Let's turn in on our Bibles now to the Book of Ezra. The Book of Ezra, we will finish out our time together tonight. I was on the plane a few years back and I remember the monitor reading 30,000 feet and so at 30,000 feet I looked out the window and looked down, it was over Italy and there were the Dolomite Mountains just bathed in white, fresh snow. It was a clear day, so you could see the mountain tops, the green valleys, the rivers, all the way down towards the lakes and the sea. It's a quite a view, quite an impressive view, it's like being on top of the world, you see so much differently at 30,000 feet than you do on the ground.
However, from 30,000 feet, there are things you miss. You don't meet the people who are living in those villages down below, you can't smell the aroma of the food they are cooking, you can't taste it. You get a very different view, but there are things that you miss. So going through the Bible at 30,000 feet, at cruising altitude, it's a great view. We see things we have never seen before. We see how it all fits together, we see how Christ is outlined, anticipated and predicted in the Old Testament, but it leaves us at a disadvantage.
There are certain people we would like to know more intimately and there are certain evens we skip, why don't you cover that? Because it's 30,000 feet, you can't do it from a snails or driving in a car kind of a view. You are doing it at 30,000 feet. We do have the Bible from the car, you might even say the bicycle view, because it took us 14 years at one time to go from Genesis to Revelation and we went through it all. We commend that to you anytime you want to pick those up or borrow them or listen to them or get them on the web, they are free, do that. But this is 30,000 feet.
Now what's great about the Book of Ezra is there are only 10 chapters. So we sort of have the 30,000 feet, we kind of get out of the plane after we land and meet a few people and get back in and fly a little more. So we can do a little bit better with 10 chapters than say with 36 chapters like in Second Chronicles. So we are going to be doing that tonight, going through the Book of Ezra.
By the way Martin Luther said, he reads the Bible like that. Let me explain, Martin Luther said, "I read my Bible and study the scriptures like I shake an apple tree. First I shake the whole tree and whatever is ripe falls off and I eat that. Then I climb into the tree and I shake every limb and I climb up little further and shake every branch and then every twig and then every leaf." And so there are a lot of different ways to study the scripture. What's great is that you are here tonight, studying the scripture.
Now, the Book of Ezra is called the Second Exodus. Let me tell you why? You remember the exodus out of Egypt, right? The Children of Israel had been there for 4000 years and they grew into the a sizable people group. 4000 years, Moses let them out of that captivity and brought them into the land. Then they were kicked out of the land as we saw last week and a few weeks before that the Babylonian captivity took them out to a foreign country for 70 years.
Now, we have the Second Exodus, the second return after the Babylonian captivity. Now the Book of Ezra will show us not one but two different returns, two different returns. The first return is under a political leader by the name of -- and there are a lot weird names in this book, Ezra is the easiest -- Zarubabel. Zarubabel is in the lineage of King David, the great grandson or the grandson I should say the last King of Judah before the captivity. He comes, brings a group of people, 58 years later Ezra comes.
So, it is divided up into two different returns. Two returns mentioned in Ezra keep that in mind because when we get next week to the Book of Nehemiah, there is yet a third return of the Jews from Babylon back to Jerusalem. So there were three exiles and three returns. Do you follow me? Three exiles, remember we said that it wasn't one time that Babylonians came but three different times, 605 BC, 597 BC, 586 BC. Three separate exiles of people from Jerusalem, from Judah in the Babylon, and then there are three different returns, Zarubabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. Three different trips that people took.
The Book of Ezra outlines itself, it divides itself, it's very easy to see. You simply divide it by those two returns from exile, Chapters 1 through 6 and Chapters 7 through 10. Chapters 1 through 6, when people come back to Jerusalem under Zarubabel, about 50,000 of them return and it's all about national restoration. They are building the city, they are building the temple.
Then the second part of the book Chapter 7 through 10 is all about spiritual reformation when, who comes back? Ezra comes back, the priest comes back, the spiritual leader comes back. So national restoration and spiritual reformation. That's how you could divide the book, right into the book divides itself.
Now according to the Jewish Talmud, Ezra wrote not only Ezra, but First Chronicles and Second Chronicles. If you have read those books and I have read Ezra now through about six times this week, and I have compared the language from the Chronicles to Ezra, and they are very similar in style, in fact the last two verses of Second Chronicles 36, are exactly with some minor linguistic variations, the same as Ezra 1:1-3. Same language, same description, is used.
Ezra is a priest. He is a descendant of Aaron, and the lineage is traced here, though we are not going to get much into it, remember 30,000 feet. But he is a direct ascendant of Aaron through Eleazar Phineas and Zadok, and he is a well educated priest and he is called the Scribe. I want you to just remember that, because we are going to go back and explain what that is. By the way, the first time we read about scribes is here and that's important, because when you get to the New Testament, all of a sudden you see Jesus squaring up for the group called Scribes and Faracies, and you wonder where did those characters come from? Who are the Scribes? A lot of that is explained right here.
