up form of religion. And like these Jews, we have to say no to their joining us in our work.

IV.   A Historical Look at the Continued Response

     1.  The Letter Writing Begins (6-16)

exp.: rd v 6; And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. The Diagram…

  1. Letter #1: The Accusation Letter (We don’t have this letter);
    1. To: Ahasuerus
    2. From the adversaries in v 1; they in v 2; the people of the land in v 4
  2. Letter #2: The Aramaic Letter (We don’t have this letter either); rd v 7
    1. To: Artaxerxes
    2. From: Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel and the rest of their associates
  3. Letter #3: The Against Jerusalem Letter – rd v 8
    1. To: Artaxerxes
    2. From: Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe; rd v9-10; here is the letter; rd 11-16

11 (This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) “To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now 12 be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. 13 Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. 14 Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, 15 in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. 16 We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River.”

Letters: Writers: Kings: Dates: Result:
Cyrus 539-522 Persecution
Darius 522-486 BC Persecution
#1 The people of v1 – adversaries, they, the people of the land Ahasuerus or Xerxes 486-465 BC Work Delay
#2

#3

Bishlam and Mithredath and Tabeel

Rehum the commander & Shimshai the scribe

Artaxerxes 465-424 BC Work Delay
#4 Artexerxes Artaxerxes 465-424 BC Work Delay

This is what the Enemies of God do. When they don’t get their way, they rebel and try to thwart his servants efforts:

  1. Lies or Half Truths:
  2. rebellious and wicked city
  3. they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll
  4. the royal revenue will be impaired.
  5. the king’s dishonor,
  6. a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces,
  7. seditious that is, they incite rebellion among the people
  8. you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River King, you’re going to lose this place if you don’t stop these people.

Transition: Can I say, this is how people act in church when they don’t get their way? It can be painful, can’t it? Some of you have lived through this in churches from your past. The best way to stop this is to ensure that you as a church bring in believers like yourselves. Likeminded; mission-minded; evangelistic; discipleship oriented, family focused, Scripture believing.

   2. The King’s Answer (Artaxerxes) (17-22)

exp.: rd v 17-22;

17 The king sent an answer: “To Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their associates who live in Samaria and in the rest of the province Beyond the River, greeting. And now 18 the letter that you sent to us has been plainly read before me. 19 And I made a decree, and search has been made, and it has been found that this city from of old has risen against kings, and that rebellion and sedition have been made in it. 20 And mighty kings have been over Jerusalem, who ruled over the whole province Beyond the River, to whom tribute, custom, and toll were paid. 21 Therefore make a decree that these men be made to cease, and that this city be not rebuilt, until a decree is made by me. 22 And take care not to be slack in this matter. Why should damage grow to the hurt of the king?”

There is some Truth to your Statements; This is letter #4 on the Diagram

Transition: So what happens…

   3.  The Work Stops! (23-24)

exp.: 23 Then, when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their associates, they went in haste to the Jews at Jerusalem and by force and power made them cease. 24 Then the work on the house of God that is in Jerusalem stopped, and it ceased until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

In these two verses, Ezra goes back to Darius to demonstrate that this problem was persistent for the Jews for decades after their return to the Holy Land. See Diagram

What we will see in the next chapter is that a letter was written to Darius, too. And the result was the persecution of the Jews.

Transition: But there is more being demonstrated here. They, in their weakness, were able to rise above those who worked against them and accomplish what God had planned. You’ve covered this with me in a period of 30-40 minutes. They endured this for decades. And yet, they remained strong in their faith – that this is what God was calling them to do.

It’s funny how God doesn’t do things that glorify us. Maybe I should say ironic, not funny. God uses the weak things of the world, to show himself strong. He uses the simple to profound the wise.

So, what does this mean for us?

Observations & Implications:

  1. Time is not a factor when it comes to God doing what He has purposed.
  2. Size are not factors when it comes to God doing what he has purposed.
  3. Strength are not factors when it comes to God doing what he has purposed.
    1. I love to see the response of people when they hear we have our own missionaries overseas.
    2. I love their response when I say a church 120 educates hundreds of children and teenagers and adults in these facilities every week.
    3. I love to tell how we’ve been a part of planting three congregations. (more if you consider our missionaries overseas)
    4. I love it when someone looks at me and says, I don’t get it. What is so special about you that allows you to pastor so many ministries, activities, such discipleship. I say: yeah! There is nothing special. God uses the simple things! – the weak things!
  4. Do not be dismayed when others stand against you! I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Don’t be dismayed, but stand firm in your God and what He has called you to do!