So let's look at Chapters 1-6, National Restoration. Three words sum up, Chapters 1-6, three words, easy to remember: Return, Rebuild, Resist. Return from captivity, rebuild the temple and resist the enemies, who are trying to stop. Those six chapters are summed up with those three words. So Chapter 1 and 2, they return to the land. Chapter 3, they start rebuilding the temple, they lay the big foundation stones, they set up the Altar of Sacrifice on its base, and in Chapter 4-6, they resist the enemies, that's trying to stop it.
In a very interesting way they have resisted by the way. They resist the enemy by preaching. There are a couple of Prophets that come in as the people are scared of the enemy, these two Prophets come in and encourage the people not to listen to them, but to do what God wants them to do, and through the preaching of the word through these Prophets, it gets taken care of.
You are going to notice something about Ezra and again he is really going to be mentioned in the second half of the book. But he is a man of the word, and he is a man of prayer. He studied the scripture, hence he is the Scribe, that's what his job was. He used to survey, study, know the Bible, and we see him here as a great spiritual man, a man of prayer who brings conviction on the people, who know him, and watch him, and serve with him.
He was also a gutsy guy, because Ezra like Zarubabel, will take a group of people and take a long journey, his journey was about 900 miles. It's about 540 miles, straight sharp, but the way they went about a 900 miles by foot journey to go from where they were, to where they were going. He takes a smaller group of people, not 50,000, just little over 1400 people go with him on a very gutsy move, because he like Zarubabel think, maybe God wants to use my life, maybe God wants to use my life.
There is a great story told of Dwight Lyman Moody, D. L. Moody, when he was just a kid. He listened to a preacher in a Church by the name of Henry Varley, and Henry Varley was preaching about the possibility of God using a person. And Henry Varley said in his sermon, and little Dwight L. Moody was in the few when he heard it. "The world has yet to, see what God can do through one man totally devoted to him." That made such an impression on little Dwight Lyman Moody, and he said in his heart, "By God's grace I will be that man."
He grew up to be quite a man, a man of God, a man after God's heart, a man of evangelism, who started Churches and Sunday school programs, very gutsy. Ezro 1:1, "Now in the first year of Cyrus, the king of Persia, the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus the king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all of his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah"
You say who in the world is Cyrus? Well Cyrus is the boss, the big boss. He is the king of the world at that time.
He was half Median, or he was Med and half Persian, or Iranian; half Med and half Persian. And because he was half and half he was able to take the Median empire and the Persian empire and combine them into the great Medo-Persian Empire, that took over Babylon. He is a Persian or a Medo-Persian, he is in control of the world.
Now maybe a question is going through your mind like this, "Okay Skiplan(ph), let me get this straight, the Babylonians captured the Jews, and now the Medo-Persians are letting them go. How does that work?" Here is how it works. There were a bunch of super powers at that time that were trying to fight for control of the world, and you remember Assyria was one of them, remember Assyria, the great Assyrian empire.
They were the guys that came in 722 BC and took the 10 northern tribes captive. They tried to take Judah in Jerusalem, they were unsuccessful, 185,000 were wiped out in one night, remember that story, that's Assyria. Later on the Babylonian empire took over Assyria and they came in and conquered Judah in Jerusalem and brought them captive to Babylon, under three deportations. Then the Medo-Persians came in and conquered everybody, and Cyrus is the guy in-charge at this point of the world, in-charge of the world.
Now Cyrus had a policy, a repatriation policy, meaning whoever was left or a part of this newly conquered kingdom who were from different parts of the world, his policy is let them go back home where they belong. They don't need to be here. If they are from Israel, or Judah, or if they are from any other conquered country, let's repatriate that group of people. Let the subjected people go back to their homeland. And so in 539 BC, he gave that commandment for that to happen.
Now Cyrus, the guy in-charge of the Medo-Persian Empire, when did he conquer Babylon? When did the Medo-Persians take over Babylon? And I will do it real quickly. One night when they didn't even know what was happening, they were having a drunken feast Daniel Chapter 5, Belshazzar is drunk with all of his buddies and suddenly a hand starts writing on the wall, it says, "Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin, you've weighed in the balances and found wanting, and your nation will be divided to the Medes and the Persians." It happened that very night. And while he was drunk, Daniel said, basically "They are here," and that night they were captured.
Chapter 1:3, I better move ahead quickly. "Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (he is the God,) who is in Jerusalem and whoever is left in any place where He dwells, let the man of his place help him, with silver and gold, goods, livestock, besides free-will-offerings for the house of his God which is in Jerusalem. Then the heads of the Fathers, houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the Priest, and the Levites with all whose spirits, God had moved arose to go up and build the house of the Lord, which is in Jerusalem."
Okay, I want you to just pause for a minute. A 150 years before Cyrus was born, so he didn't exist for a 150 years. 150 years before he was born, Isaiah, the prophet, writes his name down. He is not even born yet, Isaiah, the prophet, a 150 years before Cyrus is born, makes a prediction as the spirit of God comes upon him and makes a wild prediction. I am just going to read to you. This is Isaiah 44:26 & 28, "God who confirms the word of his servant and performs the counsel of his messengers who says to Jerusalem, you shall be inhabited and to the cities of Judah, you shall be built and I will raise up her waste places. Who says of Cyrus, he is my Shepard and perform all my pleasure," saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built to the temple, and your foundation shall be laid".
Now when that prediction was made, Jerusalem was still standing, and there was temple standing right there in Jerusalem, but Isaiah predicts, the temple will be built inferring it's going to be destroyed, and that the city will be rebuilt, inferring it's going to be destroyed. Now again it was standing when the prophecy was made and Cyrus's name is written down.
Listen to the words of the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus. He says, Cyrus learned of this, the building of the temple, by reading the book that Isaiah left of his own prophecies, these things Isaiah foretold a 140 years before the temple was destroyed. When Cyrus therefore read them, and had admitted their divine character in impulse and emulation, it seized him to do what was written. He gave the command, but he had been -- somebody showed him, maybe Daniel showed him, the writings of Isaiah, the Prophet. Maybe that night when they came in, Daniel was ready to -- it's all predicted I was just going to show this guy, where his name is written in the Bible, amazing prophecy.
Chapter 2, is a list of the people who return from Babylon to go to Jerusalem. Now here is the thing, there is not a whole lot of people to go back, 50,000 people not even go back. You go, that's a whole lot of people, well hold on. Chapter 2:64, "The whole assembly together was 42,360, beside their male and female servants, of whom were 7,337 and they had 200 men and women singers, and I tabulated all of the numbers that are given here in this chapter. 49,897 to be exact people came back from the captivity. You say, well that's a lot of people. Not in comparison to the people who stayed there.
You know what? Move forward, fast-forward to the New Testament. By the New Testament time, in Jesus time, there were a million Jews still living in Babylon. A million Jews still living in Babylon. What happened? They got taken from Jerusalem to Babylon, they settled down there, and remember Jeremiah, the prophet, sent a letter to them in captivity. Jeremiah 29 saying "Build houses, plant gardens have kids, pray for the peace of the city, for I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, to give you a future and hope." You know that chapter, it was a letter written to them, settle down, make the best of it.
They settle down but they became a little too settled down. So when the call came, let's go back and build God's house, a lot of people said, "I don't feel led," and they stayed. So only 49,897 felt led, or the spirit of God move their hearts to go back. Verse 70, so the priest and the Levites, and some of the people, the singers, the gate keepers and the Nethinim, you go who are they? Well they are the Gibeonites, does that ring a bell to some of you? The Gibeonites, Chapter 9 of Joshua, there was this group called Gibeonites, who dressed up and pretended like they were from a faraway country, but they were just over the hill, because they knew that Joshua would probably kill all of them. So they pretended to be from another country and when Joshua found out about the Gibeonites plan, he made them perpetual servants for God's Temple, or Tabernacle. That's the Nethinim.
They dwelt in their cities, and I want you to notice this, "And all Israel in their cities". Look at that phrase, "All Israel in their cities." Have you ever heard somebody talk about The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel? Ever heard of that phrase? Anybody, The Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. That's all the people who have ever heard of it? Okay. Sometimes you will hear that, you will come across that in books or some groups of theology, where they will say well there are Ten Lost Tribes and we are the -- whatever.
Let's make it simple. There is no such thing as Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, they are not lost. How do I know that? Because by the time I get to Chapter 6 of Ezra, the priest offer 12 male goats for each of the twelve tribes of Israel who had returned.
Now, they don't know everybody from every tribes, some do, some don't.
So, the Assyrians took the ten tribes captive to Assyria. The Babylonians took the other remaining two tribes over to Babylon, the Medo-Persians conquered everyone together and sent everyone back home and they ended up in Jerusalem. There are no Ten Lost Tribes. Just because a person doesn't know what tribe he is from today, it doesn't mean they are lost. God knows what tribe they are from. If God knows you are not lost -- also if I read ahead into Revelation Chapter 7 in the end times, there is the listing of the tribes of Israel, 1,44,000, 12,000 from this tribe, that tribe, that tribe, they are all mentioned.