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Ezra 3

Title: The Priority of Worship

Text: Ezra 3

CIT: God had fulfilled his promises in times past, and was once again showing himself faithful to His word.

CIS: Our Worship should reflect our strong belief.

Introduction: rd Jeremiah 7.1-16 – The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’

“For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.

“Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, 10 and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord. 12 Go now to my place that was in Shiloh, where I made my name dwell at first, and see what I did to it because of the evil of my people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things, declares the Lord, and when I spoke to you persistently you did not listen, and when I called you, you did not answer, 14 therefore I will do to the house that is called by my name, and in which you trust, and to the place that I gave to you and to your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of my sight, as I cast out all your kinsmen, all the offspring of Ephraim.

16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. 19 Is it I whom they provoke? declares the Lord. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”

Transition: God was firm. Time and again they were warned and time and again they would not listen. You know the rest of the story – God would indeed do what he said. The people would go into exile and after many decades, God would bring a remnant back to Jerusalem.

This is where we pick up our story in Ezra. Rd 3.1. Here we see them coming together to Worship, to Work and to Weep. That is actually the three parts to chapter three: Worship, Work, Weep. I’ve outlined the passage this way:

  1. Building a Spiritual Foundation
  2. Building a Physical Foundation
  3. An Unexpected Response.

We begin with part 1…

I.     Building a Spiritual Foundation (1-6).

exp.: in this section we find three aspects of worship as demonstrated through their Unity:

  1. Unity among the Body: rd v 1; Phil 1.27-2.2
  2. Unity among the Leadership: rd v 2; Exodus 27.1-2;

Ill.: instrushuns? Annie; well, the Law gave them instructions for constructing the altar.

–     Leading God’s people onto God’s agenda – v 2.

  1. A descendant of the High Priest and
  2. A descendant of the line of David.
    1. These leaders leading the people onto God’s Agenda – as written in the Torah of Moses
    2. They set the altar in it’s place

App.: the people are demonstrating unity in their action – the leadership is demonstrating their unity in their work and

  1. Unity in their Purpose:
    1. Their Motive was simply that they needed God to intercede on their behalf – they were afraid of the people in the region who were against them. I think the NIV conveys a different thought – 3 Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices…not that its wrong, but I think the ESV, NASB is clearer in conveying their motive: They were afraid of the people around them and they needed God to protect and intercede for them. And so, They offered sacrifices – instituting the sacrifices offered in the morning and in the evening; rd v 4;
      1. Diligent to keep the Law: Keeping the rule of the law before the people; this demonstrates for the people the importance of God’s Word; stated in v 2 – reiterated again here in v 4;
      2. Diligent in their Worship: rd v 5-6a;
        1. Seventh Month: Probably the holiest of months.
          1. The Feast of Trumpets (Lev. 23.23-25) – a blast of trumpets, a holy convocation
          2. The Day of Atonement (Lev. 16.29; 23.26-32)
          3. The Festival of Booths (Lev 23.33-43) rd v 6b;
        2. What they didn’t observe…the foundation was not yet laid… indicates that they did not observe #2 – The Day of Atonement. It is interesting to acknowledge The Feast of Booths, but not the Day of Atonement. Well, in going back to Leviticus 16, you’ll find that the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) was observed to cleanse the Most Holy Place or classically know as the Holy of Holies. The Most holy place hasn’t been built yet. Their simple observance was a remembrance of what God had done for their ancestors and for what God had done in bringing them back from Babylon.

Ill.: I’m grateful to Dr. James Hamilton for his reminder to me that such activities were important because it built their worldview. Repetition, year in and year out would solidify that worldview. They would learn that God is faithful to keep his promises. They would learn that sin would be punished. They would be reminded that their only hope was in God – all else would fail.

Exp.: every year they would build booths or tents to dwell in. They would enter into their ancestors’ flight from Egypt, their trust in God, their dependence on God. The men and their sons would build the tents together and tell the story once again. Here they celebrated not only the past, but their own exodus from Babylon and recognize once again that God was faithful to do what he had said. And beyond that – He would do what he has promised in the future.