None of them is lost, there are no Ten Lost Tribes and they return here. Chapter 3 is the Rebuilding of the Temple:1, "When the seventh month had come and the children of Israel were in the cities and the people gathered together as one man to Jerusalem," that's a show of unity, " Then Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and his brethren the priests, and Zarubabel the son of Shealtiel, and his brethren, arose and built the altar of the God of Israel, to offer burnt-offerings on it as it is written in the law of Moses the man of God."
Verse:4, "They also kept the feast of tabernacles," that's in the seventh month of the Jewish calender. Verse:5 "Afterward they offered the regular burnt-offering and those for new moons and all the appointed feast."
Here's a question, why did they have to get that altar up? What's the big deal in rebuilding the temple? First thing on the agenda, get that altar up and running. Because it was the center of worship. Sacrifice was the very center of their worship. Leviticus says "Without the shedding of blood there's no remission of sins". There has to be a sacrificial system, blood has to be shed, sacrifice was the center of their worship, as it is for us today.
All of that was anticipatory of Christ. For us the center of our worship is Christ and the cross. Paul said, "I determined to know nothing among you but Christ and him crucified." So tonight was a communion, we do it often, the shed blood, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Well they kept the feast of tabernacles we read. It was all paid for by money donated by the Medo-Persian government as well as the free-will-offerings by people who gave it to them to return. The people celebrated joyfully, it was a big spiritual party in the temple precincts that day, well in part.
There were a group of people just shouting and so excited but not everybody was happy, not everybody was excited. There were some people who had been living in the past. I want you to notice something. Chapter 3:10, "When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priest stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David the king of Israel. And they sang responsively," that is one group sings one part, one group sings another part, we got to try that, "praising and giving thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth forever towards Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid."
Men it's time to celebrate because God promised Jeremiah 25:11 -12, "This day would happen." Seventy years of captivity, we come back to the land, we build the temple.
So it's still ruins, it's still rubble but the foundation stones are being laid and it's getting sketched out. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of the Father's houses, old men who had the seen the first temple wept with a loud voice when the foundation of the temple was laid before their eyes.
Yet many of them shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout and the sound was heard far off. It was a confusing noise, it was a quite a noise, but it was a combination of --
So is this interesting cacophony of sounds, some happy, some sad. Why were they sad? Oh, they remember what it used to be like, the temple of Solomon. Some of them remembered the gold, the bronze, the height, the width and they are building this thing not even looking anything like it. It's hard to move forward, when you are always looking backward. You want to live a miserable life, I am going to give you a recipe. This is how you can live miserably, ready. No, you should not take any notes on this.
If you want to be miserable just live your life looking back over your shoulder. Oh, could have, should have, would have. It used to be like this oh, I remember. Just live your life like that and that's a recipe from misery. Even Paul the Apostle said in prison "Forgetting those things which are behind and pressing forward to those things which are before," see he lived his life in the present and in the future, not in the past.
You see, it would be easier to compare even what God is doing here now, in our lives, in our town. You can say God is doing a great work. You can look at that, well God is doing a great. I had somebody this weekend who said my son and my father got saved, just this last week and I watch them go forward -- but what if we were to compare the present work of God with the Day of Pentecost? Or the present work of God with a period called "The Great Awakening" or some other great revival." We could say -- it depends on how you look at it. Some people look back and they are miserable.
Now the Babylonian Talmud says that in Zarubabel's temples there were five things missing that had been in Solomon's temple. Number one, the Ark of the Covenant, number two the Holy Fire. Remember the fire fell down from heaven and they lit the altar with that, that perpetual lamp stand in the temple. Ark of the Covenant, Holy Fire, number three the Shekinah Glory of God, number four the Spirit of Prophesy, this is in the Babylonian Talmud and number five the Urim and Thummim, remember those two stones that they could discern the will of God. That record, the Babylonian Talmud says, those five things that were in Solomon's temple were missing in Zarubabel's temple.
So I suppose there was reason to go -- but God promised whatever it lacked, he personally would be present with them, lead them back to the land and be there when that temple was rebuilt. So for whatever lacked, God was there, have a shout, make it a shindig, don't be wail over what it used to be like. Well that was the reason for that noise. So Chapters 1 through 3, is the return and the rebuild and now Chapters 4 through 6 is the resisting of the enemy. The enemy comes, now the enemy is subtle.
Some of you remember in school, Sir Issac Newton, ever heard the name Sir Issac Newton? What would you think of when you think of Issac Newton? Apple, somebody said, Laws of motion. The third law of Newton says "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction" that's a spiritual law as well I have found. Every action of God has an equal and opposite reaction. Whenever there is a great work of God, Satan didn't like it. He gets angry, thinks oh, really. Well I am going to get busy doing something also.