James Hamilton, NT professor at Southern says there are certain Parts to their celebration:

  • Dogma: a principle or set of principles as laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
  • Narrative: the story you believe about the world.
  • Symbols: memorials that celebrate the truths of your dogma in the sweep of the narrative in which they make sense;
  • Liturgy: the use of these three in worship

Ill.: Christmas – as practiced by Christians:

  • Dogma: Christ is God come in the flesh.
  • Narrative: God sent his son to live a perfect and sinless life to die for the sins of mankind.
  • Symbols: the giving of gifts, nativity,
  • Liturgy: A Christmas Eve Service celebrating the advent of Christ and anticipating the 2nd advent of Christ.

App.: Mark Dever outlines this Worship as something that happens every Sunday when we gather: read the Bible, pray the Bible, sing the Bible, preach the Bible and see the Bible as practiced in Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. As we practice the Bible week in and week out we’re developing a Biblical Worldview.

That’s what these people are doing: for as much of Scripture as they have, they’re practicing their worldview and passing in on to the next generation.

  • Dogma: The faithfulness of God; protection, provision, etc. cited here in the responsive worship down in v 11: “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
  • Narrative: God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, he delivered them from the Babylonians.
  • Symbols: building booths, the palm branches, the boughs from leafy trees;
  • Liturgy: using them all in worship…

So, v 3 says they renew these practices, v 4 says they kept them as outlined by the Torah of Moses, v 5 gives a summary statement of these practices being resumed after a long absence. V 6 says makes two important statements: rd v 6

  • They resume the practice of daily sacrifices in the Temple; These would begin again at this time after a long absence and I believe they would continue until the destruction of the Temple in 70AD (BCE); Hebrews 10.11 – daily sacrifices is mentioned, however
  • The observance of Yom Kippur isn’t mentioned. I think that’s what is meant by but the foundation of the Temple of the Lord was not yet laid.

Summary: Here is the summation of the 1st part in building a spiritual foundation: Worship like it all depends on God. They had recognized and acknowledged this in v 3; They observed what they could and began preparations for constructing a foundation so that they could observe more in the future.

Transition: This leads us to the part 2 of this movement..

II.   Building a Physical Foundation (7-11).

exp.: vs 7 serves as a transition verse; rd v 7; this reads like the story of building the 1st Temple. And rightfully so – meaning – this is the intention of Ezra. There are these freewill offerings (also in Leviticus) used to raise money and goods to be used in the rebuilding of the Temple. Rd v 8-9; Here is a genealogy of the priests, Levites, workers. Rd v 10; Here these leaders are doing their best to follow Scripture. They follow the instructions of David to the letter. In v 11, you see the liturgy practiced before the people through responsive praise; rd v 11; What an incredible time of worship!

Transition: in part 1, building a spiritual foundation: Worship like it all depends on God. Here is the summation of the part 2 in building a physical foundation: Work like it all depends on you. But, the human side kicks in and it’s wonderful that the writer doesn’t hide this from us. Look at part 3…

III.   An Unexpected Response (12-13)

exp.: rd v 12-13; What? You’d think that there would have been a sense of relief from the older folks! Man, compared to the ashes and dust it all sat in for so many years, you’d think there would be a tremendous sense of accomplishment and success. It would be easy to miss this incredible moment. Don’t! Why would these priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, weep loudly? I think they see what brought them to this place – their forefathers’ rebellion against God.

ill.: Jeremiah 44 – The Word of the Lord comes to the people of Judah in Egypt by the mouth of Jeremiah the prophet. He says – stop offering sacrifices and giving gifts to these foreign gods and idols that you’ve made with your own hands. You see the desolation of Jerusalem and Judah. You see the dead in the streets. If you don’t stop, the same will come to you here in Egypt.

The men, who knew their wives were doing this responded: 16 “As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to you. 17 But we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out drink offerings to her, as we did, both we and our fathers, our kings and our officials, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For then we had plenty of food, and prospered, and saw no disaster. 18 But since we left off making offerings to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine.” 19 And the women said, “When we made offerings to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands’ approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”

And Jeremiah tells them: well, God is going to do to you what he did in Jerusalem and the cities of Judah. But, there will be a small remnant that will return. And the reason for this small remnant: Listen: 28 And those who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah, few in number; and all the remnant of Judah, who came to the land of Egypt to live, shall know whose word will stand, mine or theirs.

Transition: I think they’re sad because they knew what they had and and they knew what was lost. Here is the message which these elders get: sin destroys. If you’re thinking – oh, yes, but there is forgiveness from God. That’s true. He is kind and compassionate and long on mercy, desiring that none should perish, but that all might come to repentance. But what is equally true is that the consequences of sin still ravage a life.

These people look at what was and realize that their sin – their rebellion is why they’re looking at something so much smaller than before. 600,000 men came up out of Egypt. Less than 50,000 men came up out of Babylon. Their numbers are small – so small that they fear the people around them.

Observations & Implications:

  1. Our worship should be shaping our worldview. I hope you see the Word of God being read, prayed, sang and expressed in our Worship. What about your private devotions? Family devotions?
  2. Our worldview should be motivating us to share our faith with those around us.
    1. Do we honestly believe sin damages?
    2. Do we believe Christ is coming again? How is that belief reflected in our worldview?
  3. We should be majoring in the majors!
    1. Worship is more important than facilities.
    2. People are more important than programs.

This especially hits home for me as I look to the future and where I’m leading you.

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Ezra 1-2

Title: Promise Keeper

Text: Ezra 1-2

CIT: God keeps his promise to bring the exiles back to Jerusalem and to rebuild the Temple and restore the Wall.

CIS: Because God is faithful to keep his promises, we can place our trust in Him.

The Historical Record:

A people are formed from Abraham. We’re actually studying this during WEBS. This past week we were in Genesis 45 where Joseph sent for his father. The boys return and tell their dad that Joseph is alive. Next Wednesday we’ll journey in ch. 46 back to Egypt where the patriarchs will settle with their families for the next 400 years or so. The 75 family members will explode through the years and become over a million strong, where God will send a deliverer named Moses. This people will be his people: The Hebrew People. He will be their God. They will come up out of Egypt and God will eventually settle them in the Promised Land about 1500 BC.

He warns them repeatedly to follow him closely. They are told to obey his commands. To be his people, they’re to be like him – and so he graciously tells them what they need to do. He tells them that he is vomiting the people out of the land because of their evil, wicked ways. And, instead, will give them the land. However, if they act like the people being evicted, if they follow after other gods, God will do to them what he has done to the previous people who occupied that land – He will vomit them out of the land, too.

They will ask for a king and God will give them one. At about 1000 years before the promised Messiah comes, they’ll be given a king after God’s own heart: David. They won’t make it too far down the timeline in history. As a matter of fact, David’s son will begin straying from God’s commands and the kingdom will become divided in two following his reign: A northern and a southern kingdom.

  • The Northern Kingdom – Israel. The NK exists in 10 tribes. Israel will never follow God. At least none of the kings do. They’ll be warned, but in just a couple hundred years, they’ll be conquered by the Assyrians and sent into exile in 722 BC. Assyrians will move in around them and marry and procreate them out of existence. These new people will become the Samaritans we encounter in the New Testament. We’ll meet them in our study of Ezra and Nehemiah.
  • The Southern Kingdom – Judah. Judah consists of three tribes: Judah, Benjamin & Levi. The southern Kingdom follows God in terms of certain eras. Good kings would rise and lead the people to follow God. A sense of repentance and dependence upon God will dominate an era. However, after that king dies, another who follows him will worship the idols and gods of the land.

Eventually, God does what he has promised them he will do. As he did with the Northern Kingdom in 722 BC, he will do to the Southern Kingdom, Judah in 586 BC. The Babylonians who conquered the Assyrians now rule the World and they will destroy Jerusalem and the Temple. Many of the poor will be left behind, but the rich, the rulers, the well-to-do will be exiled far away to Babylon. But God leaves them with a promise:

God promise is that a remnant will return to the Promised Land. Look at how the Kingdom of Judah is exiled in 2 Chron 36.17

Jerusalem Captured and Burned

17 Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand. 18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his princes, all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels. 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.

So, after 70 years in exile, they will come back and establish themselves in the land. God will establish them and rebuild the Temple and the City. 586 BC – 70 years is 516 BC.

Here is the whole point of Ezra-Nehemiah: God keeps his Promises. He said he would send them in to exile if they didn’t obey and follow him. He said he would bring back a remnant. You know, Here is a great place to offer our 1st application – one that will be repeated. An application that is good for us to remember. What seems like a long time to us is all a part of His Story. Jesus has promised us that he will return for us: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

App.: I believe the day is dawning upon us. Let us be diligent to trust him at his word.

We will be reminded of God’s actions in the times before even the exile and return – of how he kept His Word to his Children even then. There was an exodus from Egypt. Here, there will be an exodus from Babylon. In the exodus, the children of Israel took spoils – they were given spoils as the exited Egypt. It will be the same for these people – the children of Israel – as they come out from their ‘slavery’ and return to that samre Promised Land.