Look at it this way, whenever you turn on a light, the bugs come. A light had been turned on in Jerusalem, a temple was starting to be rebuilt. God was at work and the enemy is angry, get used to that. Whenever you attempt anything for God, get used to that. If you go I can't believe it, the devil. So? Get used to it, it's part of the warfare.
Well by the spring of 535 B.C, the temple foundation was laid. You may want to remember that date 535 B.C, here's why? This marks the end of the 70 year Babylonian captivity. If you have ever tried to number that you go, I don't see how you get 70 years out of it. If you start with 605 B.C the first attack and deportation of the children of Israel into Babylon, remember there were three, right 605, 597, 586.
605 is the first one and the temple foundations are laid, that's 535. that's a total of 70 years; that's why there was great rejoicing. That was the end of the 70 year captivity.
Well by this year, 535 B.C, Cyrus, who let them go back is dead. His successor Cambyses is his name, called Ahasuerus here in the Book of Ezra Chapter 4 as well as Esther was in charge and there is a group of people living in the land of Israel who are lobbying to stop the work of the temple. So Chapter 4:1, "When the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the descendants of the captivity were building the temple to the Lord God of Israel; they came to Zarubabel, and the heads of the fathers houses and said to them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as your do," that's a read flag, "We are sacrificed to him since the days of Esar-haddon the king of Assyria, who brought us here. But Zarubabel, and Jeshua, and the rest of the heads of the fathers houses of Israel, said to them, You may do nothing with us to build the house to our God; but we along will build to the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us. Then the people of the land tried to discourage the people of Judah, they troubled them in building."
They said what's going on here? Talk about a kind of a bad attitude. Hey! We want to help you build. You are not, get out of here; you are not going to help us at all. Were they having like a real bad day? No. They weren't. They knew that something was up and here is what was up. When Esarhaddon, the King of Assyria, the first big bad super power came-in in 722 B.C and took the ten northern tribes captive. He had a policy not of repatriation, but he had a policy of bringing in other groups from all over the world that he had conquered and mix them up a little bit.
So he would take somebody from that country, bring him into this country; this country would bring him into that country and scatter the population with different people groups from different people or different countries, so that none of them will unify and rebel and to crush their nationalistic spirit, to crush their Jewish unity, to break that down. That was his policy.
So this is some foreign group who had been brought in and they hear about the God of Jerusalem and so they go, "Oh yeah, we are under that God, your God. We want to help you." Now this mixed group will later on be called the Samaritans. The Samaritans were part Jewish and part lots of other people. That's why the people in Judah at the time of Christ saw the Samaritans as half-breeds, not true worshipers of Yahuweh. That's why it says in John Chapter 4, remember the women says to Jesus, 'Why are you a Jewish man talking to me, a Samaritan woman, for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans? That's why, it all started then.
They even built their own temple by the New Testament times. They even had their own worship system by the New Testament times and it all started with this Assyrian captivity.
So Verse 5, they hired counselors against them to frustrate their purpose all the days of Cyrus, the King of Persia even until the reign of Darius, the king of Persia. In the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, they wrote an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.
So they tell this new king, Artaxerxes, that the Jews, he writes him a letter and says, just look at up, look at up man, these Jews have a pattern of rebelling against any foreign power who is an occupying power at that time, They are rebellious group of people and there they are again rebelling. We suggest since they are going to rebel against you, you order them to stop. So a letter comes back now from Persia and says, even if you have to use force, stop the temple from being rebuilt. So what do they do? They stop. The government says stop, we stop.
These enemies come in with their weapons and at the point of force, the temple stops. So Verse 24, "Thus the work of the house of God, which is at Jerusalem ceased and it was discontinued until the second year of the reign of Darius, the King of Persia."
Now between Chapter 4 and 5, there is a 16 year gap where the work stops, 16 years. Nobody touches the temple. Nobody lifts the tool, nobody moves a stone, the temple building is stopped. What do you do? People are discouraged, they don't want to work as they are in trouble. They don't want to get killed. It's already hard to be back in this new land. There is a bunch of rubble everywhere from the past captivity. So God sends two preachers; Haggai, the Prophet and Zechariah, the Prophet and both of their books are featured in the Minor Prophets.
They are two guys who come to Jerusalem and through several messages, Haggai preaches four sermons to Zarubabel, the governor and Jeshuah, the high priest; four messages and Zechariah comes and preaches messages and basically says, what are you guys doing? You are building your own little homes and beautifying your own little homes and you have left the house of God in ruins. Get up and build.