Do you ever feel like we’re just on this Big Ball in the solar system, spinning around and around, and it seems that it is all for naught? Does it seem that it is taking forever for God to keep his promises to us? Remember the whole point here: God keeps his Promises. He is the original Promise Keeper.

Now, Ezra is divided into two parts:

  1. Chapters 1-6 are the first part and the timeline covers about 80 years. This part concludes with the rebuilding of the Temple.
  2. Chapter 7-10 are the 2nd part and the timeline there covers about a year.

Let me take this a step further and outline the book:

  • 1-2: God keeps his promise in a Persian Decree. He moves the heart of a king to set the Jews free and send them home to rebuild the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. We’ll look at this more in a second.
  • 3: The Worship of God –
  • 4: The Work of Men –
  • 5-6: The Work of God –
  • 7: The Word of God –
  • The Mercy of God –
  • 9-10: The Repentance of Men –

So, what we find here are two accounts of the return to the Promised Land – let’s begin chapters 1&2…

I’ve chosen to put the 1st 2 chapters together because of 1. Time and 2. Chapter 2 can be quite tedious. I’m not meaning to demean chapter two – God gave it to us for a reason. It’s just that chapter 2 goes well with the end of one. These 1st 2 chapters I’ve divided into three parts:

  1. The Proclamation by Cyrus (1.1-4)
  2. The Provisions by Cyrus
  3. The Pilgrimage Home (2.1)

Transition: So, with this all in mind – let’s begin with the 1st section:

I.    The Proclamation by Cyrus (1.1-5)

exp.: rd 1.1; He’s probably referring to Jeremiah 28.8-13; “Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the Lord, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. 10 Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste. 13 I will bring upon that land all the words that I have uttered against it, everything written in this book, which Jeremiah prophesied against all the nations.

Isaiah 44.24-45.13; Amazing! Cyrus is being used by God – a pagan king. I’m sure he thought he was doing his own thing – but we know this God who is really in charge: Prov. 21.1 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Look at what this pagan king decrees:

Rd v 2; I mentioned earlier that Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. Babylonia conquered Assyria and the Southern Kingdom (586 BC) – all a part of God’s bigger plan. Then, God raised up Cyrus, the Persian king who utterly defeated Babylonia in 539 BC. In 538 he issues this decree and by 537, the first wave of people are back in the Promised Land. rd v 3-4; The decree is issued. The people can go and they’re to be assisted or aided by the Babylonians. Wow. Who would have thought that to be possible?

app.: Here is a 2nd application today: We may not always understand what is going on. We may cringe at what our government does and how they lead us. But, we must remember that all of their decisions, poor or good, will not stop God from accomplishing his purposes. Ever! We must do our best to live good, upstanding, moral lives and trust that God is moving us (and our political leaders) to where he wants us to be in His Story.

Transition: Ezra wants us to see that nothing that has happened is outside of God’s will. God has promised and he’s about to deliver on that promise, even using a pagan king for His purposes. #2…

II.  The Provisions by Cyrus

exp.: Not only does God move a pagan King to release God’s people, but God then give His people everything they need to return home. This provision is seen in three parts:

A.     The Spirit’s Stirring: (rd 1.5); three tribes: Judah, Benjamin, and Levites; what is this call of the spirit? Rise up, Return, Rebuild – only those whose spirits are ‘stirred’ by God. Interesting. You don’t have to go and we’ll see throughout history that many stayed. But, many did return. This would be a long hard journey. How will it be accomplished? Well, God already thought of that! rd v 6; I call this part…

B.     The Spoils of Victory: (rd 1.6) The people of Babylon respond to their leaving just like the Egyptians responded to the Exodus in Exodus 12.33ff; 33 The Egyptians were urgent with the people to send them out of the land in haste. For they said, “We shall all be dead.” 34 So the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneading bowls being bound up in their cloaks on their shoulders. 35 The people of Israel had also done as Moses told them, for they had asked the Egyptians for silver and gold jewelry and for clothing. 36 And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians.

Not only did the people give them provisions for their journey, but Cyrus gives them back the very items looted by Nebuchadnezzar which he had carried away from Jerusalem.

C.    Cyrus Returns the Temple Vessels (rd 1.7-11); And boy is he thorough! He gets a treasurer to serve as accountant and makes an account of the treasures. This treasurer itemizes each piece and returns them to the leader Sheshbazzar, whom Cyrus appoints to be the governor of this far-away land known as Israel. I think Sheshbazzar is Cyrus’ man. Zerubabbel is God’s man – and we’ll see him rise in leadership as governor over all these things.