So Chapter 5:1, " The prophet Haggai, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, the prophets prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who is over them. So Zarubabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, rose up and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with the prophets of God were with them, helping them."
People were discouraged, they stopped building, two prophets come in and this is the word of the Lord, "Do what God sent you here to do." So the two leaders go, let's do it. I am sure somebody said news flash, it's against the law, the law of the land. You got to obey the law of land, it says don't do it. They confirm with each other and say "Yeah, but the law of God says build it, so let's build it."
So here is the point I want to make, the word of God does the work of God in the lives of the people of God. The revival continued through the preaching of the word. So what happens? They are building it, the enemies come again. They see what's happening. They write a letter to the new guy in charge in Persia saying, they are building that temple and that letter is featured in Chapter 6: 6-17. The guy in charge over in Persia who gets the letter opens it up, his name is Darius.
Darius says here is a letter from these people who don't want the Jews to build their temple. Now he doesn't remember the history, but there in Persia is a room where all of the scrolls are kept that tell the history.
So Darius tells his men, "Hey! Go into the archive and see if you can find anything about an edict that was given by King Cyrus for the Jews to build their temple." They find it and says "Here it is." The guy told them to go back, in fact, told them to fund it with our money. So he has got the original edict and now he adds his own decree, Chapter 6:8, he says "Moreover I issue a decree as to what you shall do for the elders of these Jews, for the building of this house of God. Let the cost be paid at the King's expense from the taxes on the region beyond the river."
Now those taxes were the taxes that funded the enemies, they came to Jerusalem to complain. "This is to be given immediately to these men so that they are not hindered." Well the governor on that side of the river was a governor called Tatnai. He was one of the guys who snitched on him and wrote the letter. This is going to cut in to his share, right? Because this is your tax dollars at work building the temple, which was his own private stash.
So Verse 9, "And whatever they need, young bulls, rams, lambs for the burnt-offering of the house of God, wheat, salt, wine and oil, according to the request of the priests who are in Jerusalem, let it be given to them day by day without fail. That they may offer sacrifices of sweet aroma to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons."
So the rest of the story, the temple is completed. It is dedicated, the passover is celebrated but again the point is this, it's the ministry of the preaching of the word that inspires the people to go forward with the work. That's the value of teaching through the word of God. That's the value of it. God works through the preaching of his work and you never know what God is going to do.
The first time I went to India, I was in a town called Bangalore, which is now the hi-tech capital of that country and I was preaching to a group of pastor's wives, would be pastors, Christian workers. I gave my testimony. I had been to college, I was studying medicine, I felt God called me to go into the ministry, I went and I obeyed him and started the Church and I just told my story.
A year later I get a letter, from a man who said I was there the night you gave your testimony about going to medical training and leaving and starting a Church. I have been a doctor. He went all the way through medical school, got a medical degree and I felt that my God steered me to be a Pastor. I love medicine and I am reading this, going "Oh, what I have done. I made the guy lose a great career." l left medicine, I studied for the Pastorate, I went out and planted a Church and it's a new Church right now, it's a year later, pray for us and I got news of it as the months and years went on, how God was adding to the kingdom of God through that young man, that young doctor turned preacher's work.
It's just that the weight of words when prompted by the Lord to speak. And there's Haggai and there is Zechariah marching through Jerusalem giving their messages and now the temple is built.
Here is what I want to say about that to you. What work has God called you to do, that you stopped? You started, it was fun, you are getting all excited and then you are just -- well people didn't come and rally behind me, that stopped you from doing God's will in your life. Well the funds didn't come in, that stopped you. Well there are enemies around, that stopped you. Let this be an encouragement, whatever God has put on your heart to do for building up his house, his Kingdom, do it. It's so risky good, do it. Do what he has called you to do. Heed the call, follow the call.
Great Psalms, Psalm 37, "Delight yourself on the Lord and the he will give you the desires of your heart". And I have some Christians wrongly interpret that to me, I just focus on God and he gives me whatever my little heart desires. I don't think that's what it means. I think it means, if you focus in and delight in pleasing God, God will give you desires. He will implant desires in your heart to do something. And you say, what does that desire come from? It came from God. God put that desire in your heart to do something for him, that's a God implanted desire.
Before I was a Christian, I didn't want to read the Bible after I became a Christian, I couldn't put it down. Before I was a Christian I didn't want to go to Church, now I kind of live at Church, and I love it.
God puts desires in people not only at salvation but through their lives. They get easily discouraged the Prophet would say, go for it. Water at 211 degrees makes very hot, but very good coffee. But just one more degree, 212 degrees, just one more degree turns water into steam, which will power a locomotive, an old steam locomotive or an old steam ship across the ocean. One more degree, it's that one degree that is I believe the spirit inspired desire. So let Him turn your hot water into steam, ask God for that one degree. They finished it up.