Transition: With these items in hand, and each heart stirred by God to return, the journey begins. It will take some time. Nothing is mentioned here of the Journey. When we pick up in chapter three, it will be the next year and the Israelites will be back in Judah.

III.  The Pilgrimage Home (2.1)

  • The Leadership (2.1-2) Also in Nehemiah 7.7; Look at the list and make a few comments:

1Zerubbabel (governor; descendant of David; his grandfather, Jehoichin was the last king; He is a type of Christ, as was David through his lineage as a kinsman redeemer), 2Jeshua (grandson of the last official high priest), 3Nehemiah, 4Seraiah, Ezra 7.1 5Reelaiah, 6Missing, 7Mordecai, 8Bilshan, 9Mispar, 10Bigvai, 11Rehum, and 12Baanah.

1Zerubbabel, 2Jeshua, 3Nehemiah, 4Azariah, 5Raamiah, 6Nahamani, 7Mordecai, 8Bilshan, 9Mispereth, 10Bigvai, 11Nehum, 12Baanah.

  • Some final numbers (2.64-66)
  • The Invalidated Servants (2.59-63)
  • The Son’s of Solomon’s Servants (2.55-58)
  • The Temple Servants (2.43-54)
  • The Levites (2.40-42)
  • The Number of Men (2.3-35)
  • The Priests (2.36-39)
  • Gifts and contributions (2.67-69)
  • Conclusion (2.70)

exp.: I don’t think this list is exhaustive. Most times only the family name or representative is listed – with the corresponding numbers. There is one on this list that I think is interesting: vii. The Invalidated – they couldn’t prove their heritage. Later, we’ll find that some were added in – either they were later able to offer proof or they were added by the casting of the Urim and Thummim. In the exile, their fathers or grandfathers weren’t careful to take care of what needed to be done. They didn’t pass on the lineage. They didn’t take care of business. Unexpectedly, a decree was issued and a return ensued; however, these men weren’t ready. Their unpreparedness left them out in the cold.

Ill.: I think this is a great picture of what it will be like on the final day. Today is the day of preparation. Today is the day in which you should be getting your affairs in order. Then, one day in the near future, A proclamation will be issued from the Throne of Heaven.

Then, We’ll all be ushered before the Lord and he will say: I know you; you’re mine. Enter into your rest. Or, Depart from me; I never knew you. There are many who are wasting this time right now. They could be taking care of this right now. They could be nailing this down so that they would know for sure when Christ returns what their destiny is. But they’re not. They are wasting valuable time.

App.: if you are not saved, let me beg of you today to get this straight. Now, before it is too late. If you’re not a believer, you’re very much like these people who couldn’t prove they were of the priestly line. But let me tell you: there is a high priest who can vouch for you. His name is Jesus – and he will vindicate you and confirm your reservation in heaven – if you will commit your life to him.

Transition: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, but stirred the heart of Cyrus. He caused the Egyptians to fear His children and so the Egyptians gave up their wealth to the departing Hebrews. It was a plunder of their gold, silver, money and goods, which was later used to build the Tent of Meeting. The Babylonians did the same thing, offering the spoils of war to a departing Jewish caravan that would help finance their journey and the rebuilding of the Temple. In chapter 2 we read about the numbers of people who returned, much like the census taken in Numbers. The repetition reminds us of God’s faithfulness. He is faithful to keep his promises – from Abraham to the Patriarchs to their descendants to us – God keeps his promises. Not just for this moment, but for all eternity.

Observations & Implications:

  1. Every believer should be moved to a place of encouragement when they recognize that God is a Promise Keeper. God is still in charge – it doesn’t matter what the leaders of the world seem to be doing.
    1. Don’t let Putin scare you.
    2. Don’t put your hope in a presidential candidate – they’re all still just people.
    3. God will accomplish what he has promised.
  2. Learning the History of the Bible is a tremendous blessing as it opens our eyes to the faithfulness of God. If you’ve never read through the Bible at quick pace, you should consider it. It takes about 60 hours to read at a regular pace. There are 929 chapters. Break that up into any format that works for you. 45 minutes a day can get you through in 3 months, 13 weeks, 90 days. One hour a day will get it done in 2 months, 8 weeks, 60 days. Get on a reading schedule and learn about God’s faithfulness. It will bless you.
  3. You don’t just get into heaven without the right credentials.

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