Now Chapters 7 through 10 is the spiritual reformation. Chapter 7 and 8 Ezra comes to Jerusalem. What you don't see by reading this right off the bat, is between Chapter 6 and 7 is a 58 year gap. Ezra didn't show up for 58 years. He is the spiritual leader. There is a 58 year gap between the completing of the temple under Zarubabel and the return under Ezra.
During that 58 year period, just in case you want to know and I hope you do want to know. During this 58 year period the whole Book of Esther is taking place in Persia. So you can fit Esther into that gap between Zerabbabel and Ezra at Jerusalem, the whole Book of Ezra with Mordecai and Esther over in Persia, is taking place during this time and we will get to that in a couple of weeks.
Chapter 7:1, "After these things --" that's 58 years after these things, "In the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah, the son of --" ecetera, the lineage of Zadok has been pushed out here. Verse 6 "Then Ezra was a scribe well versed in the law of Moses, which the Lord the God of Israel had given to the people of Israel, he went to Jerusalem from Babylon, the king gave everything he asked for because--" I love this " Because the gracious hand of the Lord his God was on him."
I don't exactly know what happened but apparently Ezra had heard the Zerabbabel had gone, that the temple foundation started to be laid, the sacrifices started going, the temple was finally rebuilt. But he must have felt there's a spiritual component that is still missing. So God puts it on his heart and a group of 1,496 others to go back, to go back to Jerusalem.
Now Ezra is a scribe and is scribe is somebody who knew how to read, interpret and write scribe, write translate, copy the scripture. And if you know anything about the way the Hebrews copied the Bible, you know that there was a science and a methodology to writing down the word of God and counting the columns vertically and horizontally and if everything didn't match exactly at the end of a page, they would rip up the page and start all over again. Very exact, that's why the scriptures were passed on so exact throughout the ages.
The scribes were learned educated scholars. They copied and they taught the word of God. They wrote down and made copies of the first five Books of Moses, the "Torah", the "Pentateuch". They also were the guys who wrote down on little pieces of paper, different scriptures that were put in little boxes on the head called phyllacteries and on the hand called phyllacteries. They were also the guys who wrote little pieces of scriptures down. So on the door post of your house, if you go to Jerusalem you see these little things on the side post called Mezuzah or Mezuzot. It's the word of God as you enter the house, scribes did that.
Something else, tradition says Ezra was the founder of what's called the Great Synagogue. These were the guys who sat down and decided what should be put in the Old Testament scriptures, the canon of scriptures, they decided what books are the word of God. Because there's a lot of other books a apocryphal books that were rejected. Ezra we believe was the founder of that.
Well the king gave Ezra an expense account for treasury to accomplish this, it was a four month journey. Look at what Ezra prays, utters in Verse:27 "Blessed be the Lord, God of our fathers, who had put such a thing as this in the king's heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And He has extended His mercy to me before the king, and his counselors, and before all the king's mighty princes. So I was encouraged as the hand of the Lord my God was upon me, and I gathered leading men of Israel to go with me."
Chapter 8, they leave for the trip, as they leave to go to a river called Ahava, the Ahava river. They camp there, they fast there, they pray their. He gets a few more Levites to come with him and priests to come with him. And then he gives the money that the king gave him and divvies it up to the priest and says, hold on to this, protect this, when you get to Jerusalem put it in the treasure.
Chapter 9, Ezra is in Jerusalem. He is there for a few months, and somebody tells him about a problem. The problem is the people of Jerusalem, the Jewish people had married Pagan husbands, unbelieving Husbands, Pagan wifes and now they have these mixed families, mixed marriages and now there's a lot of children and it started with the leadership, the priest started doing this and Ezra hears this, he becomes unglued in a priestly sort of way.
He pulls his hair out, rips his ropes, throws dirt in the air, showing that he was in deep mourning because he realizes, we are committing the same sin already, into captivity, in the first place. He just becomes unglued.
Chapter 9:5, "At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting and having torn my garment and robe, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands to the Lord my God and I say O my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift my face up to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our head, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens."
Verse:14 "Should we again break Your commandments, and join and marriage with the people committing these abominations? Would You not be angry with us until you had consumed us, so that there would be no remnant nor survivor. O Lord God of Israel, you are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this."
Chapter 10:1, "Now while Ezra was praying and while he was confessing, weeping and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women and children gather to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly." God answered Ezra's prayer in part, the people started feeling the weight of their sin. They started feeling convicted for what they were doing and some of them came and started confessing their sins like Ezra started and giving this example.
So they get together, it's December by the way, there was heavy rains, the text says, so people were kind of cold. It's cold and it snowed last week in Jerusalem. So December can be quite cold, that's the early rain and people are trembling half because they are under conviction, half because they are just cold and wet. So they come up with a plan look, we have blown it, it's going to take a while to sort this out. Chapter 10 is the sorting of this out.
We are going to make a covenant before God. We are not going to do this anymore and we are going to put away these Pagan husbands and wives that we have committed because we know what God said and we want to start off right.
Now be careful with this verse's scripture. This is not a proved text for you to divorce the wife or husband you are now married to because you think they are not holy enough, and here it says they did that. It's not a scriptural precedent to divorce people whom you think aren't holy enough. Well I want to tell you right now; my husband isn't just not holy enough, he is an unbeliever.
1 Corinthians, Chapter 7 tells us in Verse 13, "And a women who has a husband who does not believe, if he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him." Now that's put in the New Testament because there were people in Corinth in the New Testament who were saying, "I am going to divorce my husband because he is Pagan and the Bible says, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" and besides that, I met a really cute Christian guy the other day and I think the Lord could be in this. Pa goes "Don't do that." If he wants to live with you, live with him, make the best of it, you might win him to Christ.
Chapter 10:9, "All the people of Judah and Benjamin gathered to Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month of the twentieth of the month," it's December of 457 B.C, "All the people sat in the open square of the house of God trembling because of this matter and because of the heavy rain." So they sorted all of this out in those months, three, four months ahead of them. Okay that's the book.
Where do we see Jesus in this book? It's never quoted in the New Testament, Ezra, you will never find a reference to it anywhere. So where is Jesus in the book of Ezra? Well this is a history, not only of the Jewish nation and the temple and there is a correlation we saw last week with the temple and the one who said somebody greater than the temple is here, that's Jesus. But also with Zarubabel, Zarubabel is the descendant of the royal line of the house of David and ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom God empowers to do His will in bringing this temple.
Now the Prophet Zechariah has a word to say for Zarubabel, the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ and you can read it about it, in another time in the Book of Zechariah. Zechariah has a vision one night and he tells it to Zarubabel and here is the vision; he sees the lamp-stand in the temple, remember the seven branched golden candlestick, he sees the lamp-stand and then a bowl on top of the lamp-stand hovering above it; a bowl of oil and seven pipes going down into each of the seven lamps of that menorah that lamp-stand.
On either side of the bowl are two olive trees that are dumping their oil into the bowl that goes into the lamps and it's like an automated menorah and God says "Hey! Zechariah, what is this?" He goes, "I don't know, I am just a Prophet. You tell me." I am paraphrasing a bit. God says, "This is the word of the Lord to Zarubabel, that it's not by might, it's not by power, it's by my spirit says the Lord."
This temple is going to be rebuilt and the latter will even be more glorious than the former and it's the fact that God will through His spirit enable Zarubabel to do the building, but also it's a far off prophecy, as you read through that text of the Lord Jesus Christ and we see a hint of that even here.
Here is a thought I want to close with and I have 20 seconds to close with it; 15 seconds to close with it. Think I can do it? Okay, it will be short. Every now and then, somebody will go "Man! I wish we could live in Bible times." Hey! Guess what, you are living in Bible times right now. You are seeing right now today a fulfillment of what the prophets predicted in this day and age.
They predicted the regathering Isaiah Chapter 11:11, the second time that the people would come back into the land, it would be permanent and as Isaiah predicted that, just like there was the coming back into the land under Ezra, Zarubabel, Nehemiah, there is the regathering since May of 1948.
David Ben-Gurion stood in Tev Aviv, in Israel and proclaimed according to the UN Mandate the regathering of the people into their ancient homeland and against all odds, the Jews have returned to what the United States called, the United Nations, called the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel, the Jewish State of Israel, independent as God in the Bible predicted it, and as we go through our Bible, we will be able to talk about all the mess and all the fuss and what's with Iran and Iraq and all this stuff going on with the Palestinians and the Israelis and all this mess that's going on, you are living in Bible times. In fact, you are living in the most exciting period of human history I believe. You are seeing stuff unfold before your eyes and you have the advantage of looking back at all that was predicted that has been fulfilled.
So you got to have more hope and joy and not live like -- but --. Let's pray, Heavenly Father, we thank You that we see and experience the Bible being fulfilled all around us and just as today in our recent history, we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the birth of a nation that you predicted would happen. We are not surprised, nor are we shaken by world events that seem to be out of control. They are under your control. They are under your scriptural precedence as you preside over history. I pray that we would take courage, not wailing but worshiping, not in remorse, but in rejoicing, for your plan has included us as we celebrate it tonight by the redemption through the blood of the lamb. In Jesus name, Amen.